Greenwich Council’s cabinet has agreed to spend up to £45,000 on further studies into a Docklands Light Railway extension to Eltham, with leader Chris Roberts declaring he wanted to “challenge Transport for London’s mentality” on new transit links.
The council has already spent £25,000 on the report via its Eltham Regeneration Agency, which suggests an eight-station line built on stilts above the A102 and A2 dual carriageways between a new river crossing at North Greenwich and Falconwood, on the borough’s western boundary.
Its director of regeneration, enterprise and skills, John Comber, told councillors on Tuesday that “a great deal of work needs to be done” to establish the viability of the proposal, which is costed at £1 billion and could include rebuilding east Greenwich’s Woolwich Road flyover.
Cllr Roberts said he envisaged costs coming down as “engineering solutions are discovered” for the scheme.
“This is also about changing the mentality of Transport for London, who seem to think that every bus and every railway line should go into central London when in actual fact we’re seeing in Westfield in Stratford, in Canning Town, in Canary Wharf that actually working patterns are changing,” he added.
“TfL needs to get into the 21st century about where jobs are located. It took years to get a bus service from the north to the south of the borough” – the 132 extension to North Greenwich – “and part of this is the ongoing challenge to change that mentality.”
Transport for London’s two most recent projects, however, have run around the edge of central London – the East London Line extension and the Docklands Light Railway link to Stratford International.
Culture cabinet member John Fahy called the proposal “an exciting opportunity for the borough long-term” which would “reduce the continual horror of queuing at the Sun-in-the-Sands and the Blackwall Tunnel”.
“There are cynics among us who would rubbish this and say this is pie-in-the-sky, but they need to recognise that we have a great track record in terms of the Jubilee Line, the DLR, and bringing Crossrail to the borough. I’m enthusiastically in favour of this report.”
Regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland said: “There will be huge numbers of living at Kidbrooke Village, and this would be actually fantastic if we could actually ensure this is technically feasible. It would improve access to jobs and businesses in the borough.”
The report, compiled by Hyder Consulting, has not been made public by Greenwich Council.
Pie in the sky or not, it’s worth remembering that for this scheme to go ahead, Greenwich Council will have to hope for a Conservative victory at the next mayoral election, as Ken Livingstone has come out against building the tunnel between North Greenwich and Silvertown that this proposal depends on.
To further understand the difficulties with this scheme, it’s also worth picking up a copy of the current issue of train bible Modern Railways, which carries a special feature on the latest thinking for London’s transport. TfL’s current thinking for the DLR is to extend it to Euston, to cope with crowds from High Speed 2. “We could well get a bigger bang for our buck if we head west rather than east,” TfL executive Howard Smith tells the magazine. The other DLR scheme mentioned is Dagenham Dock – nothing about Eltham.
The magazine also carries a lengthy feature on the possibilities of extending the Bakerloo Line further into SE London, written by the author of a recent report for Lewisham Council on the idea. Five options are considered for inner London – one to Charlton, one to Canary Wharf, and three to Lewisham.
Beyond Lewisham, it could take over existing railways to go to Hayes (via Catford) or Slade Green (via Eltham) – both costing between £3.2-£3.6 billion. This scheme is actually on TfL’s radar, but it currently prefers a line to Hayes, but says the idea will be reviewed further.
If you want to find out more about the Bakerloo scheme, the Lewisham Council report is available online.
I still can’t help thinking that Greenwich would be better off junking this bizarrely insular DLR scheme and teaming up with other councils to back a Bakerloo Line link, properly plugging SE London into the tube network and giving access to a wider range of destinations than just North Greenwich. It’s bad enough trying to get the short distance from Blackheath or Charlton to North Greenwich in the mornings – surely the council should be trying to fix these relatively simple problems before thinking about a technically difficult scheme that still leaves Eltham relatively isolated, in London-wide terms.
All things considered, even after £75,000 is spent on a feasibility study, it’s still likely that the DLR on stilts to Eltham will join the King’s Cross Aerodrome and the Regent Street monorail in the long list of London’s canned transport schemes.