By Toby Porter and Lachlan Leeming, local democracy reporter
Two council leaders have made an unprecedented joint plea for the Bakerloo line extension not to be shelved amid a cash crisis for transport chiefs caused by Covid-19 lockdown.
Lewisham and Southwark councils say any delay to the Bakerloo line extension would be ‘catastrophic’ to South-east London’s recovery.
More than 22,000 people have joined a petition pressing for the line to go ahead.
Lewisham mayor Damien Egan and Southwark leader Cllr Peter John said in a joint statement:: “We welcome TfL’s honest financial appraisal of their future capital programme.
“While it is encouraging that TfL continues to plan for the Bakerloo line extension within their limited financial resources, we are extremely concerned that any delay or pause would put at risk this once in a generation opportunity, whilst damaging South-east London’s economic recovery from COVID-19, and making it less able to tackle the climate emergency.
“Boris Johnson said, ‘Build, Build, Build’ and we know infrastructure projects will be vital in restarting the economy. The Bakerloo line extension is estimated to generate £8.2 billion of local economic benefits and these economic benefits are already being felt.
“With the promise of the BLE businesses and developers have made investments decisions right along the route with thousands of new homes and jobs.
“Creating new jobs will be essential to our communities in the post-Covid recovery.
“Ultimately the BLE will create 12,000 new construction jobs, 18,000 more in the nationwide supply chain and 9,500 permanent new jobs along the corridor.
“The Bakerloo line extension will also be critical to Southwark and Lewisham’s green transition.
“Whilst our boroughs are committed to tackling the climate emergency, encouraging more residents to switch to public transport will be difficult when South-east London is reliant on buses and an outdated rail network.
“The Bakerloo line extension would unlock one of the poorest connected areas in inner London by Tube, and be critical to unleashing southeast London’s sustainable transport potential.
“We stand ready to support both City Hall and the Government in making the case for the Bakerloo line extension, and the future capital funding settlement that allows us to get this transformational piece of infrastructure built.”
Mr Egan said: “The Bakerloo line extension is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the Tube to Lewisham, Catford and beyond.
“As we look beyond Covid-19, it is clear that the Bakerloo line extension will also be essential to our economic recovery, supporting thousands of new jobs and affordable homes.
“The promise of a train every two to three minutes to the heart of central London is already underpinning investment in our borough, and it is important that the government works constructively with TfL to ensure that this momentum is maintained.”
Cllr John said: “The Bakerloo line extension is essential to deliver significant growth and thousands of much-needed new homes and jobs in London.
“The need for affordable housing has never been greater and in the Old Kent Road alone the extension will enable 20,000 new homes to be built.
“I welcome TfL’s continued commitment to the Bakerloo line extension, despite the unprecedented financial challenge, and it is vital that government works with TfL to ensure this critical project is not put at risk.
“Capital investment will be a crucial part of the country’s recovery, and the Bakerloo line extension is an opportunity that London cannot afford to miss.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has been urged by a Greenwich Conservative to guarantee the future of the Bakerloo Line extension.
Greenwich Councillor Charlie Davis, who is also standing as a Conservative candidate for the London Assembly, was joined by fellow Greenwich member Matt Clare and assembly candidate Hannah Ginnett in lobbying for an answer on the scheme.
In a letter to the secretary sent on Tuesday, the trio invited Mr Shapps to join them at Lewisham station once lockdown is over during rush hour so he could see overcrowding issues residents faced first-hand.
“We wanted to write to you with regards to the future of this project to ensure the plans are not pushed back or cancelled due to the Mayor’s poor leadership of TfL,” the trio wrote.
“In this spirit, once lockdown is over and people are returning to work, we would like to invite you, or a Minister at the Department, to join us at Lewisham station at rush hour to observe a station at full capacity with overcrowding and commuters who cannot board trains a common sight, so you can see for yourself why this project is so vital.”
Cllr Davis laid the jeopardised project on the “failings” of Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan over the last four years.
“I am fighting to secure the future of this extension and improve the daily commute of our residents,” he said.
“I don’t doubt for one second Boris Johnson’s commitment to the extension – after all the process started while he was Mayor.
“However, our concerns remain that the current Mayor of London’s failure to take responsibility and failure to show any leadership will mean the people of Lewisham miss out on the improved transport infrastructure that South East London desperately needs.”
Deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander, a former Lewisham MP, said last month she could “categorically assure” anyone the Bakerloo extension did not feature in any of her discussions with the government on TfL’s financial shortfall.
But she acknowledged ongoing pressure on TfL finances meant the future of such projects couldn’t be guaranteed.
She said: “You will be aware, however, that there is still considerable uncertainty over TfL’s longer term funding arrangements, and so just as there was not a confirmed funding and financing package for the extension prior to the onset of the pandemic, there is equally not one in place now.”
She added the project is at an early stage and work was under way with the Government to safeguard the extension, saying she would “like to accelerate those discussions at an appropriate time”.
The two leaders are calling on residents to show their support for the scheme, by signing www.backthebakerloo.org.uk
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