Shared learning database

Westminster City Council
Published date:
January 2013

The aim of the scheme was to create an improved, step free, more comfortable and legible walking route between Leicester Square and Covent Garden in order to encourage more people to walk between these two close destinations (400m apart) instead of taking the tube. The route involves crossing two major junctions so improving safety was a key element of the project, and despite their close proximity, legibility was also a barrier to walking this route. The project was delivered in four phases between 2007 and 2012 and involved footway widening (50% more footway space provided in Long Acre, at St Martin's Lane and on Cranbourn Street) and resurfacing, improved pedestrian crossing facilities, decluttering, a new contraflow cycle lane and a review of parking and loading arrangements.

Guidance the shared learning relates to:
Does the example relate to a general implementation of all NICE guidance?
Does the example relate to a specific implementation of a specific piece of NICE guidance?


Aims and objectives

The aim of the project was to encourage people to walk between these two major west end destinations. In order to facilitate a more comfortable walking environment the main objectives were to simplify the crossing facilities at major junctions, widen footways to create more capacity, level crossings to make them step free for disabled people and those walking with pushchairs and suitcases. Reducing the parking provision would also discourage casual use of the car on the walking route, adding to an objective to reduce congestion and air pollution and create a sustainable walking corridor. Another objective is to encourage modal shift and alleviate pedestrian congestion on the tube and at Covent Garden tube station.

Commissioned by the city council, Living Streets (a campaigning organisation for better walking environments) carried out a community street audit (Just 900 Steps - Walking between Leicester Square & Covent Garden) and identified measures to be taken to improve walking between these destinations. The study identified the 'Health Benefits of Walking' as stated at the time by the Chief Medical Officer in the report 'At least five a week'. The 24/7 nature of pedestrian movement in this area and the range of different users of the public realm, demanded that improvements to how people get around was a key driver in promoting this particular walking corridor. It links people at night to bus routes along Kingsway as an alternative to getting people home safely towards north and east London destinations. This project aimed to connect and support public realm improvements in other parts of the West End which link to the walking corridor, namely Leicester Square and Piccadilly 2-way. Recommendations 2 & 3 of the NICE guidance PH8 seek to improve the pedestrian environment in a number of ways to encourage physical activity. In addition the council prioritises the pedestrian in its Core Strategy Policy CS40 and the project aimed to deliver against these recommendations and policies, by ensuring an inclusive process for a safe and accessible route to link the centre of the west end to central areas to the east.

Surrounding major developments like the Hippodrome (Cranbourn Street/Charing Cross Road), St Martin's Courtyard (off Long Acre/St Martin's Lane), the rejuvenation of central Covent Garden by Covent Garden London, the congestion relief programme by TfL at Covent Garden underground station, have all been supported by this project.

Reasons for implementing your project

The starting point was the adoption of a local area Action Plan in 2004, which was put together in consultation with the local residential and business community. A major objective of the plan was to improve the pedestrian environment to encourage people to walk to, from and around the Covent Garden area. This inclusive consultation process is in line with recommendation 1 of NICE guidance PH8.

Previously people were regularly taking the tube between these two destinations (a tube journey of just 400 metres). The pavements were narrower with road space prioritised for cars. The junctions were inaccessible to those with disabilities as well as being incoherent for all pedestrians.

The next step was carrying out the community street audit (mentioned above), which provided a baseline assessment of the state of the walking environment (further detail in their report available on request). A community Street audit involves the local community in examining how walking can be made easier and therefore maximise the potential for physical activity, thus delivering against recommendation 1 of NICE guidance PH8. Following the report from Living Streets, Atkins were employed to provide area wide concept designs to take forward the report's recommendations. These concepts provided the foundation for all the future design and implementation of the schemes. They also provided a backbone on which to negotiate funding from other sources.

TfL carried out monitoring in 2005, before the first phase was implemented and then subsequent outcome monitoring in 2008 and again in 2011. The final phase (Charing Cross Road to St Martin's Lane) was only completed in July 2012, and no monitoring as yet has been done.

The project was not geared around providing efficiency savings but in developing more intrinsic benefits such as a better pedestrian experience, a smoother route for those with disabilities, and a safer and more comfortable walking environment. In addition, works such as these attract private investment due to their impact on visitor numbers and rents. Feedback from community groups and businesses is very positive in terms of the look and feel of the route, the legibility of the area, and the vibrancy of the shopping district.

How did you implement the project

Following on from the area wide concept design, detailed designs for each phase were fully consulted on with the local community including those who contributed to funding the scheme. Legal agreements were developed for the private investment, after which work started on site. The phases of the projects were carried out as follows:
-St Martin's Cross - junction improvements at the six arm junction on St Martin's Lane - 2007/08
-Long Acre I (St Martin's Lane - James Street) - 2008/09
-Long Acre II (James Street to Drury Lane) - 2009/10
-Cranbourn Street and the junction on Charing Cross Road - 2011/12.

A fifth project along this route, was carried out at Great Queen Street by the London Borough of Camden, and provided the final improvements to pedestrian crossings over Drury Lane and towards Holborn. In total this project cost £3.5m, the majority of which is spent in construction of the physical improvements to the walking environment.

Funding is the major barrier to making improvements like this, but the council was able to negotiate a funding package with its partners to enable these improvements to be delivered. Each partner will benefit from these projects in different ways. Landowners benefit by improving the perception of the shopping environment and also often in improvement in rents. Transport for London and the City council is able to fulfil its policy objectives by implementing schemes such as these as the changes have encouraged more people to make this journey by foot, reduced the domincance of motor traffic and improved road safety, which in turn contributes to broader objectives such as improving public health, reducing overcrowding on public transport, and improving air quality.

Key findings

TfL carried out baseline monitoring before the first phase was implemented and subsequent walking outcome monitoring in 2008 and 2011. The final phase (Charing Cross Road to St Martin's Lane) was only completed in July 2012, so no monitoring as yet has been done. Pedestrian counts were and attitudinal surveys were undertaken. Change in pedestrian volumes on Long Acre - 3.4% increase in pedestrian flows between 2005 and 2008 and an increase of 17.6% by 2011. Pedestrian perception of crowding, personal security, cleanliness and the number and speed of vehicles were all more positive on Long Acre across all factors between 2005 and 2008. Mode of access - since the works had finished, the number of people getting to Long Acre from Leicester Square tube station and then walking the remainder of the way had increased (19% in 2005 to 27% in 2008). This was the result that we had hoped for from the scheme.

The actions proposed in the NICE guidance PH8 (Recommendations 2 & 3), were taken forward including providing 50% more footway space and narrowing the carriageway, reducing parking, raised crossing points to prioritise the pedestrian and slow traffic, provided level access along the entire route and provided signage at each end to orientate those walking to destinations up to a 15 minute walk away. This encouragement towards physical activity has been adopted comprehensively across all phases of this project.

The project has little impact on efficiency savings as it is a discrete project. All work carried out by third parties is subjected to competition and therefore represents value for money. It is reasonable to assume the use of good quality materials will lead to longer phasing of maintenance and cost savings which would arise from that.

Local feedback tells us that the scheme has made a positive contribution to the conservation area by but not compromising the traditional street layout. Good quality materials have enhanced its appeal to visitors, and therefore perceptions of it as a pleasant place to be.

It has contributed to actions and position statements detailed within the Council's Air Quality Action Plan (particularly, Action TRAN 7 - Support schemes to encourage people to use other forms of sustainable travel such as walking and cycling) and also complements policies of the GLA/Mayor's 'Air Quality Strategy' 2010 (e.g, promoting modal shift to cleaner forms of sustainable transport/promoting smarter travel).

Key learning points

The most important part of the recipe of success is in funding. Funding from third parties needs the support of local vision and a defined approach or policy upon which to hook their funding on. The experience of private business spending money on assets for which they will gain no direct return requires a strong underpinning action plan, policy or vision which their shareholders can clearly see where the investment is going to benefit them indirectly.

These public realm improvements by themselves have not been the answer to improving walking rates or modal shift from the tube. A concerted effort in terms of announcements on the tube so visitors can orientate themselves, the Legible London way finding system implementation, and also the work by retail owners to provide a destination for people to choose to walk along have all contributed to the success.

Success lies in partnership working first and foremost, and as well as funding partners, positive relationships with the neighbouring London Borough of Camden were instrumental in the entire project's success.

Contact details

Lydia Clarkson
Area Programme Manager
Westminster City Council

Is the example industry-sponsored in any way?

The implementation of this project was funded using both private and public funding. The main partners were Westminster City Council, Transport for London, Shaftesbury Plc, The Mercers' Company and Longmartin Plc.