Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 6960 - 6979)

  6960. MR CAMERON: Mr Donovan, you are Chris Donovan, is that right?

   (Mr Donovan) Correct.

  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?[8]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?[9]10 What I would like you to do, please, is explain the difference between what the Promoter originally proposed and what she is now proposing.

  (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.[10]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.[11]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 Wood—there is no question of that—but 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 this area.

  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 figure 14.[12]13 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 London—they would not go further. I am sorry that was a bit complicated but it is quite a complicated mixture.

  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?

   (Mr Donovan) 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?

  6970. Yes.

   (Mr Donovan) Would you like me to explain that route?

  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.[13]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 Bridge—one 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.

   (Mr Donovan) 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 the case.

  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 rail—including Abbey Wood, which is on the boundary of Greenwich—stations 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 they not?

   (Mr Donovan) 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

9   10 Committee Ref: A35, Description of Eastern Corridor Options (BEXYLB-44_05A-013) Back

10   11 Committee Ref: A35, CLRL Corridor D (BEXYLB-44_05A-014) Back

11   12 Committee Ref: A35, Crossrail Line 1-Bill Scheme (BEXYLB-44_05A-016) Back

12   13 Committee Ref: A35, CLRL Corridor D (BEXYLB-44_05A-014) Back

13   14 Crossrail Ref: P49, North Kent Lines-Current Service Pattern (BEXYLB-44_04-001) Back

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