VNEB transport strategy: 10 September Data Report

Data (Development and Transport Action Group) report from theVNEB public meeting with Lambeth Council held on 10 September.

DATA, along with a number of residents associations, has been pressing Lambeth Council for several months to undertake due diligence for its support of the TfL driven project to extend the Northern Line to underpin transport needs of the VNEB development area.  We were pleased to learn at a meeting chaired by Val Shawcross on 10 September and supported by Lambeth Council, that they have now appointed the Consultants Ramboll to provide the technical due diligence that is necessary.  We were also pleased to learn that Councillor Lib Peck, the Cabinet Lead for Regeneration is taking a close interest in the NLE project.

Val Shawcross said that the meeting marked a new phase in the way in which Lambeth was approaching the NLE proposal.  Lambeth Council invites residents to comment on the NLE and has asked Ramboll to assess technical options to meet concerns raised. The Council will use this process to challenge TfL so as to protect and promote the interests of residents.

The agenda gave residents chance to discuss their views on siting of shafts, noise, pollution, and other environmental impact issues. Serious concerns were widespread. Val Shawcross, in the Chair, committed to a desire for highest standards of noise minimisation and conservation. The consultants confirmed that they would press for this. The meeting agenda did not include the question of alternatives to the NLE, but it arose.

Reports from some residents associations and Lambeth Council suggested that TfL are now adjusting original NLE specifications to strengthen their public interests brief rather than the maximised profit brief that had been adopted initially by the now defunct Treasury Holdings. This included widening the tunnels significantly to try to avoid one of the most controversial shafts and to be able to install floating rail systems that would reduce noise. There were a number of other areas where it was identified that additional costs would arise to meet the higher standards desired. There was also confirmation that TfL would need to fund the compulsory purchase orders needed to compensate for land taken beneath freehold property.

DATA made the point that this higher cost requirement would exacerbate an already very serious shortfall in both funding and financing. Either a lot more money/additional long term financing would need to be found, or compromises accepted in the standards discussed.

The Chair allowed a short discussion initiated by DATA which called into question whether the NLE was indeed the right transport solution or a white elephant. There was widespread popular vocal support for this question among residents, many agreeing that insufficient consideration had been  given to alternative options, and making reference (as did DATA) to the TfL’s own consultants’ reports that show that the Northern Line was already heavily
overcrowded and would not easily be able to accommodate the increased traffic if extended to Battersea. Val Shawcross added that significant alterations may be needed at Kennington station for the large number of commuters to interchange safely, as the NLE scheme required.

Some residents groups said that they supported an extension of the Northern Line but it emerged that a number were under the impression that there was no alternative, or that the project was now unstoppable so they were focussing on minimising its impact. This is an example of where TfL’s selective marketing/use of statistics has created a misperception. There are other options but TfL have dismissed many of them without real consideration. This includes options that use existing infrastructure and new forms of transport to address road transport congestion, parking, pedestrian access and cycling and which also could integrate with wider transport initiatives such as CrossRail and provide transport connections within the development area. A NLE would do none of this.

Councillor Peck has confirmed that Lambeth Council would press TfL for removal of the gyratory and for improved cycling facilities, better bus services, and less traffic congestion in the Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document. But the very high cost and stand-alone nature of the NLE makes it is difficult to see how this can be achieved.

One residents group from the Wandsworth Road area was concerned that any NLE service would be full on departure from Battersea, making it unusable by Nine Elms residents. They were also worried about traffic and pedestrian concentrations to and from Nine Elms station in the very narrow approach roads. Concerns were also raised that TfL might not build a station at Nine Elms, just a box for future development, due to shortage of funds. Lambeth Councillors and residents reacted to this strongly because this station is acknowledged to be the only real benefit for Lambeth from the NLE scheme, with most benefit going to neighbouring Wandsworth. The fairness of Lambeth making such a large financial contribution to the NLE scheme, when most benefits fall to Wandsworth, was questioned.

DATA asked for a further public meeting to discuss whether the NLE was indeed the right transport strategy for the VNEB development. DATA was directed to discuss with Ward Councillors.  DATA agreed with Councillor Lib Peck and a senior representative of the Consultants, Ramboll, to remain in touch and exchange information. DATA has, separately, also had confirmation that TfL is ready to resume discussions and is waiting for dates.

There was common ground at the meeting that the original Treasury Holdings proposals for a NLE were based on profit over people and money over mobility, something TfL have also acknowledged. Is it not reasonable, in the light of this admission, to ask for a review of whether the decision to ignore all other options and opt for a NLE was based on the same profit rather than transport benefit motive?

A development the size of the VNEB, and the complexity of Lambeth’s transport challenges, requires an independent strategic transport needs analysis.  So much depends on getting this right. The transport strategy should give priority to the needs of residents and integrate with wider transport initiatives, such as CrossRail, making a reality the Mayor’s vision of an integrated transport and fare network across London.

If you think the real facts on the NLE should be aired and an independent transport needs analysis undertaken please tell Lambeth Council now at: transportplanning@lambeth.gov.uk and make your voice heard with TfL at: nle@tfl.gov.uk and SMBNLE@tfl.gov.uk

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