Clive celebrates Woolwich Crossrail station

Clive Efford: This afternoon is a time for congratulations, and I add my appreciation of the work done by the Select Committee, not least its Chairman, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). From day one when he received the evidence, it has been clear to me that he appreciated the need for a station in Woolwich, its regeneration, the economic aspects, and its impact on the wider area in the borough of Greenwich, where my constituency is situated.

It is a shame that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not here to bask in the glory of having had the vision, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield said, to see through the arguments against the station at Woolwich and appreciate its value in enhancing the Crossrail scheme overall. I think that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport has always been a secret fan, too, of a Crossrail station at Woolwich.

The achievement of a new instruction to the Select Committee is a credit to all sections of the community in Greenwich, including not just the elected Members of Parliament and councillors but businesses. The chairman of the chamber of commerce, Steve Nelson, a constituent of mine, urged members of the business community in Greenwich to recognise the importance of the issue and to put their weight behind the case for a station at Woolwich. We also cannot ignore the input of Berkeley Homes, and the vision that it showed in incorporating the scheme into its regeneration of the Royal Arsenal. Without that open-minded and creative thinking, we might not have achieved the new instruction to the Committee. All sections of the community have made tremendous effort, not least the public, who always expressed their support for the scheme and appreciated the contribution that it would make to transport links in the area.

As was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford)—who also deserves congratulations on his efforts to argue for the station in his constituency—the score is 3-0 to us in terms of major infrastructure projects, although we do not want to rub it in. Initially, we were denied the opportunity of a station on the Jubilee line, but the then council, of which I was a member, argued forcefully to the Government of the day that it would be ridiculous to bypass that regeneration area—as it was then—next to what was to become the millennium dome, and not build a station. Similarly, the community came together and argued overwhelmingly that building the docklands light railway and bypassing Cutty Sark gardens next to the Cutty Sark clipper, one of the most popular destinations outside central London, was a serious error, and that a station should be included. On Crossrail, the community has again come together, made a forceful argument, and achieved the new instruction to the Select Committee.

In Woolwich, which is not in my constituency, although it is in the borough in which my constituency lies, transport is a key issue, as it is for many communities across the capital. Woolwich, however, is a strategic hub for people in that part of London. I cannot think of any other part of London where a major infrastructure project would be proposed—including a length of tunnel from Custom House to Plumstead, where it emerges before arriving at Abbey Wood—and a strategic and important town centre be bypassed and have no station. Common sense has prevailed today, and Woolwich is now to be included.

Mr. Meale: Will my hon. Friend confirm to the House the importance of such a stop, given that about 100 buses go into Woolwich every hour, and by 2030, I am told, more than 100,000 people will live within a 20-minute journey of it?

Clive Efford: Those are absolutely key points. In addition, in 2009, the docklands light railway will arrive, so Woolwich will become a major strategic hub, even for people living beyond the immediate area, for all the transport networks being developed in the eastern corridor and around the Thames Gateway area.

With regard to major infrastructure developments such as the DLR, Crossrail and the Jubilee line, I hope that the Department for Transport will take on board that, while providing transport links for the regeneration area along the Thames corridor is important, that does not mean that the areas just outside, such as my constituency, do not have transport needs. As a Member of Parliament whose constituency is not entirely within the Thames Gateway area, I have had problems trying to get transport providers to recognise that the plans for such new developments must also consider secondary transport links to ensure that the wider community also benefits from the investment.

If the wider community is to benefit fully from investment in the station at Woolwich, it will be essential, although significant links already exist, to improve bus links to Woolwich. It has been difficult, for example, to get Transport for London to recognise the need to improve the bus links from the south of Greenwich to North Greenwich underground station. That has been one of the flaws in the transport development in that part of south-east London—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the motion before the House. It sounds to me as if he may have a case to apply for an Adjournment debate on the subject on which he is now speaking.

Clive Efford: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for bringing me back on to the route in question. When we have such developments, however, we need to ensure that the benefits reach as wide a community as possible. For my community to benefit most, those bus links need to be considered.

I very much welcome the instruction to the Select Committee and congratulate its members on the work that they have done so far. I commiserate with them on the fact that we will add to their work slightly with today’s instruction, but that is testimony to their recognition of the overwhelming argument in favour of introducing this important transport link in Woolwich. I look forward to that being included in the final Bill and being developed in the future for the benefit of the wider community in south-east London.

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