Woolwich Crossrail – good news, but questions remain
It’s long overdue, but definitive news that Woolwich’s Crossrail station will get built after all is worth celebrating. But neither the Government/TfL announcement, nor Greenwich Council’s news release, carry much detail on just how much this will cost.
The good news is that there shouldn’t be any direct cost to council tax payers. It’s also good to hear that one funding idea that I’d heard about – allocating all the grants TfL gives out for local improvements to Woolwich Crossrail for a number of years – is also not happening. But there’s still a few details which it would be good to get cleared up.
Here’s what we know, and what we don’t know, and some thoughts suggested to me by someone who knows their way around council finances:
a) The cost of fitting out the station has reduced from £100m to £54m. What happened to the other £46m? Does this mean ideas such as building a pedestrian tunnel to Woolwich Arsenal station have been junked?
b) Of this £54m, £5m is coming from the Mayor’s Regeneration Fund.
c) So how much of the remaining £49m is coming from Berkeley Homes? The council’s press release appears to hint that they aren’t paying much – and there’s been no statement from Berkeley to the stock exchange.
d) Greenwich Council’s contribution – and we don’t know how much this is, either – will come from developers, via a community infrastructure levy. Will Berkeley be paying this levy?
e) Community infrastructure levies have to be paid for when developments begin. Is this why so many projects have got under way in the past few months, to escape the levy?
f) Which new developments are going to start between the implementation of the levy and the end of next year? And which developments will have to pay it? Unless there’s a massive levy on a selected few developments, there’s a risk that Greenwich Council will be collecting this money for decades to come – which could lead to a future cash flow problem.
Now the hard work gets under way on commissioning and building the station – but also on making sure public transport links into and out of Woolwich are worth it. In some ways, North Greenwich, served by slow services taking indirect routes, is a template to avoid, despite being overwhelmingly successful. There’s no point crowing that “the whole borough” will benefit if you can’t even get a bus that runs from Eltham to Woolwich via the most direct route. Still, there’s five years to get it right…
2.55pm update: London Reconnections analyses the Woolwich deal.