Lewisham’s elected mayor and the leader of Southwark Council have accused the government of “game-playing” over Transport for London’s finances after it emerged that TfL did not prioritise the Bakerloo line extension when asking for Whitehall funding this week.
TfL is proposing to extend the Bakerloo line from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham via two new stops on the Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate. The plans have strong support from both councils.
But in its submission for funding in the government’s comprehensive spending review on Wednesday, TfL did not include the extension in its list of priorities, effectively postponing the huge project.
TfL said it was “being realistic about what is affordable over the next decade”. Instead, it prioritised projects such as extending the DLR to Thamesmead and upgrading Camden Town station and the Northern Line.
To keep TfL going over the next 18 months, London mayor Sadiq Khan has asked for £5.7 billion from the government. Its finances have been crippled by the coronavirus shutdown resulting in a loss of fare income, meaning it has to turn to Westminster for funds.
A TfL spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that Covid-19 has had a “huge impact” on its finances, but the extension was “not on hold”.
“We will be reviewing our investment programme as part of this work and it is crucial for London’s recovery that we can maintain our existing assets and continue to operate frequent, reliable services,” he said.
The spokesperson added that TfL’s “immediate priority was safeguarding the route from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham” to protect it from future development.
In a joint statement the leaders of Southwark and Lewisham said they were disappointed with the financial “game-playing” from the government.
Lewisham’s elected mayor, Damien Egan, and his opposite number at Southwark, council leader Kieron Williams, said: “It is disappointing that government game-playing with TfL’s finances means that they are unable to request funding for their largest projects – including the Bakerloo line extension – at this time.
“This does not, however, deflect either from the overwhelming case for extending the Bakerloo line along Old Kent Road to Lewisham and Hayes nor the progress on the immediate work to move the project forward, which continues apace. Over the last few years, we have worked closely with TfL to bring this extension forward and they have the full support of both Lewisham and Southwark councils in pushing ahead with their immediate plans for the scheme.
“These include safeguarding the station sites and route, developing the overall design, and drawing up a business plan for future government funding; all long-anticipated steps in the process towards delivery. We welcome TfL’s reassurance that this work is an ongoing priority for them.”
The two leaders said they “remain fully committed to the Bakerloo line extension” and will do “everything in their power to deliver what will be an essential piece of infrastructure for London’s recovery from Covid-19”.
“It is vital that government works with TfL to agree a longer-term funding package so that the thousands of new homes and jobs which the project is set to bring are not put at risk,” they said.
The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.
Grainne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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