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.

11 comments

  1. Annie

    Why does Camberwell need a tube? It’s a short bus ride from Camberwell Green to Oval (Northern Line), Peckham Rye (Overground), or Denmark Hill (Overground/NR) – none of which require going northbound on Walworth Road.

    Old Kent Road could use the boost, it’s pretty miserable at the moment to move around in that area due to road traffic.

  2. Chris

    I would have thought the Old Kent Road option would be best. You are restricted by buses that sometimes take 30 minutes to get from the Elephant to New Cross, not helped by ludicrous bus parking/waiting at New Cross.
    The only advantage is that getting on the bus at St Thomas’ I can nab a front seat at the top and ‘be driver’!

  3. creepylesbo

    I just wish I’d been able to buy a house before the recent interest in the area I rent in. In the last year the surrounding area has become out of my reach and now this has been announced I’m pushed further and further out. I’m beginning to think I should retire from the London game and so and try to be queer up north, where I just expect to be bullied and beaten on a regular basis but be unable to move anywhere else once I’ve invested the money I have. It’s horrible to feel forced back into the small-town mentality which I was so desperate to leave.

  4. finbarr40

    I think this is really good news.

    If Southwark Council can get the old Camberwell station reopened on the Thameslink line then stations on Old Kent Road make even more sense.

    Bromley blocking changes – surely not. They have lots of previous form on that. I am old enough to remember them challenging Fares Fair in the early 80s.

  5. Alan Burkitt-Gray (@alanburkittgray)

    @Gerry — doubt if that New Cross tunnel will ever be much use. A couple of hundred metres is trival compared with the whole Elephant to Lewisham length, especially when the new tunnels will be dug by one or two tunnel boring machines. That old tunnel will have been dug to the tight gauge of the original Jubilee line between Baker Street and Charing Cross. Standards require bigger tunnels these days.

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