An interesting and wide ranging transport committee meeting took place this morning.
Leon Daniels from TfL gave us an update on Hammersmith Flyover, which was closed for emergency work over Christmas and the New Year. One lane is now open and operating in each direction whilst work takes place to replace steel cables inside the unique 1961 structure. The new cables will be made of stronger steel and with the concrete still in very good condition, the strengthened flyover is expected to last for several decades. Only one section was found to be badly damaged so the emergency work is going to be less than expected.
Sean Collins from Thames Clippers appeared alongside TfL, the PLA and my colleague Dick Tracey, taking questions in his role as Mayoral Ambassador for River Transport. Over ten years the number of river passengers had grown from 1.6 million to 4.1 million per year - not including the 2 million users of the Woolwich Ferry. Of these, two thirds were commuters with the remainder being tourists.
4.1 million sounds like a lot but it is no more than an average suburban bus route would transport over twelve months. The Mayor's ambition was to get the number up to 12 million per year. With 10 million per year using river services in Brisbane - a much smaller city - this target was felt to be reasonable. In Brisbane a milder climate, better coordination with bus routes and the lack of an underground railway had all contributed to the high numbers.
Dick talked about plans to extend river services upstream with commuter boats calling at Putney. Further west would be more difficult because the water was relatively shallow at low tide. I asked about plans to extend services downstream to Rainham, allowing commuting from Essex and improving access to the nature reserve at Rainham Marshes. Sean Collins was very positive, stating that a service already ran to Tilbury, although it only served cruie ship passengers currently. Dick talked about introducing a park and ride facility at Rainham, encouraging commuters to leave their cars just where the A13 became congested.
Witnesses from TfL discussed the Tube extensions currently under consideration.
The most advanced of these is the Northern Line extension to Battersea. With a price tag of £900 million, private sector financing is essential so the plans had been set back when Treasury Holdings, the private funder, collapsed before Christmas. Despite this TfL are continuing with the Transport & Works Act application to Parliament, in the hope that a new developer can be found. For the longer term they are planning to extend the line to Clapham Junction.
An extension to the Croxley branch of the Metropolitan Line, linking with Watford Junction, is supported by TfL but funding and promotion will be carried out by Herts County Council as the project is outside the Greater London boundary.
Extension of the Bakerloo Line to South East London is supported in the longer term. Caroline Pidgeon and Jenny Jones were very much in favour as they live in Camberwell Green. Funding is not available and the Bakerloo Line upgrade needs to be completed before the 'Camberloo Extension' is considered.
Central Line extensions east to Harlow and west to Uxbridge are being considered, but the business cases are questionable.
Crossrail 2 - previously known as Chelsea to Hackney - is climbing up the list of priorities, spurred on by the agreement of HS2.
We also examined progress on major station upgrades.
Tottenham Court Road is being enlarged to lift its capacity from 145,000 per day to 250,000 per day - more than the throughput of Heathrow. There will be disabled access and a link to the new Crossrail station. At a cost of £500 million I asked London Underground to consider enlarging the bus stands on the surface, thus making it possible to terminate more services there and relieve bus crowding in Oxford Street.
Victoria is also being enlarged to improve capacity and create a new ticket hall, at a cost of £580 million.
The new Crossrail station and increased capacity at Bond Street is expected to cost £285 million.
Disabled access and improvements to the Hammersmith & City platforms at Paddington are relatively cheap - only £53 million.
A major upgrade at Bank will improve capacity and provide new lifts to street level at an expected cost of £600 million. I suggested that they provide a moving travelator between the Bank and Monument platforms as the walking distance is considerable - much as London Underground have done at Waterloo.
I also suggested that London Underground raise the priority of lift installation at Newbury Park. With a price tag of no more than £20 million this represents a comparatively small investment, yet with National Express East Anglia using the station for their passengers during Liverpool Street line closures, disabled access will benefit many passengers. Network Rail might even be persuaded to stump up some cash for this project.