TfL to ask government for £800m for Thamesmead DLR – but Bakerloo extension goes on back burner

DLR at Elverson Road
A Thamesmead DLR extension could be completed in 2030, TfL says

Transport for London is asking the government for £800m to build a Docklands Light Railway route to Thamesmead – but the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham appears to have been deferred.

London mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to run the DLR to Thamesmead four years ago when approving the Silvertown Tunnel, but no funding has been allocated to the project and no detailed route has been produced.

Now TfL – which is dependent on handouts from central government after its fare revenue collapsed at the start of the coronavirus crisis – is asking Westminster to fund the extension in its submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, which sets out budgets for the next three years. It says it could be built by 2030.

Bakerloo Line train at Paddington
A Bakerloo Line extension will still be needed, TfL’s submission says

While the mayor’s transport agency is asking for funds for the Thamesmead link, it is not asking for money to build the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham – saying it “has to be realistic about what is affordable over the next decade” and that its priority is to safeguard the route from Elephant & Castle.

“Extending the Beckton branch of the DLR across the river supports the regeneration of the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Opportunity Area and would also unlock growth at Beckton Riverside,” it says.

“The extension would improve connectivity across the river in some relatively deprived areas of London and increase capacity to support growth.”

TfL claims the project could generate new 20,000 new homes on both sides of the Thames and 8,000 jobs in Thamesmead alone.

However, the extension would only offer five trains per hour – offering a far less frequent service compared with the rest of the DLR, and less than the seven-and-a-half suggested in a broader consultation on Thamesmead’s future published last year.

The housing association Peabody and Lendlease, a developer, want to build 11,500 homes in Thamesmead, but the DLR is key to their plans. Earlier this month Greenwich councillors were warned that the borough would be unable to meet its housing targets without a rail link to Thamesmead.

While the Bakerloo Line extension appears to have slipped down the priority list, TfL says it and Crossrail 2 “are still likely to be needed in the future to support long- term growth and modal shift in London”. Nevertheless, the news will be a major blow to Lewisham Council, which has lobbied for the route and a further extension to Hayes via Catford; Southwark Council has also been banking on the Tube extension to help its plans to redevelop the Old Kent Road.

TfL map of DLR extension
The DLR link to Thamesmead would come off the Beckton branch

A new fleet of 73 trains for the Jubilee Line is also on TfL’s wish list, enabling it to carry 25 per cent more commuters, at a price of £1.9 billion. “It serves key growth areas for jobs and housing, including Canary Wharf, Canada Water, Stratford, North Greenwich and Canning Town, and it already suffers from critical crowding issues. Addressing the overcrowding issues is essential to realise the full potential of these areas to become hubs for highly productive jobs,” TfL says. It adds that the existing trains could then be moved to the Northern Line, which it plans to split into two separate services after upgrading Camden Town station – if it gets the funds.

While Crossrail is yet to open, TfL is already asking for funds to increase its service to a train every two minutes in central London. To do this it will have to spend up to £1billion on building new trains and stabling facilities.

One of the cheapest proposals could bring London Cycle Hire deeper into southeast London. TfL says £25m would pay for an upgrade to the 10-year-old Santander Cycles scheme – launched when Boris Johnson was mayor. The upgrade would include e-bikes and 40 new stations “complementing the design of key cycling routes in southeast and southwest London”.

Other proposals include £1 billion to electrify the bus network by 2030, £3.4 billion for more low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets by 2030, and £2 billion to renew road infrastructure, including the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which currently has restrictive weight limits.

The proposals will be discussed by TfL’s finance committee at a meeting this morning.

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