Woolwich Crossrail – good news, but questions remain

Woolwich Crossrail station

It’s long overdue, but definitive news that Woolwich’s Crossrail station will get built after all is worth celebrating. But neither the Government/TfL announcement, nor Greenwich Council’s news release, carry much detail on just how much this will cost.

The good news is that there shouldn’t be any direct cost to council tax payers. It’s also good to hear that one funding idea that I’d heard about – allocating all the grants TfL gives out for local improvements to Woolwich Crossrail for a number of years – is also not happening. But there’s still a few details which it would be good to get cleared up.

Here’s what we know, and what we don’t know, and some thoughts suggested to me by someone who knows their way around council finances:

a) The cost of fitting out the station has reduced from £100m to £54m. What happened to the other £46m? Does this mean ideas such as building a pedestrian tunnel to Woolwich Arsenal station have been junked?

b) Of this £54m, £5m is coming from the Mayor’s Regeneration Fund.

c) So how much of the remaining £49m is coming from Berkeley Homes? The council’s press release appears to hint that they aren’t paying much – and there’s been no statement from Berkeley to the stock exchange.

d) Greenwich Council’s contribution – and we don’t know how much this is, either – will come from developers, via a community infrastructure levy. Will Berkeley be paying this levy?

e) Community infrastructure levies have to be paid for when developments begin. Is this why so many projects have got under way in the past few months, to escape the levy?

f) Which new developments are going to start between the implementation of the levy and the end of next year? And which developments will have to pay it? Unless there’s a massive levy on a selected few developments, there’s a risk that Greenwich Council will be collecting this money for decades to come – which could lead to a future cash flow problem.

Now the hard work gets under way on commissioning and building the station – but also on making sure public transport links into and out of Woolwich are worth it. In some ways, North Greenwich, served by slow services taking indirect routes, is a template to avoid, despite being overwhelmingly successful. There’s no point crowing that “the whole borough” will benefit if you can’t even get a bus that runs from Eltham to Woolwich via the most direct route. Still, there’s five years to get it right…

2.55pm update: London Reconnections analyses the Woolwich deal.


  1. On the transport links, Woolwich is already very well served across the whole borough, so its an easy journey from Plumstead (who might use Abbey Wood), Charlton, and even Greenwich, and there are 3 services via Eltham (161, 122, 178) into the town centre, which is a massive improvement on where North Greenwich is even now. Add in links on National Rail, and Woolwich is well served.

    The big issues for me, is still how Woolwich was left out of the original plans for Crossrail, and this mess of funding wouldn’t have happened.

  2. The 178 runs via Kidbrooke rather than Eltham, the 161 has a lengthy diversion through QEH, the 122 heads away from the High Street.

    It’s pretty much a guarantee that there’ll be demands for more buses from “the south of the borough” (as with North Greenwich) especially as Crossrail’s been sold as having borough-wide benefits. Sure, there are loads of buses serving Woolwich already, but links south are poor (and east-west buses already rammed). Some serious thinking will be needed.

    I can’t see many Crossrail users coming from west of the station, incidentally, unless it gets moved into zone 3 (which it should, but probably won’t.)

  3. And don’t forget the DLR station too! This really is great news to finally have the station fit out confirmed for Woolwich. At 15 minutes to Liverpool St and under 50 minutes to Heathrow with no connections this would improve the choices and lifestyles for many people in the area.

  4. Good news definitely and it appears that, on the face of it, the Greenwich negotiators have done a good job.

    Yet there are unknowns as you say. Where did this £100m original figure come from? I saw a present value of £98m but that would by definition, be lower at a cash price today. The CIL is impossible to estimate until we know the sq metre floorspace of the Over Space (and multiply it by £35 per sq m which is the Greenwich rate) and also whether there will be double charging of Berkeley and how that will impact on the RBG cost etc etc. Yes Crossrail will stump up and the Greenwich resident is not being asked to put a hand in a pocket but the announcement leaves many unanswered questions as to the cost to the borough.

    In many ways, in the widest sense of the term, we already know the cost – the Manhatten of Woolwich Riverside. Depressing. With the density and style of those lovely blocks, lets just hope that they are not building the Ferrier-by-the-river of tomorrow.

  5. Some good points Chris Smith, especially your last sentence.
    From what I hear from many people, there is beginning to be a real resentment on these housing developments in and around Greenwich which are so out of the borough’s character, an eyesore on the skyline, overly dense, not very appropriate for families, overpriced, causing a strain on the areas infrastructure etc and like you say these will probably end up as the next Ferrier estates in the future!

    What is being done with these concerns?

  6. Will there ever be a situation whereby a certain % of new apartments must be owner occupied, at least the first number of years?
    I’m thinking from the angle of increasing the number of people staying in the area and contributing to it, as opposed to renters who just need a bed and a good transport hub

  7. Yes Woolwich is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich but it is not Greenwich…what exactly are people resentful of? That they are building anything at all in Woolwich? That could very well be the choice andthen what would we on about?

    I am no Berkeley Homes defender after having my share of run ins with them but surely you must look at all their other developments and the quality of what they build compared to a lot of other companies who focus on new builds? Why would they build the Ferrier by the river when they are currently rebuilding Ferrier. Yes, tall buildings are not to everyone’s taste but I didn’t see a hole rush of developers running to put in the low profile affordable, quality housing that Woolwich is so know for now…seems like there’s something to moan about.

    It ain’t perfect but it’s a darn bit better than when I moved to Woolwich 4 years ago

    By the way here’a re some of the questions answered.

    Construction News understands that TfL will contribute £24m, which is being offset by the income generated through the station when it begins to function.

    Berkeley Homes is making a £10m contribution.

    The Royal Borough of Greenwich is set to pay £20m, £5m of which will come from a Greater London Authority grant and the rest from local developer contributions.

    The project is expected to cost more than the £54m raised, but a TfL spokeswoman said the final cost was “unknown” at this stage in procurement.

    TfL will also make a saving by not having to spend money on converting the station box into a shell station, which trains could run through without stopping.

  8. After years of uncertainty this is great news. It will also be welcome relief for everybody who knows me – they may now have respite from my constant talk of this as the “most pressing issue in the borough”.

    The recent revelation that Woolwich Crossrail is expected to be the eighth busiest station out of the 37 on the network by 2026 does make me question why this situation ever had to arise in the first place. Hopefully lessons have been learned and any future major transport infrastructure project will look more closely at this kind of information when deciding where to run the route, and indeed cutting costs.

    Like “Royal Arsenal Resident” I am far from being a torch-carrier for Berkeley Group, however, we owe them some thanks for paying for the station box and their contributions to the fit-out itself. From what I have seen, Berkeley is one of the better house-builders in the country, usually with sympathetic developments. It does concern me that the new Warren towers to the west of the Arsenal site and the over-station buildings themselves will dwarf their significantly smaller and sensitively-designed current conversions and new apartments.

    News of the payment split between TfL, Berkeley and RBG does raise other interesting points. The contribution from Berkeley may well be significantly higher than the £10m quoted as they will be in danger of what is in effect “triple-charging” – paying the headline contribution, the Mayor’s £35/sqft Crossrail Community Infrastructure Levy and also RBG’s supplementary CIL to make up the £15m shortfall. Any shortfall to be picked up by Crossrail Ltd themselves is also a slightly grey area and I suspect we may not know the full cost before this pickup until bids are in on the tendering process. Incidentally, the initial tender was published today at http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:254640-2013:TEXT:EN:HTML&src=0&tabId=1

    If this is the price we have to pay to ensure the Crossrail station goes ahead, sobeit – fault lies with the original Crossrail Act and this compromise is, unfortunately, the price we have to pay. Hopefully Berkeley will be able to find a middle ground and a way to avoid the high-density housing mistakes of the past. We also need decent, cheaper homes as those currently branded as “affordable” are even outwith the reach of many of Greenwich’s own councillors!

    However, saturation point has now been reached. The replacement of the current light industrial estate to the east with even more high-density housing is something that can, and should, be stopped. With a dearth of decent employment opportunities in the borough we cannot afford to lose any more and, after all, this was one of the reasons the original development won awards in the first place as a model live/work environment. It concerns me that despite representations about the estate to the masterplan meetings last year, and an agreement on concessions from Cllr. Roberts, these were never enacted in the final plans put out earlier in the year. With agreement made on the site of the Crossrail depot at White Hart there is also now a lack of replacement land to move businesses to from Woolwich and Charlton.

    Now that the Crossrail issue is settled, we now have an amazing opportunity to move the discussion forward on the future transport needs of the borough.

    Firstly, as Darryl says above, we need to campaign to get Woolwich DLR, mainline and Crossrail moved into zone 3 or the zone 3/4 border to achieve parity with other areas of London. This would hopefully encourage people from areas such as Charlton to make peak counter-cyclical journeys towards Woolwich for the Crossrail connection. This, together with those from further east changing at Abbey Wood or Woolwich, would free up much needed capacity on the Greenwich line.

    What to do with that capacity? One interesting idea would be to lobby for the Bakerloo line extension to come through Greenwich borough. Having an extension that ran from Lewisham through Blackheath and on to Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead would allow for a spur east of Plumstead station to serve Thamesmead as the final destination – at a stroke we could solve the transport problems which have dogged the Thamesmead area since its inception in the 1960s. Apart from a few pinch points, much of the land is available and as a mainly overground route should not come at too high a cost.

    If money were no object and you wanted to indulge in fantasy railways the route could even go from Blackheath as a cut-and-cover along the A2 up to Shooters Hill and then down to Thamesmead, solving the transport inefficiencies in two areas. It isn’t as much of a flight of fancy as you may think – after all, TfL are keen on building a road and tunnel from Thamesmead all the way to Falconwood if the current bridge plans go ahead.

    Even with Crossrail, public transport is going to remain an issue for our area for decades to come. The projected population increase for the borough, combined with falling car ownership, less parking spaces at new developments and a lack of drive to grow employment opportunities in RBG show that a short-sighted approach to now grow road space at the expense of everything else (see Silvertown/Gallions) now that public transport is “fixed” is far from the correct approach.

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