Greenwich Council is considering a bid to hijack Lewisham’s Bakerloo Line extension – by proposing a new Tube extension linking Canary Wharf, North Greenwich and Charlton Riverside.
Transport for London is currently working up proposals to run the Bakerloo Line from Elephant and Castle to New Cross Gate and Lewisham, with Lewisham Council still keen on it running further to take over the mainline service to Ladywell, Catford Bridge, Lower Sydenham and Hayes.
But Greenwich’s new draft transport strategy, to be discussed by leading councillors next week, sees it propose that it should “explore the potential for extending the Bakerloo Line into the Royal Borough [sic] including feasibility of options for [a] route via Canary Wharf/North Greenwich to support the development of Charlton Riverside”.
This clashes with the plans to extend to Lewisham – and Lewisham Council’s aim of seeing the line run all the way to Hayes, which it restated last week in a rail strategy. It also runs contrary to support given by Greenwich to the Lewisham extension, which would terminate just a few hundred metres beyond the borough’s western border.
Furthermore, it also seems to downgrade the possibility of the Bakerloo running on from Lewisham towards Kidbrooke, Eltham and Bexleyheath, an alternative option to Hayes that TfL hasn’t ruled out and that would provide improved links to new residents at the Kidbrooke Village development.
The transport strategy is due to go out to consultation after being discussed by Greenwich Council’s cabinet on Wednesday.
Greenwich’s Bakerloo boo-boo?
The most striking element of the scheme to extend the Bakerloo Line to Charlton Riverside – which will see huge housing developments in the next few years – is just how distant it seems from TfL’s current plans.
Lewisham Council commissioned a study in 2010 into various Bakerloo options, which included running via Canada Water to Charlton, which was costed then at £1.95bn.
But Greenwich’s new transport strategy seems completely unaware that a Lewisham extension is already in progress – even though it will hugely benefit many residents in the borough, who will find it more convenient to reach than North Greenwich or Woolwich Crossrail.
While in theory TfL could build a Lewisham branch and a Charlton Riverside branch, in practice this is unlikely to happen as splitting the line would result in a halving of services on each branch for double the cost.
And while the Jubilee Line is already uncomfortably overcrowded between Canary Wharf and North Greenwich – a problem that will only temporarily be relieved by Crossrail – TfL has so far been reluctant to duplicate transport links in this part of London.
This has been signalled in its rejection of Greenwich Council’s rather lonely battle to have a branch of the DLR run from Canning Town to North Greenwich and along the A102 an A2 to Kidbrooke and Eltham. TfL turned the idea down partly because it did not wish to duplicate the river crossing provided by the Jubilee Line.
Fans of the “DLR on stilts” will be pleased to know it also features in Greenwich’s transport strategy, six years after the council spent £70,000 on two consultants’ reports into a proposal once described by former leader Chris Roberts as “a challenge” to TfL.
What else is in Greenwich’s transport strategy?
Beyond the Bakerloo proposals, there is little in Greenwich’s strategy that hasn’t been chewed over for years, and in a couple of cases, decades. Indeed, it is based around Boris Johnson’s 2011 transport strategy rather than the new strategy adopted this year by Sadiq Khan.
The Gallions Reach road crossing – rejected in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s – gets wheeled out again, along with a surprising assumption that a DLR extension to Thamesmead could be completed by 2022 or 2023. No route has yet been outlined for any extension.
There is no specific mention of its sister proposal, the Belvedere crossing, which is preferred by neighbouring Bexley Council. A London Overground extension to Thamesmead also features.
There are two schemes which involve working with Bexley – one for “high-quality transit connections between North Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and further east”. Effectively, this is the revived Greenwich Waterfront Transit scheme.
The other is supporting Bexley’s campaign to extend Crossrail towards Erith, Dartford and Gravesend/Ebbsfleet – a long-cherished aim, but one that involves some engineering challenges (not least getting around the Harrow Manor Way flyover at Abbey Wood).
Pressing for more north-south bus services in the borough is dusted off as another priority – arguably bussing Eltham residents to commute from North Greenwich or Woolwich rather than pushing for better rail links in SE9 itself – just as TfL proposes cutting back east-west links between Greenwich and Woolwich.
As for the controversial Silvertown Tunnel scheme, the strategy says Greenwich “approves of the scheme in principle, as part of a wider package of river crossings with integrated transport” but “has raised concerns process in relation to the accuracy of TfL’s traffic modelling, and requires TfL to demonstrate that the scheme will result in no detrimental effect on air quality and congestion”.
No borough-wide 20mph scheme
Instead, there is a plan that Greenwich will look at “town centre/residential ‘main road’ routes suitable for 20mph limits” – an approach similar to the one followed in Croydon.
Despite Greenwich, Eltham and Woolwich town centres getting huge sums of money from TfL in recent years, there is also an aspiration for more of the same, despite crumbling public realm elsewhere.
The council envisages using “existing, and bid for additional, funding to deliver upgrades to the Borough’s main town centres with a particular focus on sustainable travel modes”. Eltham, Greenwich, Plumstead, Thamesmead and Woolwich are highlighted here.
Anyone outside these areas will have to be content with a pledge to “explore additional sources of funding, including Section 106, to upgrade the public realm at the same time as delivering road safety improvements”. (Greenwich is already sitting on huge amounts of Section 106 funding from developers to do this, but little has actually materialised.)
The newer elements are still themes familiar to anyone who has followed the council’s social media feeds or its fortnightly freesheet Greenwich Binfo – further low emissions zones, following from the limited one in Greenwich; and more driverless cars.
One genuinely new element is a plan to introduce a walking strategy to complement a cycling strategy – but again, it is hard to see how this would succeed without a fresh look at the poor state of the borough’s streets outside town centres.
The draft transport strategy, which has been prepared by consultants Steer Gleave Davies, will be discussed by Greenwich Council’s cabinet next Wednesday.
Lewisham’s rail study: smaller ambitions, bigger impact?
Its proposals are mostly smaller, but are arguably more achievable and so could have a bigger impact.
As well as the Bakerloo Line to Hayes, it includes extending the London Overground from New Cross to Lewisham, a major revamp of Lewisham station so it can “engage with the surrounding area rather than be an inward-focused transit interchange”, and platforms on the Nunhead-Lewisham line to turn Brockley station into an interchange.
Long-held plans for an Overground station at Surrey Canal Road also feature, along with combining Catford and Catford Bridge stations into one.
Help support 853’s coverage of issues in Greenwich and south-east London: patreon.com/853