Photo by Brunel Johnson.
In physical terms, the BLE is the extension of the Bakerloo Line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham Station, via Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate. Although Lewisham Council has been advocating for the extension to go further in one go, it is likely that the extension would go on to Ladywell, Catford, Lower Sydenham, Bromley and Hayes, in a second phase.
Over the last five years, the Council has been working to identify and plan for the benefits which the BLE will bring to the borough. With tubes running every few minutes from Catford directly to central London and beyond, the connectivity of the BLE would be transformational for our borough and for Catford Town Centre. The line will connect seamlessly with the rest of the underground system, whilst bringing an end to long waits for trains at London Bridge, Cannon St and Charing Cross. Timetables will be a thing of the past!
The BLE will provide capacity for up to 65,000 journeys into central London each morning peak. This transport capacity will allow the Council and other developers to provide more desperately needed new and affordable homes. Without this transport capacity, building new housing developments could leading to dangerous overcrowding resulting in station closures and crowd control. In addition, the arrival of the tube will make homebuilders more confident of a market for new homes in the borough, encouraging them to begin construction on new development sites more quickly.
The BLE will also have economic benefits for our people and places, the Council is currently leading a study to quantify this impact. In short, by being better connected, Catfordians will find it easier to travel for work and local businesses will be able to attract more customers which will help add vitality to our town centres and create more jobs for local people.
Even parts of Lewisham not directly on the BLE will feel the benefits. For example, commuters from stations connecting to New Cross Gate and Lewisham will have a seamless interchange to the tube at Lewisham rather than joining the crush at London Bridge or Canada Water. Those who still use London Bridge should experience less congestion at peak times.
Due to geological issues with the land, south-east London has never had access to the tube, instead the area is connected by an extensive National Rail network. These trains, however, have far lower frequencies and terminate on the fringe of central London, often requiring a cumbersome (and costly) interchange to the Underground network.
Modern construction methods mean that the geological issues can be overcome, and south-east London is no longer off-limits for tube construction. The Jubilee Line Extension (completed in 2000) and the upcoming Elizabethan Line have proven this. Although both lines grazed the edges of south-east London, the Bakerloo Line Extension would be the first line to truly serve south-east London . There could be as many new stations between Elephant & Castle and Catford alone, than currently exist in the whole of south-east London!
In Catford especially, the lack of accessibility at both stations is an ongoing issue. The Mayor of London ranked Catford 18th out of 21 priority stations in the city for step-free improvements.
As a result, a share of the government's 300 million ‘Access For All’ fund could go towards the installation of lifts, new ramps and footbridges and accessible ticket gates and toilets at the station. In regards to the BLE, the intention is for all stations to be step-free, including those converted from National Rail (Ladywell to Hayes).
For local residents and members of the community to show their support for the extension, a public campaign called #BacktheBakerloo has been launched. As part of this, Southwark and Lewisham councils have developed a campaign identity and website: backthebakerloo.org.uk.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for Catford Town Centre. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected.
To make general comments on the Town Centre click here.
To comment on the ideas that the architects have begun to develop click here.
Have your say and please share the project with people you know locally.