Area has been ignored but in 10 years’ time that might change
When you have a spare moment or three take a look at the map of London’s underground system.
Notice anything odd about it? Maybe I need to lead the witness a little.
Provided you can ignore the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) extension to Lewisham, there’s a rather large gap in the bottom right hand corner. It’s called south-east London – my old manor. I was born in Camberwell and raised just off the Old Kent Road.
As far as London Underground is concerned, it seems SE London hardly exists. The map makers used to put the colour-coded key to the different lines bottom right so the gap was not so obvious (in fact, they often still do).
As a lad growing up I wondered what my area had done wrong to be overlooked in this way. Were we sowf-east Londoners too unruly? Would we destroy the stations? Could we not be trusted to find our way back to street level again?
I was told that the earth in the area was not suitable for tunnelling. I can’t testify to the veracity (or otherwise) of the statement. In the interest of accuracy, I should point out that the Underground system does nudge into parts of south-east London. London Bridge, Borough and The Elephant (& Castle) are on the Northern Line; the Metropolitan Line has Surrey Quays and two stations in the New Cross area; the Jubilee line takes in Waterloo, Southwark, London Bridge, Bermondsey, Canada Water, North Greenwich and Woolwich Arsenal.
But all of these destinations are fairly close to the Thames. It’s as if there’s a no-go area the further you progress into south-east London. Maybe the type of earth was a barrier.
Don’t be diverted by the DLR line running from Canary Wharf to Lewisham. It’s very welcome, but it’s not part of the Underground system.
So, is anything being done to correct this burrowing oversight? The answer is “yes”, or, more accurately, “we hope so”. Transport for London (TfL) has announced that the Bakerloo line will be extended from the Elephant through to Lewisham with two stops on the Old Kent Road (where were they when I needed them?) and another at New Cross Gate.
My feeling – with total disregard for the finances involved – is that this is not enough. And, it seems, TfL might feel the same. It has expressed thoughts of extending the line further, perhaps to Hayes in the London Borough of Bromley.
Among the many interested parties supporting the line extension to Lewisham is the Millwall football club. The club’s New Den ground is already served by New Cross and New Cross Gate stations. But these stations are on Metropolitan Line branch lines which makes for fiddly, multi-change journeys. It would be much better, especially for visiting fans, if supporters could travel direct from Charing Cross or Waterloo to New Cross Gate. TfL says that the Elephant to Lewisham section “could be completed by 2029”, still a decade distant. It’s the use of the word “could” that concerns me.
The plan has been a long time in the pipeline and mayor Sadiq Kahn has conceded that there remains a gap between the £3.1bn proposed cost and what TfL can afford. Given how such major infrastructure projects have fared in the past, you can probably lob another half-a-billion onto that final figure which may take it further away from actually happening.
Khan hopes work will start in 2023 and TfL says the extension will lead to 25,00 new homes and create 5,000 jobs.
Of course, given that the mayor is up for re-election in May 2020 (if he decides to stand again) it may be that a mayor of an entirely different political persuasion will get most of the credit if the Bakerloo really is extended.
New stations? You can’t knock ’em in the Old Kent Road.
Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.