RADICAL PLANS to run trams along London's Regent Street and ban all cars and buses are among those being considered by a leading team of urban transport planners.
WS Atkins Planning Consultants has been charged with finding solutions to the shopping street's traffic nightmare. Director Richard Alvey revealed the proposals at an ICE London association meeting held last week at Great George Street.
The team has come up with two favoured options: a tramway or extensive traffic calming. But neither has yet been approved by client The Crown Estate.
Regent Street is a key link in the capital's public transport network. But pedestrians currently find that walking along the congested street is often risky. It is difficult to cross Regent Street and the many side roads along either side.
At Oxford Circus, entrances to the Underground Station are some of the busiest spaces in London and pedestrians have to be 'herded' across the road, bemoaned Alvey.
He predicted that revitalising Regent Street could be achieved within two decades. The Crown Estates has charged Alvey with finding a 'total solution' to make Regent Street the UK's premier shopping street 'where people gather, walk, meet and shop'.
WS Atkins has come up with options that range from 'minimal intervention to very radical', he explained.
The first is to improve facilities for pedestrians by doubling the width of footpaths, closing selected side roads and restricting access to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles. The roadway would be narrowed to 7.2m from the current 16m of snarled-up traffic. New pedestrian crossings and bus stops would be provided, trees planted and space created for street cafs and meeting points.
But Alvey has a much bolder scheme up his sleeve. The street could be wholly pedestrianised with a tramway or guided busway running along its length, he told the meeting.
'It would need to be part of a wider network running throughout the West End,' stressed Alvey. 'It could really only be achieved in the context of a more pedestrian friendly West End as a whole.'
Such plans would be very costly and extremely controversial. A light rail
option would be the most expensive, but alternative fuel buses and guided busways would
cut traffic and cost less. Pedestrians would be able to 'roam free' across the whole street, he said.
Alvey added: 'We are still at an early stage. Many of these proposals have yet to be tested and need to be put out to consultation'.
But he believed there was reason to be optimistic. Integrated transport is high on the government's agenda and there are also plans for a city- wide authority and mayor. 'These should provide the catalyst for this to happen,' said Alvey.