Greenwich councillors have pressed Transport for London to extend the Docklands Light Railway to Abbey Wood as well as Thamesmead to help residents access new Crossrail services.
TfL is hoping to extend the DLR to Thamesmead in the coming years, although plans are sketchy and have been held up by a lack of money following the coronavirus crisis.
Councillors were told on Thursday night that the new route remained on the table, but Woolwich Common councillor David Gardner and Ann Marie Cousins, his counterpart in Abbey Wood, said that bringing the DLR to Abbey Wood would boost connectivity in the east of the borough.
Gardner said that the costs of the extension could come from developers, as with the Northern Line link to Battersea Power Station, or from borrowing against future fares.
“It would make a huge difference,” he said at a meeting of Greenwich’s transport scrutiny panel on Thursday night. “The DLR is not the fastest form of transport, but if it carried on to Abbey Wood, it would open up the Royal Docks to people in Abbey Wood and people in Thamesmead would get much faster access all the way along the Elizabeth Line and the North Kent line.”
The pandemic and government policy has forced TfL, which is reliant on fares for its income, into a series of short-term funding agreements with Westminster. Last year it tried to obtain £800m to build the Thamesmead line, while councils and developers have stumped up £1m to start work on detailed plans.
A Thamesmead extension would serve a planned development at Beckton Riverside as well as the new Thamesmead Waterfront scheme, on the site of the last plots of undeveloped land in the area. It would run from the existing Beckton branch, which also has an interchange with Crossrail at Custom House.
Ami Ibitson, a TfL representative, said that the Thamesmead extension was “still going”, adding: “The issue we’ve had is things being paused while we see what happens with the funding.”
TfL was talking to Homes England, the government agency which helps fund new schemes, about the project, she said, while her colleague Abbas Raza said that as the scheme was being raised with government, it was “in the best position it could be”.
“Thamesmead would be prioritised as Abbey Wood is getting Crossrail,” Ibitson added.
But she was challenged by Cousins, who said: “There’s not an ‘either or’ with Abbey Wood or Thamesmeand, it’s both – [with an extension] you get a thorough connectivity that side of the borough.”
Gardner also raised demands for rezoning Woolwich Arsenal and the Woolwich Crossrail station into zones 3 and 4; the subject of a recent petition, the third such petition in seven years.
However, Ibitson dashed hopes of a rezoning, saying: “I can see the logic behind argument – but there are no further plans for rezoning anything, anywhere at the moment.”
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