Lewisham councillors fall for spoof as Bakerloo extension to Hayes gets public backing

Bakerloo Line train at Paddington
TfL has no funding in place for the Bakerloo extension

Lewisham councillors appeared to fall for a spoof Bromley social media account last night after Transport for London’s latest consultation into a Bakerloo line extension found strong support for the route running all the way to Hayes.

The fate of the extension, which does not have funding, is uncertain because of the financial crisis at TfL, which has lost much of its income because of the coronavirus pandemic. An initial route from Elephant and Castle to New Cross Gate and Lewisham is costed at £4 billion, but the council has long pressed for it to also take over the National Rail route to Catford, Lower Sydenham and Hayes – something their counterparts in Bromley have long opposed.

TfL released the results of a consultation into the scheme held a year ago; it found that 89 per cent of respondents were supportive of the extension, and that 82 per cent wanted to see it run on to Hayes. Of Bromley borough residents who responded, 79 per cent supported an extension to Hayes and Beckenham Junction, with only 20 per cent opposed.

Twitter screen grab
The “counsellor” for Chislehurst had his say
“Cllr Smith” took a swipe at a Lewisham councillor’s comment

Lewisham councillors reacted when a Cllr Julian Smith, representing Chislehurst, took a swipe at the idea. After Lewisham cabinet member Brenda Dacres tweeted support for the extension, the account responded: “Well clearly Brenda if you ask everyone in Catford if they want to be connected to Bromley they will say yes. Now ask everyone in Bromley if they want to be connected to Catford and I think you’ll find quite a different answer!”

However, there’s no Julian Smith on Bromley council. The account, which has a profile photo of Rik Mayall in the 1980s sitcom about an obnoxious Tory MP, The New Statesman, is a parody of the Conservative borough’s councillors.

That didn’t stop Lewisham’s democracy cabinet member Kevin Bonavia responding: “Well clearly Julian if you actually ask people in Bromley as the consultation did, you’ll find 79% #BackTheBakerloo extension.”

Twitter screengrab
Catford South councillor Alan Smith took the bait

Catford South’s independent councillor Alan Smith also bit: “Yet another person speaking on behalf of everyone. I live in Catford and I don’t want to go to Bromley.”

The “counsellor for Chislehurst” hit back: “Bromley has a lot to offer Alan (to the right people). The Glades offers South East London / West Kent’s premier midsize mall experience. Whereas I think you have a fibreglass cat in need of repainting.”

Catford cat
Lewisham Council wants the line to boost Catford’s fortunes

While London mayor Sadiq Khan had hoped the Bakerloo extension to Lewisham could be built by 2030, TfL opted not to include the project in a recent bid for government funding, putting forward cheaper projects such as a DLR extension to Thamesmead. Instead, TfL is prioritising getting the route to Lewisham safeguarded – something that can only be done by central government.

Lewisham Council sees an extension as vital for its plans to revamp the centre of Lewisham – which is currently seeing a 33-storey student tower being built next to the site of the proposed station – as well as Catford, which it is also drawing up detailed plans for. Southwark Council also sees the route as crucial for its plans for the Old Kent Road.

Bromley Council has long objected to the loss of National Rail services on the Hayes line, and has instead called for a route to Bromley town centre that would diverge from the existing line at New Beckenham, keeping the existing mainline trains to Hayes.

But Bromley’s Conservative colleagues in Bexley Council supported an extension to Hayes, as did Kent County Council, arguing that removing Hayes trains would free up capacity on the local rail network.

Greenwich Council did not respond, despite the impact the line would have on its residents, but the borough’s Conservative group did respond and backed running the Bakerloo Line to Hayes.

The consultation also asked for views on what the two stations on the Old Kent Road could be called. Thirty per cent backed a suggestion that the southern station, on the site of the former Toys R Us store, be called Old Kent Road, with 20 per cent supporting “Asylum”.

For the northern station, which would require the current Tesco store to be demolished, 59 per cent backed Burgess Park. One per cent – 29 people – suggested it be called “Tubey McTubeface”.

Updated at noon on Tuesday to amend Kevin Bonavia’s cabinet post.

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