Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 6980 - 6999)

  6980. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: While we are on this theme, what would prevent them increasing the frequency of trains from, say, Dartford to Ebbsfleet? You are talking about new jobs, regeneration and increasing demand, and obviously we want to support that as far as we can, but people are obviously going to look at the cost of a scheme which you are proposing, which would be half-a-billion pounds, which is not exactly small change, and whether or not you could achieve it more cheaply by increasing the frequency of trains between Dartford and Ebbsfleet.

   (Mr Donovan) As I said, I am not a rail expert but I do know that Dartford station is a block, so if you were moving more trains that were terminating at Dartford from the east, then there would be an issue about how you would achieve the turn-round there and the ability to turn them round. There certainly are trains that do that sometimes; where there are faults in the system they will stop trains at Dartford that are coming up from further east and then change at Dartford rather than running them all into London. So that certainly can happen. In terms of increased frequency, I cannot really comment on that; it certainly would be a possibility. It would increase the changing between trains all the time but it would not give you the Crossrail-type service where you are getting on one train and going through.

  6981. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: What would prevent you running them right through to Abbey Wood then?

   (Mr Donovan) From?

  6982. Ebbsfleet.

   (Mr Donovan) The issue there would be if you were stopping them at Abbey Wood do you have the capacity to turn them? I think the Promoter said this morning that they are doubling the capacity at Abbey Wood by doubling it from two to four lines in order to enable the Crossrail trains to stop and go back. If you are increasing the trains going in the other direction and terminating them at Abbey Wood it would make Abbey Wood a bigger and more complicated station, and probably, I would assume, require even more built works at Abbey Wood.

  6983. MS LIEVEN: Mr Donovan, can we turn on in your exhibits to page 21 and following.[14]15 There you produce some figures which identify current conditions in Bexley, and north Bexley in particular. Can you, in brief summary, describe the conditions in north Bexley as revealed in these figures?

  (Mr Donovan) Yes. Conscious of the fact that Bexley has a long-held view of a leafy suburb, we have worked very hard with successive governments over the last 20 years to show that, actually, that is not the whole story of Bexley—it is true of part of it. These diagrams in various ways indicate the concentration of multiple deprivation indices within Bexley and Dartford, and they show quite clearly that the most deprived parts of Bexley, which are within the 25 per cent most deprived in England, do sit along the Thames, along the suggested route of Crossrail. That is 22.[15]16 Twenty-three shows a similar assessment of income deprivation, and I think it is possibly just worth emphasising one point here: that the characteristic of this area is very much that incomes are quite low.[16]17 It would be well-known in London that Barking and Dagenham, for example, has the lowest average house price. Vying for that position is Bexley, and it sometimes is actually even lower than Barking and Dagenham. Why that matters is it is a reflection of income and expenditure and spending power, and to some degree it is a reflection of the economic circumstances we are dealing with here. There are only 50 or so properties in Bexley that are in the top rank of council tax, and it kind of goes to tell the story that there are a lot of people who are more deprived in Bexley than one may imagine and why we are working hard, through our various regeneration processes, to help with that situation, and why infrastructure like Crossrail would be so important.

  6984. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Mr Donovan, is not one of the reasons for the explanation you have just given of the social conditions of Barking, Bexley and round there, is that it was a dormitory area for Ford Motor Company that has very largely gone away, and therefore it is not going to come back at that level.

   (Mr Donovan) That certainly would be a factor in Barking and Dagenham. The only direct linkage from Bexley into the Ford Motor Company was a ferry that used to run about 100 or 200 cars a day from the north part of Bexley to there. Bexley has traditionally not had very large manufacturing employers; it has had a large number of manufacturing employers but not large employers. So the economic downturn that affected the whole of Barking and Dagenham and that northern area, as a result of Ford gradually declining and then pulling out—

  6985. If you go further down your line, Mr Donovan, and go out beyond Ebbsfleet, to which you are trying to bring benefit here, you have got another area where a very large amount of industrial activity has gone away, with the removal of the naval dockyard at Chatham as a going concern. It is now a tourist site and nothing else; all the industrial work associated with naval dockyards has gone. That is not going to come back either. So you have a significantly reduced demand pressure to maintain communications for an industrial society.

   (Mr Donovan) Two responses to that: firstly, in Bexley we have actually retained, with the support of the Mayor, for example, a fair amount of employment land in north Bexley, and that employment land turns over but there is a fair amount of demand for it, particularly for logistic uses, and there is the requirement in London to get jobs away from the centre—to spread them out more. That is part of the underpinning of government regeneration policy, and has been for a long time—the relationship between jobs and where people live. So there is a pressure to try and make sure that Thames Gateway is not just seen as a commuter belt but, actually, does link up people and jobs. That is why Crossrail, as a whole, wherever it stops, is seen as very important, because it helps that movement along the line and it helps give people job opportunities that are not solely tied to commuting long distances in and out of London. In terms of manufacturing, yes, a lot of manufacturing has gone but we have still retained some in Bexley in fairly significant employment areas, and as I have said we still are facing quite a lot of pressure for jobs and we are working hard—and I am not saying we are entirely successful the whole time—to change that image, to attract a different range of jobs.

  6986. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: I would like to say one word to the Chairman and my colleagues. This is not for you to answer, unless you particularly want to. Having had a long experience of this area, my experience is that it has significantly seen the departure of large manufacturing interests which have not been replaced, and the whole socio-economic context of this area has changed beyond recognition. There is no trend at this time which is likely to bring sufficient compensation in terms of quantities of employment back into it to sustain the argument that is being put forward.

  6987. CHAIRMAN: Mr Donovan?

   (Mr Donovan) No, I would not subscribe entirely to that. I would agree that this part of Thames Gateway has gone through a massive change structurally, but ironically, in Bexley particularly, we have actually had the reverse trend recently. We have got a sewage/sludge incinerator, which does not employ a lot but is likely to increase its employment base; work is commencing on a municipal waste incinerator, which is one of the biggest in Europe (I am not saying these are things we have supported but these are actually there); there is a freight depot that has just got planning permission in the Green Belt between Dartford and Bexley—all of which are actually adding quite substantial jobs to the area. At the same time, we are trying to change the nature of those jobs; we are trying to increase the range of jobs available, and one of the ways you do that is to improve accessibility, and one of the ways you do that, obviously, is by things like Crossrail. If you improve accessibility you will attract different people to a higher quality of jobs, and it is that kind of balance that is underpinning the whole of the Thames Gateway project. If we accept the logic that the Thames Gateway of the future is not going to have significant jobs within it, except at one or two key locations, then in practice the whole Thames Gateway role is going to be very, very different; it is going to continue to be significantly a dormitory to other areas, and the aim has been to try and not get that; it is actually to get more sustainable communities where people live and work closer together. Whilst accepting some of the argument around that structural change, it is something that we are, to some degree, countering and have done for some years.

  6988. Just in addition to what Lord James said, of course you would not get Crossrail until after 2017 anyway—and probably a good deal after that because of the extra work that would have to be done.

   (Mr Donovan) That is why some of the slides we have put in all the time are showing that we are attracting things; we are bringing new things in. If you go to the business sector, which is fairly substantial in Bexley, for many years the two things they have said are, one, the image of the area (and we are spending a lot of time trying to improve that) and, secondly, public transport accessibility. They have talked about accessibility in the round but, to some degree, with the completion of the road improvements that are there, we have now got an improved road infrastructure between the Dartford Crossing and the Blackwall Tunnel, but the public transport options—and it is the options that are the issue for a lot of people.

  6989. I understand that, but what are you doing in the meantime? If you were successful in getting your amendment into the Bill, still you would not get any Crossrail until 2020.

   (Mr Donovan) Bexley Council, as a whole, has recently, as a priority for the council, just pulled together its whole public transport offer as the main issue for the current Bexley administration. It has launched a scheme called "Jump on Board" recently, and what that scheme is all about is lobbying hard for significant public transport changes. Obviously, Crossrail will take a long time to come—that is one. We would be looking to try and get the Docklands Light Railway to be extended into the north part of the borough. Thirdly, we are working with Transport for London (and I am not saying they are supporting this but they are aware of it and are looking at it) for getting extensions to the transit systems that already exist in parts of the Thames Gateway—for example, Fast Track in north Dartford. There are proposals, fully worked through, for the Greenwich waterfront transit, so, again, we have a transit coming into Bexley stopping at Abbey Wood from Greenwich; we have a transit that deals with the whole of the area in north Dartford there, between Gravesend, through Ebbsfleet into Dartford up to the edge of London. So we are also working on a number of other things. We are also asking for the Oyster card system to be extended into south London and to have longer trains because we are suffering, to some extent, from shorter trains. While Crossrail is clearly the most significant in the longer term, we are not ignoring the short and the medium as well, but the public transport choices we have in Bexley are so limited and the accessibility index is so limited that we felt it important that we actually try and come on a number of these different fronts in an integrated way. So, yes, Crossrail would take a long time to come, but it is going to take a long time to come in any event.

  6990. How about transits? Are you going to make any progress with them? They seem to be very popular now.

   (Mr Donovan) Yes, they are. Can I put it this way: if we do not get a transit linking through to north Bexley then we would be the only part of Thames Gateway, from Gravesend through into the Blackwall Tunnel and then, on the north side of the river, in Havering and Barking to Canary Wharf, that did not have a transit, because there are plans for transits, at the moment, in all those areas either to build on what is there or to extend. The only part of that whole network that is not filled in is north Bexley. Those would be complementary to any Crossrail-type solution, because they would actually feed into all the stations and they would feed into the local employment areas and they would feed through into the housing areas as well.

  6991. Supposing you were successful. What would be the timescale?

   (Mr Donovan) It is difficult to be precise about that.

  6992. Of course.

   (Mr Donovan) If we were successful tomorrow it would be about, say, a five-year development period. It would be highly unlikely to be successful tomorrow, but I should think it would be five or six years' time. It would be disappointing if we did not have some movement on that front.

  6993. You mentioned accessibility. Can we move on to page 26 and can I also note Lord James' point about jobs and we will come back to that when we deal with the Crossrail Business Case.[17]18 What does that figure on page 26 show the Committee?

  (Mr Donovan) The darker the colour, the more accessible a location is. It will not surprise anybody that the closer you are to Central London the more accessible but, even allowing for that, the south-east sector, Bexley and Bromley, stands out as significantly lower in comparison with the rest of London. Interestingly, if you do comparisons nationally, of course, London tends to come out quite well. Relative to other parts of the country, Bexley is quite accessible but, in a sense, that is not where we are competing with, we are competing within the London and North Kent economies and in those terms Bexley, relatively speaking, is low in accessibility and the reason for that primarily is that it does not have the choice of transport mode. Yes, it has buses and the heavy rail that we were describing earlier but it does not have the ability to choose and move around in the ways that parts of inner, central and most of outer west London have.

  6994. If we turn over the page we can see the consequences of that: the number of people travelling by car, North Bexley, 51.3 per cent.[18]19 Over the page to page 28 there is an example of the Belvedere Employment Area, people using car to get that to that area.[19]20

  (Mr Donovan) Yes, and that again is a reflection of the lack of choice that is available. Certainly the fact that the North Bexley wards have 51 per cent still travelling by car at a time when we are trying to encourage people not to go to work by car is very significantly higher even than the rest of outer London.

  6995. You have then got a number of pages where you deal with the Planning and Regeneration Policy Framework. I do not ask you to go through every detail, but in answer to questions put to you by Lord James and the Chairman, amongst others, what are Bexley doing about this deindustrialisation?

   (Mr Donovan) What we are increasingly doing is looking to focus around growth sectors. We have got one pressure and one thing we are encouraging. There is a lot of pressure for logistics uses. Those are not like they used to be in the sense they still have job implications, they are not just warehouses without jobs but, even so, the job densities in them are relatively low and they only provide a limited range of skills. We are also working to improve the knowledge economy-type jobs. We have a Thames Innovation Centre which opened last year and is about working to bring other sites together where we are looking to get the innovation sector on board. In broad terms we are keeping our employment land there, we are looking to increase the amount of employment land going to different types of uses and we are also having an active programme supported by the London Development Agency for skills and training for our local workforce because there is no point being successful in bringing jobs into the area if the local people have not got the skills available to access those jobs. Bexley people have relatively low skills in comparison with much of London, so we are working very hard to try and ensure that Bexley residents' skills are increased. By doing that they will be more able to take on the higher level jobs we are looking to attract as well as the lower level jobs which to some degree we are still able to attract.

  6996. Turning to the Planning and Regeneration Policy Framework, you have produced some extracts from the previous London Plan which has now been superseded.[20]21 If we go to page 34 we will see the basis upon which that planning took place was a Crossrail line running to Ebbsfleet.[21]22

  (Mr Donovan) That is correct.

  6997. If we go over the page to page 36, what did that plan anticipate would occur from the Belvedere/Erith Opportunity Area?[22]23

  (Mr Donovan) You would get 5,000 new jobs and in that area about 1,400 new homes up to 2016. Obviously the homes figure is slightly lower there because these are not the parts of Bexley where you would expect to have the higher homes numbers. Yes, it is 1,400 new homes and 5,000 new jobs.

  6998. If we look at the text below in the box, the last sentence on the page, what role did the London Plan envisage that Crossrail would play?

   (Mr Donovan) It would help improve accessibility, as we have been discussing, and it was felt that was an essential element to helping deliver not only those jobs but the higher quality of jobs we are looking to achieve.

  6999. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Can I put one last question to Mr Donovan. Conspicuous by its absence has been any reference to Bluewater. What impact does that have on all forms of communication, either by rail or road, and does that have any consequence for you? You might want to indicate where Bluewater is on one of the maps. It has not been shown.

14   15 Committee Ref: A35, North Bexley and Dartford: Crossrail Original Route (BEXYLB-44_05A-021) Back

15   16 Committee Ref: A35, Deprivation within Bexley and Dartford 1: Overall Deprivation by Super Output Area (BEXYLB-44_05A-022) Back

16   17 Committee Ref: A35, Deprivation within Bexley and Dartford 2: Income deprivation by Super Output Area (BEXYLB-44_05A-023) Back

17   18 Committee Ref: A35, Existing accessibility 1: Average London accessibility index 2001(BEXYLB-44_05A-026) Back

18   19 Committee Ref: A35, Existing accessibility 2: Bexley and Dartford travel to work by car/van (BEXYLB-44_05A-027) Back

19   20 Committee Ref: A35, Existing accessibility 3: Mode of transport used by staff in Belvedere Employment Area (BEXYLB-44_05A-028) Back

20   21 Committee Ref: A35, Planning & Regeneration Policy Framework 1: Thames Gateway (BEXYLB-44_05A-029) Back

21   22 Committee Ref: A35, Planning & Regeneration Policy Framework 6: Previous London Plan (BEXYLB-44_05A-034) Back

22   23 Committee Ref: A35, Planning & Regeneration Policy Framework 8: Previous London Plan (BEXYLB-44_05A-036) Back

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