Questions and answers
Why was so much work going on in Exhibition Road? We had originally designed our workflow to make the minimum disruption to residents and businesses in Exhibition Road by a staged approach. But we had to modify our original plans to make space for National Grid, EDF, Thames Water, the V&A’s frontage refurbishment and a number of building works to properties around South Kensington that were carried out during our works.
Why did it take so long?The work was slow because it was meticulous, with every single granite block checked and laid by hand to tiny tolerances. Balfour Beatty and their sub contractors laid a unique road surface that will last for generations to come. It’s a bit like making a giant complicated three dimensional jigsaw. But they delivered the work to schedule.
How was the surface laid? Once the old road surface had been stripped and prepared, the utilities ducts, cables and pipes were checked before the concrete base was laid. Then we had to wait for the concrete to cure, and to make double sure that the base had not impacted on the cabling, before we set out the individual blocks.
How much did it cost and who is paying? The total cost of the project was £29.2 million, of which the first completed phase around South Kensington station cost £6.55 milllion. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is paying £14.6 million, The Mayor of London £13.4 million and Westminster City Council £1 million. The remaining £200,000 is coming from various other sources including English Heritage.
Were any trees removed as part of the project? No, we increased the number of trees overall by keeping as many existing trees as possible and planting new ones wherever possible. There are some restrictions to where we can plant trees. We have to avoid the tunnel running up the Western side of Exhibition Road and the utilities already in place underground.
How will the new traffic management affect pedestrian safety? The streetscape changes mean that traffic is restricted to the east side of Exhibition Road, away from the busiest pedestrian flow between South Kensington Station and the Science Museum. We have improved the pedestrian crossings by making them wider, to accommodate larger numbers of pedestrians.
Will those with a disability be able to safely use the area? Yes, this is a key priority for us. Kerbs can be difficult for many and a single surface will significantly improve access for those using wheelchairs, push chairs and motorised buggies. The wide safe pedestrian area will allow vulnerable members of the community to move around in confidence away from moving traffic. Black cast iron drainage covers along each side of the vehicle area will visually separate pedestrian areas from moving traffic, which is particularly useful for young children and the partially sighted.
Won’t blind and partially sighted people potentially be put at risk by the single surface? We will install wide strips of corduroy tactile – ridged paving often used to demark steps – alongside the drainage gulley to alert blind people to the edge of the ‘safe’ area. At the start of the design process, the Royal Borough appointed an access consultant and, throughout the design process, we have consulted with groups through a dedicated ‘Access Group’, to ensure Exhibition Road is accessible to all users. We employed specialist consultants to carry out in-situ testing of the delineator; the results can be seen in the report below:
Will traffic speed be reduced along Exhibition Road? We have introduced a 20 mph speed limit on the road, and we expect the scheme to reduce traffic by approximately 30 per cent to the south of Prince Consort Road. The removal of street clutter, such as conventional traffic signals, barriers, signs and road markings, will encourage motorists to slow down when they enter the road and engage with their surroundings.
Has the Council done any monitoring of user behaviour since the road opened to the public? The Council commissioned MVA Consultancy to provide an assessment of user interaction and movement within Exhibition Road. This monitoring took place in April and May 2012, around five to six months after the scheme was completed. The results of this monitoring can be found in the monitoring report.