Jane Ellison, MP Battersea: reporting back on Clapham Junction’s concerns

Author: Cyril Richert

Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, distributed her latest leaflet this week focused on the Clapham Junction area.

In view of the article published, I tried the interesting exercise to compare her words with the actual facts.

Given the debt mountain the Coalition Government inherited all spending on rail is being reassessed to check it offers maximum value for money.

This is related to the announcement last May that Network Rail will have to save £100m (for a 5 year budget of £28.5bn for the period 2009-14 ~£6bn/y). In parallel, TfL budget will be cut by £108m. See our article on .transport: less money but still costly project.

This inevitably meant some short-term disappointment for us locally…”

The disappointment comes here from the funding (£50 million DfT grant intended to upgrade the ten worst stations in Britain) scrapped as part of the Government’s budget cuts. Locally it means that the £5-£10m allocated to Clapham Junction station have been removed, as we reported.

“…but I will press for long-term planning and investment by franchise holders and Network Rail.”

When we met with Office of Rail Regulation last November (meeting organised by former MP M. Linton), our discussions were not considering the last minute funding provided by the government, and we were focusing on the next budget period, especially CP5 (2014-19). Although it has to be discussed in line of the proposed funding for these period, the topic still remains. So far (but maybe it is too early yet) we have not been contacted to take part, or been informed of such initiative.

However there are planned improvements in the pipeline at Clapham Junction, including lifts at the St John’s Hill side and a new entrance at Brighton Yard.

This refers only to work already approved years ago by the previous government and last year funding top-up by Wandsworth Council to imp[rove the reopening entrance of Brighton Yard.

  • Network Rail is currently installing lifts at Clapham Junction Station, to provide access to each platform from the footbridge as part of the government’s ‘Access for All’ programme – 2010. [£8.5m]
  • Additional entrance and ticket hall will be created with parking and a drop-off area in Brighton Yard for taxis and cars (see plans on our website) – 2011. [£1.5m]

I meet regularly with Network Rail and the train operators…

Again, so far (but maybe it is too early yet) we have not been contacted to take part, or been informed of such initiative.

… and I brought Theresa Villiers MP, now the Rail Minister, to Clapham Junction during the election campaign to meet local campaigners.

Kate Williams reported on our website, following the visit of Theresa Villiers (she was also presented with our short draft consultation dossier to provide some support document – photo). But last August, after the Transport Minister unveiled a massive train station redevelopment project, we highlighted a few questions: why is CJ denied any serious thought for a new station/concourse? Why is government money withdrawn for any redevelopment of CJ while it as been widely assessed that it should be a priority?

I have highlighted overcrowding at Wandsworth Town station in Parliament and asked South West Trains to look at their timetable with a view to stopping more trains there in the morning.

It refers to a debate on the 22 July 2010 in the parliament where it quotes:

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I think this is the appropriate moment to ask my question, Mr Speaker. In her discussions with rail franchises and franchisees, will my right hon. Friend ask them whether they will consider bringing longer trains through stations whose platforms have not been lengthened when they have available rolling stock? That is common on the continent, but we do not do it here, and it would greatly help at overcrowded stations such as Wandsworth Town station in my constituency.

Mrs Villiers: I am well aware of my hon. Friend’s strong campaigns for rail services in her constituency, and our visit to Clapham Junction railway station was particularly informative. She makes a good point about the more flexible use of capacity, and the train operators and Network Rail would certainly do well to take it on board. I suggest she raises it further with them.

[see video HERE]

Jane Ellison took part to a debate organised by Kate Hoey (Vauxhall, Labour) on Rail Services (South London Line) at Westminster Hall, 14 July 2010. The labour MP raised the question of train services to London Bridge after the East London Line (renamed Overground line) 2012 link operates.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): Slightly fewer of my constituents are affected than those of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), but I want to pick up on the point about Clapham Junction, because one problem is that it is not an effective interchange, despite being pretty much the busiest one in the country. I should like the Minister to recognise that the strategic long-term upgrade of Clapham Junction-I do not just mean the £20 million announced in March 2010 before the election-to reflect its status as the busiest interchange in the country is essential to making a lot more services attractive to a great many more people, irrespective of the direction from which they are coming into that station.

Norman Baker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments.

I stress that we, as a Government, are committed to devolution. We are talking about an earlier example of devolution to TfL and the Mayor, so whatever the Department for Transport thinks we live within the existing legal framework. Therefore, the Department may have fewer powers in this regard than in respect of other rail matters elsewhere in the country.

TfL made a judgment that the East London line service to Clapham Junction provided better overall benefits than the south London line to Bellingham. Clearly, Members present do not share that judgment. It is entirely appropriate that TFL, which is London’s transport planning body, should make this judgment and assess the trade-offs between the different service proposals. Ministers in the previous Administration accepted the guidance provided by the Mayor on that being the best use of the limited available resources. If the Mayor and TfL make such decisions-the coalition agreement states that the Government believe that decisions should be taken at a more local level-it is important that they stand behind the consequences of such decisions when they are made, including the impacts on passengers at stations such as Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street. […]

Although it was never announced £20m but rather £5-£10m, we welcome the call for a strategic long-term upgrade of Clapham Junction made by Jane Ellison.

However the answer from Norman Baker (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Regional and Local Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat) is deeply disappointing as he claims that the Department for Transport as little power (which anybody doubts regarding the decision on Cross-Rail, ThamesLink and the Eurostar move to St Pancras to offer a station in the North-East London, part of the Olympic dossier supported by Tony Blair). He avoids any responsibility on the situation and does not reply on the call for a strategic plan for Clapham Junction either. Instead, he throws the issue into TfL and the Mayor of London’s hands restraining the problem of upgrading Clapham Junction to the sole consequence of the East London Line extension.

The Clapham Junction Action Group is committed to work with residents, political parties, businesses and all stakeholders to provide ideas for the redevelopment of the station. You can participate here (click).

The Conservatives Party in Battersea is the only political party (Labour, Libdems, Green are in touch) which has not responded (despite last email 9 August) or expressed any interest on our consultation on the future of Clapham Junction station.

A £50 million DfT grant intended to upgrade the ten worst stations in Britain following the Station Champions’ report last November has been scrapped as part of the Government’s budget cuts.
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