Well, the banking crisis is strongly starting to make itself felt in the selondon area now. This week, various blogs (including london reconnections and 853), have covered a recent commons debate that was secured by nick raynsford, and rather defensively fielded by the new minister for transport, theresa villiers (a tory i think). The debate was on the future of crossrail in woolwich specifically and possibly selondon as a whole, and it’s not looking good. The inclusion of Woolwich in the scheme was originally achieved on the back of a 2008 assurance by Berkeley Homes to pay £150 million for the station, which helped the public by reducing government spending on getting the line from Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood. Now it seems that Berkeley Homes are struggling to meet their commitments, because of the banks, and the Government look likely to use this to justify the dropping of the woolwich terminal or the entire selondon spur from the programme.
Obviously people can still get to East London and the City via the wonderful new DLR line from Woolwich Arsenal Station, and Villiers made a point of this, but Raynsford then pointed out that instead of the 2.4 million predicted journeys in year one of woolwich DLR, there were actually 5 million through this station; anyone who uses it in the rush hour will know that overcrowding is a problem. Furthermore, Crossrail would have been really good for links with other parts of London (see map), and would have been a much more popular and clean connection with our neighbours in the east than the proposed thames gateway bridge would have been.
Villiers closed the debate by washing her hands of Berkeley Homes, whilst saying that she would try to help Greenwich Council and other ‘interested parties’ to try to help Berkeley:
I know that Greenwich council is actively engaged in the issues that we have discussed this evening. It is now important for all of us who care about Crossrail to assess thoroughly the possible alternative funding sources that could be available between the interested parties if Berkeley Homes does not step up to the plate and deliver what it promised. Therefore, while I cannot promise additional funding from the Department and the taxpayer, we do stand ready to try to help the interested parties find a solution to enable Woolwich station to go ahead. The right hon. Gentleman can have my absolute assurance on that.
Who these ‘interested parties’ are I’m not sure, I suppose I am, but i’m not really in a position to lend Berkeley 150 million, and I doubt if Greenwich Council are either. I hope that Canary Wharf (who are also paying for their station) consider standing Berkeley the cash, considering the massive profits currently enjoyed there, might they be persuaded?
… I fear that if Woolwich goes, the entire selondon spur will be sacrificed.
Don’t worry though, Villiers offered this by way of consolation:
…it is worth noting that several important programmes in recent years have benefited his [nick raynsford’s] constituency, such as the refurbishment of the East London line as part of the London overground network [hmm, brockley isn’t in raynsford’s constutuency], new interchanges with the tube and bus networks [the dome?], and the extension of the docklands light railway [yes, it’s brilliant, but overcrowded at times].
She forgot to mention that the waterfront transit scheme has also been dropped…