Crossrail Debate

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I am grateful for this opportunity to make a contribution to the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin) have already outlined the issues relating to south London, and I am particularly pleased to see that under the motions on the Order Paper we are going to consider the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet extension.

My constituency sits at the confluence of the south circular, the A102 approach road to the Blackwall tunnel, the A2 and the A20. Without those important improvements in our public transport network along the south-east of the Thames, as my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead said, the development of that area of the Thames Gateway and the new housing and jobs that it will generate will be affected and many more people will end up in traffic jams somewhere in my constituency as they travel to and from London. Our road network is already congested, especially at peak times, so improvements in the public transport network are essential and I am pleased that they are being considered.

Crossrail will give us 40 per cent. of the additional transport capacity that we need in central London and, like others, I do not want that part of the development to fall as a result of the additional schemes that people are requesting. I draw the attention of Select Committee members to the fact that, historically, south-east London has suffered enormously from lack of investment in its public transport infrastructure. When people talk about the London underground, they often think that it covers the whole of London. Indeed, the criticism can be levelled at the Mayor of London that he sometimes talks as though the whole of London is served by the underground, but south-east London is not. An arc around the Thames all the way to Lambeth—almost a quarter of the whole of London—is not served by the London underground. That is why it is essential that we make the most of schemes such as Crossrail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich pointed out that a six-mile stretch from Custom House to Abbey Wood, the cost of which will be in the hundreds of millions, will have no station, bypassing one of the most strategic transport hubs in south-east London. That makes no sense. On a cost-benefit basis alone, it must make sense to consider that development.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead pointed out some of the historical facts about Woolwich; for example, the loss of jobs that we have suffered over the last 50 years. On figures for 2000, 25 of the top 20 per cent. most deprived wards in the country were in the London borough of Greenwich and, according to the 2004 figures, it is the 23rd most deprived local authority area. The development of Woolwich is essential not only for regeneration but as a strategic hub for our part of south-east London. It makes no sense to build a six-mile railway with no station, especially when it bypasses such a major town centre as Woolwich. I urge the Select Committee to take that on board.

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