Tagged: catford

Lewisham bags a Bakerloo boost – but beware a backlash

It’s a relief to be able to write about some unalloyed good news – Transport for London is consulting on extending the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham, Catford and Hayes.

Bakerloo Line proposals/ TfLSure, the extension might be at least a decade and a half away, and plans for a Tube to Lewisham have been kicking around since the 1940s, but it’s welcome to see proposals being dusted down – hopefully it’s for real this time.

Two routes from the Elephant to Lewisham are on offer – one via the Old Kent Road, with heaps of sites awaiting redevelopment (and designated a mayoral “opportunity area“); and another via Camberwell and Peckham Rye, where existing services are heaving.

Whichever route is chosen, the line will then pass through New Cross Gate and down to Lewisham before taking over the existing National Rail service from Ladywell to Hayes. That’s an indication of just how old this scheme is – many of the big Tube expansions of the 1930s and 1940s came about by taking over mainline services. But it would free up some space at the awkward rail junction at Lewisham, as well as creating more room for services on the main line to Kent.

There’s also an option for the line to run to Beckenham Junction and possibly through new tunnels to Bromley.

Lewisham Council has been quietly pushing the case for a Bakerloo Line extension for some time – a 2010 report for the council even mulled over an extension through Blackheath to Bexleyheath and Dartford. Think of the benefits that could bring to Kidbrooke Village…

But what’s on the table now could transform much of the borough of Lewisham. That said, here are two blots on the beautiful Bakerloo landscape that supporters will need to watch out for.

Firstly, Labour MPs. Seriously. Despite the fact that the extension’s being heavily promoted by Lewisham Labour Party, up popped Streatham MP Chuka Umanna and Dulwich MP Tessa Jowell a couple of weeks ago, briefing the Evening Standard that “a growing population of younger people would be served if the line goes further west instead — to Camberwell, Herne Hill and Streatham”. In other words, “screw you, Lewisham”. Rather unfortunate, but Umanna has form – he came out with the same cobblers five years ago. You’d think London mayoral wannabe Tessa Jowell would know better, mind.

Secondly, Bromley Council. This website understands the Tory authority’s been reluctant to take part in talks to push the extension. It’s possible Bromley’s worried about losing the National Rail link from Hayes – many weekday trains run fast from Ladywell to London Bridge, providing a relatively speedy link into town. Bromley’s support would be vital for the line progressing beyond Lewisham – will the chance of a further extension sway them?

So there’s plenty to play for. I suspect the Old Kent Road option will come out on top – which will be harsh on Camberwell, first promised a Bakerloo extension in 1931. But it’s all about the “opportunity areas”, which is why a link to Bromley is mooted rather than, say, extending the line a couple of miles slightly further to isolated New Addington.

Consultation papers also indicate that an extension of London Overground services from New Cross is also being considered, although papers presented to Lewisham on Monday indicate that this could be a link to Bromley rather than to Kidbrooke. If Greenwich councillors want to see Kidbrooke and Eltham better connected, they should speak up now. And if you want to see south-east London better connected, then you should speak up now too.

Quiz Boris Johnson on Silvertown Tunnel (or Lewisham Hospital)

A quick heads up – if you want to quiz Boris Johnson on why he wants to pollute half of Greenwich and beyond with his new Silvertown Tunnel, or why he’s refusing to support the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency service, then he’s doing a public Q&A at the Broadway Theatre in Catford (or “Catford, Lewisham” as City Hall calls it) a month today, on Thursday 7 March. Apply for a seat via the City Hall website.

‘Have you tried your local bike shop?’

A few weeks ago I had a minor, but irritating problem with my bike – a puncture. I’m not much cop yet at the whole palaver of getting wheels and tyres off, so I looked at ways to save myself a bit of bother. My eureka! moment came when I remembered there’s a Halfords only about half a mile away from me, in Charlton’s Stone Lake Retail Park.

So I took the bike down, and the young guy said it’d be fine… until he realised they didn’t have my size of tube in stock.

“Have you tried your local bike shop?” he asked.

You are my local bike shop, I replied.

And off I trudged. Eventually, I killed several birds with one stone by taking it into The Bike Shop on Lee High Road, Lewisham for a full service.

My bike came back as as good as new with a few parts replaced, and the advice that I should consider getting my tyre changed in a month or two as it was wearing out. Unfortunately, that should have been “in a day or two” – it barely lasted 36 hours. But The Bike Shop happily put things right for me without complaint, and I’ve been riding happily ever since.

There’s a couple of nearer places – the venerable Harry Perry Cycles in Woolwich, and Cycle Warehouse in Greenwich, both of which have given me friendly service in the past, and Cycles UK in Deptford is probably a similar distance away.

But the geography of this bit of London means it’s simpler and more pleasant to ride to/from Lee High Road – a zip through Blackheath Village or a meander through the Cator Estate (although I blame a pothole there for my service being a bit costlier than I planned for) instead of the dual carriageways or steep hills of my immediate neighbourhood.

The Bike Shop’s staff have been pretty good to me in the past, and I get a London Cycling Campaign member discount. So I’ve adopted them to get bits and bobs, although hauling a stricken bike from Charlton for fixing is awkward, as I’ve discovered.

Even though I’ve been cycling for year now, bike shops still have an amazing capacity to both baffle and fascinate me in equal measure – I wish I’d visited Deptford’s famous Whitcomb Cycles before it moved, but the nearby Union Cycle Works co-operative will still build you one if you want.

But, fellow cycling reader, is there any other local bike shop I should be aware of? I also know of Compton in Catford and the Sidcup Cycle Centre, and I’ve heard Brockley Bikes are very highly regarded. Any tips, or any experiences of the shops I’ve mentioned you can share,

Could Greenwich get a cycle marathon?

Remember when the Tour de France came to town nearly four years ago? According to the Evening Standard, a cycle race through London could become a regular event, if Boris Johnson has his way…

Boris Johnson is planning to emulate the success of the London Marathon by staging the world’s largest timed bike race in the capital.

Up to 30,000 amateur riders would take to the streets in what the Mayor has billed as the “London Marathon on Wheels”, scheduled for 2013

The plan’s based on the Cape Argus/ Pick and Pay tour in South Africa, a 109km race around Cape Town which attracts 31,000 riders each year. It’d follow in the tracks of next year’s Olympic road race, which starts at the Mall and runs out to Box Hill in Surrey and back again.

Of the four routes under consideration, according to the Standard, one would start at Greenwich and head out into Kent, as the Tour de France did, before heading back into London. Another could use the North and South Circular Roads, potentially meaning a route through Woolwich, Eltham and Catford. Other routes would follow the Olympic course, as well as one from the Olympic Park out to Essex.

It’s an exciting possibility, but also very typically Boris – going for the big publicity around cycling, but neglecting run-of-the-mill cycling infrastructure. Hopefully if this goes ahead, and a SE London route gets picked, the Standard won’t rubbish it like it did with the marathon a couple of years ago.

Greenwich is, of course, already a proud host of the London Marathon (a few moaners aside) – which is just a week and a bit away – although has a less easy relationship with the gimmicky Run To The Beat half-marathon, imposed on the area a few years ago with little consultation. (And did you know Race For Life is coming to the peninsula next month, as well as to Blackheath?) Can we make room for another big, fun, sporting event?

Bring it on, I say. But where would be a good route? It’d be no good for crowds, but a huge peleton of cyclists taking over the Blackwall Tunnel approach road would be worth seeing…

Nationwide’s SE London closures debated in Parliament

Three Greenwich and Lewisham MPs joined forces this afternoon to condemn the Nationwide Building Society’s decision to close seven branches in south-east London from May.

(You can now watch the debate on the BBC’s Democracy Live website.)

Nick Raynsford secured a short debate on the organisation’s plans to close offices in Blackheath, Catford, Greenwich, Lewisham, Peckham, Walworth and Woolwich, a decision he branded “shocking”.

“A quick look at the map will reveal the scale and enormity of what Nationwide is doing,”
the Greenwich and Woolwich MP said.

“All 7 branches inside the South Circular Road will close, while all the branches outside will remain open. Leafy outer south-east London is favoured while inner south-east London is punished.”

Comparing the population of the areas affected with that of large cities outside London, he added: “Suggesting that an organisation the size of Nationwide would pull out of Manchester and Sheffield would be regarded as bizarre.”

He also spoke of the history of the Greenwich branch, which can trace its roots back to London’s first recorded building society in 1809.

Mr Raynsford said he had raised the issue with Nationwide executive Matthew Wyles, but found his response “shocking”, and that the mutual was unwilling to reconsider its decision.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander admitted she had orginally given Nationwide “the benefit of the doubt”, believing the closures were part of a far larger programme. “My initial generosity of spitit turned into complete disbelief,” she continued.

“It seems to come down to transaction patterns. They aren’t as profitable in south-east London as they are elsewhere. Nationwide sees customers with a SE postcode as a drag on their business.”

Ms Alexander said she had put the possibility that the Lewisham branch could remain open to Matthew Wyles, but had been told it would “topple over” under the demand. “‘A vortex effect’ were the words he used,” she said.

“Ours are not the parts of London where people have easy access to the internet,”
she continued. “There is a reason why I have 40 people come to my advice surgery. They want to see a human being because it’s easier.”

Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock said Nationwide had behaved with “complete contempt” for local customers. On Nationwide’s claims that it could not find larger premises in Lewisham, she said: “They can’t have been looking very far, I found two eminently suitable premises close by.”

For the government, financial secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban said Nationwide’s decions were a matter for the building society. But he added the government was committed to making sure all current accounts could be operated through post offices, and to introduce closer links between post offices and credit unions to make sure all people had easy access to financial services.

‘Proud to be different’ Nationwide abandons SE London

If you’re a Nationwide Building Society customer, you might want to think again about where your money’s kept after the organisation announced plans to close seven branches across south-east London.

Offices at Blackheath, Catford, Greenwich, Lewisham, Peckham, Walworth and Woolwich will close on 27 May, with Nationwide telling customers that staff would be redeployed. (See the letter sent to customers.)

The doomed branches include those inherited from the Portman Building Society in 2007 at Greenwich and Blackheath, which itself took over the Greenwich Building Society in 1997, as well as a relatively new outlet at Woolwich which opened less than four years ago.

Nationwide said the closures were based on “transaction patterns, the ongoing costs of the location, and the number of members and customers actively using the branch”. Which is odd, because the Lewisham branch has always been packed in my experience. It was closed suddenly and with no explanation yesterday afternoon, presumably while staff were told the news.

It added it was “committed to offering a sizeable branch network in London” and claimed there would still be 16 branches remaining in south-east London (Although at present, a quick count-up shows they only have 15 at the moment – see below.). Last year, the mutual warned of branch closures following a drop in profits.

Here’s my five nearest branches at the moment – four will be gone by the end of May. By my reckoning, there’ll be no branches in the 10 miles between the Strand and Eltham, with only eight branches left in south-east London, all in the suburbs (Bexleyheath, Eltham, Sidcup, Orpington, Petts Wood, Bromley, Beckenham and West Wickham).

UPDATE 2PM: Thanks to Brian, who’s knocked up this Google Map of the doomed branches and the alternatives…

A Nationwide spokesman told Docklands 24: “What we are noting in the urban conurbations is a growing use of alternative channels and people who live in the cities using the internet more than those in rural communities.

“We’ve seen these branches with declining usage and pretty much every branch has been unprofitable for a while.”

UPDATE 5:30PM: Lewisham councillor Mike Harris (Labour, Lewisham Central) has called the closure of the Lewisham branch “stupid”, adding it was “the busiest branch I’ve ever been in”.

UPDATE 11:45PM: I’ve discovered another SE London Nationwide branch, in West Wickham. Which takes us up to 15 in SE London – so if Nationwide closes seven, how will there be 16 branches left? (I’m defining SE London as the SE postcodes plus the remainder of Bexley and Bromley boroughs.) The Woolwich branch only opened in April 2007, with Nationwide chief executive Graham Beale calling it “a prime example of the investment and commitment Nationwide has in its branch network”.

Kicking off in Catford as Lewisham makes cuts

(video via Hangbitch. More from BBC News, Lewisham Right to Work and Transpontine.)

From The Guardian (at the time of writing – 1am – our supposed local newspaper the News Shopper hadn’t bothered to publish tonight, despite the fact this will be featured on national media breakfast shows on Tuesday morning):

Police tonight arrested several people outside Lewisham town hall in south-east London as demonstrators tried to force their way into a meeting where councillors voted to cut the council budget by £60m.

Officers had to call for help from the Metropolitan police’s Territorial Support Group as about 100 protesters tried to force their way into the building.

“Police have made a number of arrests for criminal damage and public order offences,” the Met said in a statement. “A number of police officers were treated for minor injuries.”

A taste of things to come, perhaps, for those of us on the Greenwich side of the borough boundary. The protesters included a large number of Goldsmiths College students, who’ll no doubt be delighted to know Woolwich Town Hall is a short ride on the 53 or 177 buses from New Cross.

In all seriousness, I imagine Greenwich Labour’s hierarchy will be be looking at the scenes from Catford with a mixture of trepidation and satisfaction. Trepidation, because this scenes like this face every single council in the country as the coalitions cuts slice through their budgets.

But satisfaction, because Greenwich Council has played its hands very close to its chest on the question of cuts, in complete contrast to Lewisham, whose directly-elected mayor Sir Steve Bullock got his axe out almost as soon as he and the Labour council were re-elected in May. The violence seen outside Lewisham Town Hall was the price Sir Steve Bullock paid for that strategy, which included a consultation called “Our Lewisham, Our Say“, the kind of cuddly-sounding scheme that’s unthinkable this side of the border.

Apart from persistent rumours about libraries becoming “self-service” (or closing the lot and having just one in Woolwich), and a cut in voluntary group funding, concrete evidence of Greenwich’s plans is hard to find. Greenwich axed its funding for Blackheath fireworks claiming it was due to cutbacks, but we know this was nonsense – with the council having blown the cash on a mayoral booze-up and Olympics-linked arts projects. It’s easy – too easy, really – to criticise Labour leader Chris Roberts’ iron rule over the council, but it’s saved it from a Bullock-sized ruck as seen in Catford.

There’s also a different political scene in Lewisham – run on a mayoral system, it was a hung borough before the last election, the Socialist Party had two councillors before May, a group called Lewisham People Before Profit are a force in local elections in the north of the borough. Greenwich, meanwhile is a rather stale Labour-Tory ding-dong. A group set up by Socialist Party members, Greenwich Save Our Services, is hoping to marshal any opposition to cuts – although their last demo seemed to me to be a just a small group of grumpy lefties. This will no doubt change, though, as Greenwich’s cuts become clearer.

Will Greenwich will be able to avoid scenes like Monday night’s rows in Catford, or is it storing up more trouble for the future? The answer will be one of several no-doubt unpleasant things we’ll find out next year.