Government minister Grant Shapps has been urged to guarantee the future of the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham, which is in jeopardy following the financial crisis at Transport for London.
Greenwich councillor Charlie Davis, who is also standing as a Conservative candidate for the London Assembly, fellow councillor Matt Clare and Tory assembly candidate Hannah Ginnett invited the transport secretary to join them at Lewisham station during rush hour once lockdown is overso he could see overcrowding issues residents faced first-hand.
“We wanted to write to you with regards to the future of this project to ensure the plans are not pushed back or cancelled due to the mayor’s poor leadership of TfL,” the trio wrote.
“In this spirit, once lockdown is over and people are returning to work, we would like to invite you, or a minister at the department, to join us at Lewisham station at rush hour to observe a station at full capacity with overcrowding and commuters who cannot board trains a common sight, so you can see for yourself why this project is so vital.”
Shapps was asked to provide clarity on whether TfL offered to sacrifice plans to extend the line in order to secure a £1.6 billion bailout from the government in May. TfL is likely to need more government money in the next two years – giving Whitehall a bigger than usual say in which of its projects will go ahead.
Transport for London’s finances have been wrecked by the fall in passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It relies on fare income after the scrapping of its government grant under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson while George Osborne, now editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard, was chancellor. Figures presented to the TfL board tomorrow, which will discuss its financial crisis, show that in a normal year, 72 per cent of TfL’s income comes from fares, compared with 38 per cent in both New York and Paris.
“Commuters in Lewisham are desperate for the Bakerloo line to be extended to the borough and provide the extra capacity we need across south-east London,” Davis, who is standing in Lewisham & Greenwich, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
He blamed the “failings” of Labour mayor Sadiq Khan for the situation.
“I am fighting to secure the future of this extension and improve the daily commute of our residents,” he said. “I don’t doubt for one second Boris Johnson’s commitment to the extension, after all the process started while he was mayor.
“However, our concerns remain that the current mayor of London’s failure to take responsibility and failure to show any leadership will mean the people of Lewisham miss out on the improved transport infrastructure that South East London desperately needs.”
TfL’s financial woes have also put plans for a Docklands Light Railway extension to Thamesmead in peril, while a ferry between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf has been shelved.
Yesterday Southwark Council’s leader accused the government of “playing politics” over the extension of the Bakerloo Line. In a joint article with Lewisham’s elected mayor Damien Egan and published on the commentary site OnLondon, Peter John took aim at a lack of government-committed funding for the project.
“Boxed in by a lack of government funding and powers to raise finance itself, London is currently charting an unenviable course, set to enter a major recession with plenty of shovel-ready projects yet unable to get digging,” the pair wrote.
“For the momentum to falter due to pre-election game-playing would be devastating to our boroughs’ economic recoveries. The Bakerloo Line extension is a perfect example of the sort of shovel-ready scheme that government should be engaging with TfL on getting built.”
Any response from Shapps could potentially face a slight delay, after the MP was caught up among the Britons who would be required to isolate for two weeks after holidaying in Spain, following the UK government’s emergency tightening of travel advice for the country. He confirmed on Tuesday he would return immediately to begin the quarantine fortnight, introduced by the government after a spike in coronavirus case on Spain’s mainland.
Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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