diamond geezer

 Friday, November 07, 2008

After Bonfire Night came Bonfire Day. TfL's latest business plan (pdf) has incinerated several slow-burning transport projects, each liberally doused with car-friendly petrol by our beloved Mayor. A few important projects that Boris inherited, such as Crossrail and (most of) the East London line, will be prioritised. And their funding will be secured by sacrificing various smaller projects, generally at the expense of residents in boroughs that voted for Ken. TfL's emphasis will be on upgrading existing networks, not branching out into new areas, no matter how great the local need. Boris refuses to raise taxes to pay for anything, including it seems investment in London's future. There'll be no new transport projects in the pipeline for his successor to open, but never mind, eh?

So, what's Boris shelved?

Cross River Tram
A rail map of Inner London reveals one big blind spot, one great inaccessible desert through which no existing tracks run. The Zone 2 Gap is centred on Burgess Park, around the Aylesbury Estate and Camberwell, and it's through these mean streets that the Cross River Tram was due to pass. Sorry Southwark residents, you'll have to carry on taking the bus instead. Look, TfL haven't quite removed all their CRT plans from the internet yet, so it's still possible to see what you're missing. No more frivolous thoughts of running a tram service on-street between Camden and Peckham, because you can just imagine how many car drivers that might have inconvenienced. Of all the schemes to hit the buffers today, this one's probably the greatest loss. CRT, RIP.

Thames Gateway Bridge
This project's rather more controversial. It's been on the drawing board for aaaa-ages, and would have linked Beckton to Thamesmead across a not-terribly accessible stretch of the Thames. The river's a huge barrier to movement in East London, far more so than out west, and this major bridge would have greatly increased accessibility. Unfortunately it would also have brought more traffic (and nasty concrete feeder roads) to the area immediately around it, so the bridge was never popular with local residents. Now they can live happily in their residential cul-de-sac, and everyone else can drive upriver to the nearest tunnel (3 miles) or downriver to the nearest bridge (10 miles). Or there's always the Woolwich Ferry, still a 19th century solution for a 21st century problem. Boris is apparently looking into constructing another tunnel near Silvertown, but that needs to be planned from scratch and so is unlikely to be built in the next 20 years. In the meantime, the output of a lengthy public inquiry goes in the bin.

DLR Dagenham Dock extension
Who'd live on Barking Reach? Acres of new boxy dwellings are erupting all over the Thames estuary around Creekmouth, and yet at the moment there's only a weedy bus service to link residents to the main transport network. The DLR extension to Dagenham Dock was meant as a long-term solution to this problem - a bold attempt to give Thames Gateway property some value. In a recent consultation 95% of local residents were in favour of the new branch line, planned to open in 2017. Stuff them. If you want to live here now, get a car.

Oxford Street tram scheme
Let's be honest, shopping in Oxford Street could be nicer. We'll see that on December 6th when traffic is banned for a 5 hour festive retail blowout and pedestrians rule the tarmac. Boris is clearly keen on ousting the red tide of buses from the street more permanently, but that won't now mean installing a mile-long tramway to ferry weary shoppers from bargain to bargain. My bet's on him decapitating a few bus services so that they no longer run along the entire street, they terminate earlier at Marble Arch or Centre Point. It may not be convenient for all travellers, but it'd be damned cheap.

Croydon Tramlink extension
This is the biggest surprise on the to-kill list. It's relatively inexpensive, it follows an existing rail corridor, it's already quite well planned, and it's in part of Outer London that's natural Boris-supporting territory. It was also due to interchange with the new East London Line spur to Crystal Palace, which is still on the to-survive list. Not enough to save the tramlink link, alas.

East London Transit and Greenwich Waterfront Transit
These sound much more exciting than they really are. Priority segregated bus lanes with a frequent service, one over Barking way and the other between Thamesmead and Greenwich. Now only some preliminary tidying up is scheduled before the funding runs out, and oh look, that's Barking and Thamesmead buggered again. Do vote more carefully next time, folks.

HS2012High Street 2012
Hang on, that's my local project on the scrapheap! You'll remember that I spent most of August walking up and down the A11 telling you of great transformative plans to improve the public realm along this historic and strategically important corridor. All cancelled, apparently, along with plans to improve Parliament Square and the Victoria Embankment. We're told that these schemes "did not have a strong rationale" (which is political speak for "making places look nice is not cost effective"). And they also "had the added disbenefit of restricting traffic flow and potentially increasing congestion" (which is political speak for "it's more important to be able to drive through somewhere than to live in it"). So it's what-a-shame Whitechapel and bad luck Bow. When the London 2012 marathon comes plodding this way, global TV cameras will see an unchanged and uninspiring hotchpotch of metropolitan backwater architecture. As for the millions that English Heritage were due to plough into my neighbourhood as part of HS2012, they're presumably now lost too and we'll see nothing. Thank you Boris, thank you for nothing.

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