Transport expert John Ware writes in today's Guardian that:
"Because of sustained record immigration and migration from within Britain, the capital's population is forecast to grow by perhaps 1.2m - the size of Birmingham- by 2026. To keep moving, and maintain its financial cutting edge, London will need roughly £50bn worth of commuter and light rail capacity, underground rail lines, expanded bus networks, and traffic management systems."
Given this challenge, it is particularly galling to hear that Southern Rail are trying to argue for a reduction in services to Brockley Station, once the East London Line becomes operational. In my earlier article http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/2007/02/east-london-line-mystery.html I showed the current plans, which indicate no reduction in service is currently planned or necessary. However, the campaign by The Forest Hill Society (among others) suggests that the risk of a reduction is serious.
While I wholeheartedly disagree with those people who say that the East London Line runs to nowhere (they've clearly never looked out from the top of Hilly Fields or Telegraph Hill and noticed the forest of skyscrapers that is growing in Canary Wharf; at least five more towers under construction as we speak) I strongly believe that London Bridge will remain the key transport destination for Brockley residents for a long time to come.
Transport for London already identifies London Bridge as a key transport hub for the future of London's development (it's no conincidence that they've chosen to locate themselves there), with the City gradually colonising Southwark with developments such as More London and London Bridge Tower (which will be Europe's tallest skyscraper) at various stages of development. To the south, the Elephant and Castle is also being transformed, which means that the area along Borough High Street will become an even more popular destination. The long-awaited Thameslink 2000 project is slowly inching its way towards approval, which means that the London Bridge route will eventually turn from a bottleneck in to a main route through the city.
With all this going on, it's ridiculous that a reduction in services is even being contemplated. South East London has historically been starved of public transport infrastucture - the East London Line is an opportunity to address this problem, not just to shift the problem on to another service. The Jubilee line is already seriously overstretched in terms of capacity and a tube journey to London Bridge, with a change at Canada Water, is a poor substitute in terms of cost, convenience and time.
The East London Line may have put Brockley on the (tube) map, but it's the main line services to London Bridge that will keep it moving.
The Sydenham Society have organised a public meeting with Peter Field, Director of London Rail Development on March 14th. Go to http://foresthillsociety.blogspot.com/search/label/east%20london%20line for more information.