BML2 London Phase “conceivable” says Department for Transport
Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 09:22
“It is conceivable that a visionary scheme such as the Canary Wharf one might just have such a case.”
Everyone backing BML2 will be encouraged that there appears to be a flicker of interest from the Government whereby the scheme’s London Phase “might just” get off the starting blocks.
With world attention currently focused on the 2012 London Olympics at Stratford, the Department for Transport uses a suitably sporting analogy: “For BML2 to become a reality there are three hurdles to clear.”
It says: “The first is that the scheme must have a good economic case; in other words the benefits must exceed the costs.” Well, that’s perfectly reasonable and is precisely why BML2 was conceived to secure the widest possible benefit and highest financial return from the minimum investment. We know that if its opportunities are fully exploited then its value to the region will be immense.
Nevertheless, the DfT adds a note of caution by questioning potential demand from East Sussex to Canary Wharf over London Victoria. But this is a misunderstanding of the BML2 Project because it would not just benefit East Sussex, but additionally Kent, West Sussex, Surrey, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, etc to a new London Crossrail connection. Many millions would enjoy a far greater choice of destination, whilst the gains go way beyond commuter traffic.
Perhaps most outstanding of all, the London Phase introduces superior, fast and direct rail links between two of London’s hub airports – Gatwick and Stansted. Simultaneously, BML2 would create ‘Thameslink 2’ – an enormously valuable additional rail crossing of the eastern Thames, supplementing the Blackfriars core which will be operating at maximum capacity. Not only could severe congestion within central London be significantly reduced, but regeneration of vast swathes of eastern London, both south and north of the Thames will help expedite the Mayor of London’s ‘Olympic Legacy’.
The second hurdle facing BML2 is that it “would have to take its place in the queue for major project funding.” The DfT explained: “Government is funding several major infrastructure projects at present – Thameslink and Crossrail in progress; High Speed 2 and western access to Heathrow in the pipeline.”
However, rising numbers of the UK’s leading economists are becoming increasingly vociferous, criticising the Government for doing far too little to re-ignite the economy, stimulate business and steer the country back on the path to growth. Nothing helps regions regenerate more than new rail links and, once the Olympics are over, neglected boroughs around this Thames region will thrive with investment in new infrastructure. The construction industry is in the doldrums, whilst civil engineering needs to have new schemes on the horizon. BML2 is supremely placed to fill this absence.
“The third hurdle would be planning permission” says the DfT and believes there could be opposition in South East London for the “ambitious plan to drive a new railway from the Croydon area through to Canary Wharf.” We disagree, because in reality we are primarily reviving a former railway – in precisely the same manner as has been done elsewhere in London to widespread public acclaim and uptake. BML2 reopens a partially derelict railway and makes far greater use of a profoundly important strategic rail corridor between Croydon and Lewisham – there isn’t a surplus of these in South East London!
The DfT explains: “it is precisely because no affordable solution has been found that BML2 is not being taken forward by any of the railway industry bodies.” But others in the rail industry believe the current approach is too timid, badly focused and far too lackadaisical; tinkering about with an extra platform here and there (perhaps in ten years’ time) when what is required is a far more radical analysis and a visionary programme to match. Indeed, one London Borough transport planner we met recently couldn’t have put it better when he told us they’d welcome new cross-connections because “London is effectively two cities – split in two by the River Thames”.
A relatively short north-south link at Canary Wharf and joining Stratford with Lewisham would deliver huge advantages for the UK’s airline industry and the nation. And that’s why BML2 – described by an industry admirer as “a stroke of genius” – deserves to be a winner.