The government has indicated that it will provide funding for a rapid bus service linking Woolwich with Thamemead ahead of a longer-term plan to extend the DLR into the area. However, the government has not responded to other calls for investment in London’s transport, leaving a potential £500 million hole in TfL’s investment plans.
As for the bus link, the specifics of the are to be ironed out, but an initial study into a bus link has previously suggested a “tram on rubber tyres” based service with segregated lanes in the road to prevent road congestion slowing the buses. That would be similar to, although on a smaller scale to the Greenwich Waterfront Transit that was cancelled in 2008.
The chancellor’s Autumn Statement announced today has offered £23 million of funding — subject to business case approval — for a bus network to unlock housing in the Thamesmead area, as part of the £150 million allocation to London from the Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund.
Whether the bus network would be as ambitious as it could be with dedicated buses in segregated lanes or simply an improved bus service with more dedicated bus lanes providing a fast link between Thamesmead and the Elizabeth line at Woolwich will depend on the business case being prepared by Transport for London (TfL).
Based on an earlier transport report, the bus transit service would run along the A206, A2016 and A2041 between Woolwich and Abbey Wood, linking North Thamesmead to the Elizabeth line and other rail services. It would have fewer bus stops, providing passengers with quicker journeys – so not unlike the SuperLoop bus network.
It’s estimated that the proposed bus transit scheme would support 8,000 new homes and 5,500 new jobs in the area. It has also been suggested that the bus link could bring forward other housing developments that are delayed due to the lack of decent public transport to get built while they wait for the DLR extension to be built.
However, adding the DLR extension doubles the potential housing development in Thamesmead, and unlocks thousands of more homes in the Beckton area as well, so the bus network, while helpful, should only be seen as an interim stage. In total, TfL has predicted that the DLR extension would enable around 25,000-30,000 new homes to be built on both sides of the river.
The Autumn Statement didn’t include any funding for the DLR extension and also left a roughly £500 million hole in TfL’s existing planned investments, which TfL had hoped would be supported.
Rachel McLean, Chief Finance Officer at Transport for London said: “While we welcome the reference in the Autumn Statement for funding towards a new bus network in Thamesmead, it is hugely disappointing that the Government has not yet confirmed their share of the capital investment for transport in London that it has consistently acknowledged will be needed – as it is for other transport providers the world over. We have been clear that we are now able to fund around three quarters of our capital investment programme for 2024/25 but we need the government to provide the final quarter so that projects critical to the city like the new fleet of Piccadilly line trains – half of which are being built in Goole in Yorkshire – can carry on being manufactured.
“At this stage London is being forced to exist without the multi-year ‘London-style’ funding agreements that are being introduced elsewhere, despite the Underground being considered a national asset which has always previously received support. Investment in London’s transport has direct and substantial benefits for jobs and growth outside the capital – whether through direct manufacturing or supply chains. We are running out of time to plan sensibly for March 2024 and the government are putting our plans to grow ridership and support jobs and economic growth in London and across the country at risk.”