Southeastern’s Olympic cuts: Transport minister caught clueless

Take a look at the BBC News website for worrying viewing for anyone planning to get around south-east London during the Olympics.

BBC London’s transport correspondent Tom Edwards spoke to transport minister Norman Baker yesterday about transport plans for the capital next summer.

Most of London’s transport is devolved to TfL, so what Baker was there to do was push the idea of working from home during the games, and beyond.

But one thing Norman Baker does have power over is the National Rail franchises – our old friends at Southeastern. Tom Edwards asked him if the mainline services he oversees as a government minister would be up to the job. (4m 15secs in)

Tom Edwards: And finally, some train companies are cutting services, like Southeastern from Greenwich. Is that a good example, if commuters in London are going to get a worse service?

Norman Baker: Well, we’re going to have massive investment in London, right through to the Olympic period there’s extensions to the rolling stock on the Jubilee Line for example, the Central Line’s being enhanced, you’ll see the investment going on a Blackfriars, and so the story in London is one of significant and increasing investment in public transport.

Tom Edwards: Not if you’re a commuter at Greenwich.

Norman Baker: I don’t know about Greenwich, but – the plan for London is such that it takes account of the movements which are anticipated for the Olympic Games, the movements we want to carry out as part of normal business that maximises the public transport network to the best we can during that period.

So, even though Norman Baker’s department is in charge of approving Southeastern’s plans for the Olympics, he has no idea of their effects in south-east London. That’s deeply worrying – particularly as it appears London Bridge will need to lose 50% of its normal traffic during the games. In fact, by blethering on about the Central Line and Blackfriars, does he have any idea what’s he’s talking about?

It’s doubly disappointing because Baker’s Liberal Democrat colleague, Caroline Pidgeon, has been assiduous in trying to get Southeastern and the Olympic Delivery Authority to change their minds.

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