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London Ambulance Service disputes Greenwich Council's claims LTNs will improve response times

Ambulance stuck in traffic on Trafalgar Road

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has criticised the Royal Borough of Greenwich's plans to introduce a series of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) across East and West Greenwich, despite claims made by the council the scheme will help improve emergency services attendance times.

In its response to an email from council officers dated 16 October 2023, the LAS said options presented, including the use of modal filters such as wooden planters and lockable bollards, ‘have the potential to impede our response to the most critically-ill people.’

The views expressed by the LAS, also shared by the London Fire Brigade and Metropolitan Police, seem to contrast those of the council's, as highlighted in a leaflet delivered to thousands of addresses across East and West Greenwich in early October, weeks after the public consultation had closed.

Under a section of the leaflet entitled 'Busting the myths', pictured below, the council claimed: 'We continue to work with the emergency services. Our proposals keep physical barriers to a minimum to make access as easy as possible for emergency services. Reducing traffic overall will help them get to where they need to go faster too.'

An excerpt from Greenwich Council's leaflet

The council's assertion that LTNs will also help to reduce traffic was also not supported by the LAS, which highlighted potential delays caused by ‘significant diversions around congested roads to gain access [to closed roads],' referring to the effects displaced traffic on boundary roads will have on attendance times.

It was also noted by the LAS that emergency ambulances do not hold GERDA or FB keys for padlocks used to lock bollards proposed across all five options for the scheme, all of which propose the implementation of physical barriers. A fifth option - set to be announced publicly in the new year without further consultation - is thought to also feature the same.

An increase in traffic by up to 27 per cent on boundary roads to the east of Greenwich Park was seen following the rollout of the council's last failed LTN scheme, introduced in August 2020 and removed in February 2022. It is believed the increase was due - in part - to roads to the west of Greenwich Park being closed, as seen in an excerpt from the decision report, below.

An excerpt from Greenwich Council's last decision report.

In its response to the council, the LAS went on to tell officers that its position remained the same as it did when its chief operating officer wrote to councils across London, including Royal Greenwich, in July 2020 (below) - just weeks before Greenwich Council implemented the same measures raised as a concern.

‘[The] LAS chief operating officer formally wrote to all London boroughs and TfL including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, informing them of our concerns regarding hard closures and requesting that, where possible, hard closures should be avoided and camera enforced soft closures be implemented to all LTN’s for unhindered emergency vehicle access and egress due to the potential risk hard closures could have in delaying an ambulance response and therefore impacting patient safety,’ it said.

It is not the first time emergency services have had reason to complain about risks caused by LTNs across Greenwich.

During the last scheme, disbanded in 2022, the LAS highlighted delays caused on several occasions, including callouts to immediately life-threatening, category one incidents across West Greenwich. A small handful of these complaints can be seen on our FOI page.

An excerpt from an email from the London Ambulance Service

Additional issues raised by the LAS in their latest email included ambulances not being exempt from passing through newly-proposed no entry signs, unless directed by a police officer in uniform to do so, as well as lack of smooth convoy across the east to west passage through Greenwich due to needing to zig-zag through roads where modal filters have been proposed to be put into place.

News of the London Ambulance Service's concerns follows an investigation currently underway by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) into the council’s misleading response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request when previously asked about its communication with emergency services over the second stage of the West and East Greenwich traffic management scheme.

In a response to a request to provide confirmation of the council’s correspondence with emergency services over stage two of the scheme, the council claimed they ‘continued to liaise with emergency services,’ but confusingly stated they did not ‘hold this data.’

A further FOI request to emergency services subsequently confirmed the council had not in fact liaised with emergency services until 16 October - weeks after the public consultation had closed.

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