Examination of Witnesses (Questions 6960
6960. MR CAMERON: Mr Donovan, you are
Chris Donovan, is that right?
6961. And can you tell the Committee, please,
the position you hold at Bexley Council?
(Mr Donovan) I am the assistant director
of environment and regeneration services with special responsibility
for planning, regeneration, economic development, and also traffic
and transport and a number of other matters.
6962. Can we just turn to page 2 of the exhibits,
please, and can I invite you to explain why it is, in broad terms,
Bexley appear before this Committee today?9
(Mr Donovan) The bringing of Crossrail into
this part of Thames Gateway is seen as absolutely essential to
provide the step change in regeneration that we need, and we clearly
welcome its arrival to Abbey Wood. That is a major step coming
south of the river. However, and you will see this from the evidence,
if it does not link through to Ebbsfleet there is a major opportunity
lost to get the quality and step change. We are not saying we
will not get development: we are not saying we will not see new
jobs and new housing, but the whole Thames Gateway project is
about improved quality, and throughout the Thames Gateway area
one of the keys to that has been improving accessibility and improving
access particularly to public transport. This part of London,
let alone this part of Thames Gateway, is very poorly served,
relatively speaking, for a choice of public transport. We have
a number of heavy rail lines but they all do one thing; they move
people into London. Crossrail offers opportunity to underpin the
more complex regeneration objectives. That is why we see it as
vital to link through from Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks right
the way through, across the river, down to Ebbsfleet, which is
the other major economic generator in the area.
6963. Can I ask you to go on in the exhibits
to page 13, please?10
What I would like you to do, please, is explain the difference
between what the Promoter originally proposed and what she is
(Mr Donovan) The original proposal would very
much have brought the scheme right the way through to Ebbsfleet.
There would have been a new provision at Abbey Wood, as has been
described, but some of the trains would then go on directly through
to Ebbsfleet. Abbey Wood itself is a very small station; it has
a very small shopping centre and it is a very tightly constrained
area, in any event, and that it is going to be, potentially, the
terminus for the whole of the Crossrail route in the east. The
original proposal had it linking to Ebbsfleet, which is one of
the four major drivers of change in Thames Gateway and is certainly,
in terms of the link through to its location, if you like, absolutely
vital. So, in a sense, it is that extension eastwards from Abbey
Wood to Ebbsfleet for at least part of the Crossrail use that
we saw as vital.
6964. CHAIRMAN: Is Abbey Wood station
going to be redeveloped under this Bill anyway?
(Mr Donovan) Yes, my Lord.
6965. MR CAMERON: Page 14, figure 6.3
from the Environmental Statement.11
If we also have page 15 to hand, can we see from that the original
Crossrail plans extending to Ebbsfleet, which would have meant
nine stations in Bexley and Kent?
(Mr Donovan) Yes.
6966. Turn on to page 16.12
What is the position in the current hybrid Bill proposals?
(Mr Donovan) All those stations would be excluded
from that direct Crossrail-type service. Quite clearly, as has
been said, there would be some benefits and there certainly would
be benefits from the stations along that line being able to access
Crossrail at Abbey Woodthere is no question of thatbut
it does alter the nature of the service. It would be certainly
true, travelling inwards, that you would be able to get to Abbey
Wood and you would have a reasonable chance of catching a train
very quickly. Coming outwards, you would have the same problem
we have in south-east London at the moment with the Docklands
Light Railway when it comes south of the river, that you can then
often have a long wait to actually get a train outwards. That
is relevant for two things: one, it is relevant because it is
part of the commuter journey, if you like, in any event, but,
secondly, it means that the regeneration we are trying to generate
in south-east London will be seen to be less attractive to people
who may want to access it throughout other parts of the Thames
Gateway, and the whole principle of the Thames Gateway is that
you need to try and attract people from a fairly large area within
it; you need to increase choice. So people wanting to travel down
towards Ebbsfleet, say, from the Royal Docks, will find that at
Abbey Wood they then have to get off a train and may have a reasonable
amount of time to wait for a train to take them further on. So
it is not quite true to say that just stopping at Abbey Wood will
improve access; it will be improving but it will not improve it
as much as we would like to see, and we really think that this
would be a major impact, as I said earlier, on regeneration in
6967. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: From
Abbey Wood currently to Ebbsfleet, how many trains an hour are
there on those lines that you have indicated? I am looking at
I may be misinterpreting it, but currently how many trains an
hour run from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet on those two lines?
(Mr Donovan) It would vary quite a bit, obviously,
between the rush hour and out-of-hours. Out-of-hours there are
four semi-fast trains an hour and two stopping trains. Most of
the time places like Slade Green and Erith will have two, sometimes
three. They have introduced new loop trains that go round towards
Sidcup. No trains stop at Ebbsfleet themselves. Some you will
find go to Dartford and then you have to change and catch a train
to go further east; some will stop at Dartford and allow you to
go further east. In other words, it is a very fragmented service.
If you were getting on a train, for example, at Greenhithe you
may be able to come through to Abbey Wood directly, you may have
to change at Dartford and, almost inevitably, you would have to
change at Dartford if you wanted to go from, say, Greenhithe to
Erith because Erith only has a limited number of trains stopping.
I think I am right in saying that almost all of those would stop
at Dartford. So Dartford to Londonthey would not go further.
I am sorry that was a bit complicated but it is quite a complicated
6968. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: If these
changes as you wish them to happen occurred, would this take sufficient
pressure off to be able to eliminate something like the Dartford
loop line and, therefore, release pressure elsewhere?
I think probably the answer to that (I am not a rail expert) is
no, but I think we would be looking to improve the choices and
the options; we would be looking to increase the amount of traffic.
What I would say, having lived in this area for many years, is
that the number of trains on those routes now, actually, is less,
out of rush-hour, than there used to be years ago.
6969. There are still three an hour, I think.
I am intrigued by this one because it is an area I am quite familiar
with, and what is concerning me is that the comment was made by
Mr Cameron that it is a poorly-served area in that it gets you
into the main central London area but it is not good for everything
else. I do not think that is entirely quite fair (if you will
forgive me, Mr Cameron) reflecting on what else is available on
the side and parallel lines. I think it would have been helpful
if we had been informed of what the parallel lines are that come
in down the same routing, because I do not think this has given
us the full picture.
(Mr Donovan) The ones through the Sidcup
loop line and the Bexleyheath line?
(Mr Donovan) Would you like me to explain
6971. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: I think
the Committee would probably find it helpful, because you are
making a case which is not a whole case unless you show us what
is there in its totality.
6972. MR CAMERON: I do not know, Mr Donovan,
whether you would be helped by the exhibits that were put in by
the Promoter, which shows the layout of the rail system. Do you
have those? Figure 1, I think.14
(Mr Donovan) Yes.
6973. It does not show the complete picture
but it shows some of the other lines.
(Mr Donovan) Yes, it shows that if you
take London Bridge to Dartford as the area we are concerned with,
there are currently three lines that cover that area, all east-west.
The North Kent line, which is the one that we have been talking
to, is predominantly through, certainly, from Bexley and Greenwich
into London, the major regeneration areas, and there are then
two loop lines off that, coming out of London Bridgeone
usually called the Bexleyheath line that comes through Blackheath,
Eltham, Bexleyheath and Barnehurst down to Dartford, and the other
one that loops through Sidcup and Bexley, down into Dartford.
6974. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Mr Donovan,
I am going to put it to you that it is a feature of those two
lines that they are so close together that you almost have the
option of walking to either of them quite conveniently without
great problem. The distance between, say, Blackheath, Lee and
Mottingham is so close that you have a choice of which line to
come on. You have a surfeit of lines in this area.
If you are getting closer to London, in a sense you make the point,
because one of the things that is true of much of central London
is the interchange of underground stations where some of those
are very close. There are one or two points on there where the
physical geography of the two is very close. I actually arrived
at Sidcup station, which is where I work, to come here this morning,
to find that there was a train stuck, and I took the decision
that the only thing I could do was swap lines. It would have taken
me a good hour to have walked to Bexleyheath to have actually
picked the train up from there.
6975. Starting from where?
(Mr Donovan) Starting from Sidcup.
6976. Why did you not go to Mottingham?
(Mr Donovan) Because that is on the same
line. You have got to change the line to somewhere else. North-south,
you are talking about six or seven miles between the north line
up at Abbey Wood and Sidcup in the south of the borough. I do
agree there are one or two places where as you get closer to London
then the configuration does shorten, but out here that is not
6977. Those charts do not appear to me to be
complete; they eliminate things like New Eltham, Crayford
(Mr Donovan) The Promoter's chart there,
I think, is indicative of the routing; it does not include every
station. We have nine heavy railincluding Abbey Wood, which
is on the boundary of Greenwichstations within Bexley,
so if you are looking for heavy rail access to central London
then we have those three options and those three choices.
6978. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Mr Donovan,
you will have now understood the misfortune you have in having
somebody here with the name "Blackheath" in his title"
6979. CHAIRMAN: They are not really loop
lines at all; they are direct access to a London terminus, are
Yes. In fact, they do go off from London Bridge to Cannon Street
or to Charing Cross, and a few trains do also go into Victoria.
8 9 Committee Ref: A35, Purpose of Evidence (BEXYLB-44_05A-002) Back
10 Committee Ref: A35, Description of Eastern Corridor Options
11 Committee Ref: A35, CLRL Corridor D (BEXYLB-44_05A-014) Back
12 Committee Ref: A35, Crossrail Line 1-Bill Scheme (BEXYLB-44_05A-016) Back
13 Committee Ref: A35, CLRL Corridor D (BEXYLB-44_05A-014) Back
14 Crossrail Ref: P49, North Kent Lines-Current Service Pattern