DfT slams Mayor over Victoria-Bellingham line cancellation

We're indebted to peerless transport blog, London Reconnections, for highlighting a letter from the Department for Transport to Mayor Boris, criticising the statements made about the cancellation of the Victoria to Bellingham service and blaming TfL for the decision.

This buck passing is strikingly similar to the problems campaigners against the Southern timetable changes have had in pinning down who is responsible for the problem. A cynic might suggest that Boris is trying to prove his and the Tories' cost-cutting credentials ahead of the next election, while being reluctant to take responsibility for the implications of those reductions and that the breakdown of relations between the two bodies had at least something to do with party politics.

Here's the letter:

I am writing with regard to the East London Line Phase 2 extension to Clapham Junction and TfL's decision to withdraw the proposed Victoria Bellingham service.Comments have been attributed to you stating that this was a matter solely for Ministers at the Department for Transport, and it has been reported that you will not meet local representatives about these proposed changes.

I also understand from a press report that in a letter to Val Shawcross you stated:'It is important to point out that this decision was the DfT's alone, and therefore it would be more productive to meet with them in order to lobby them' (South London Press - 21/09/09). It is important to point out that this comment is misleading and factually inaccurate.

DfT had originally proposed to implement the Victoria to Bellingham service (in place of Victoria to London Bridge) from late 2012 when major works start at London Bridge. This would have maintained current service levels to London Victoria from Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road stations. It was TfL that requested the Victoria to Bellingham service was not implemented, with the £24m saved from that service being diverted to TfL to help fund the East London Line Phase 2 to Clapham Junction. TfL has the power to make requests for such changes to national rail services in London as a result of the Mayor of London's Rail Powers consulted on by the Department in March 2006 and published in December 2008.

The £24m contribution is in addition to DfT agreeing to fund a £19m addition to Network Rail's Regulated Asset Base and a further £20m increase to TfL's grant to fund this and other transport projects in London. OfT is thus funding - at TfL's request - more than two thirds of the cost of the East London Line Phase 2.

Ministers agreed to TfL's request, recognising the benefits that the East London Line will bring to this area of South East London, on the basis that stakeholders would be consulted and kept well-informed of any changes. It is unfortunate that your reported statement has misrepresented the position to stakeholders regarding the background to these proposed changes, especially at a time when you are also seeking a further £7m of funding (which you initially rejected) for an additional station at Surrey Canal Road.

The Secretary of State will write to you separately in, relation to Surrey Canal Road. I am copying this letter to Martin Linton MP, Tessa Jowell MP, Harriet Harman MP, Joan Ruddock MP and Val Shawcross AM.