The opening date of the delayed Beam Park station in East London could be further pushed back, even if it is given permission to open, it was revealed recently. The station would sit on the C2C line between Dagenham Dock and Rainham, and in the middle of a major regeneration area where former industrial land is being cleared for housing developments.
The mile-long strip, part of the Thames Riverside Opportunity is split between Havering and Barking & Dagenham councils, and although there is a broad masterplan for the area, each council looks after their side of the border.
Beam Park station sits inside Havering’s patch. The station and associated housing development were authorised by Havering Council in 2019, with the housing developer picking up some of the cost of building the station, which would then be fitted out by Network Rail and operated by C2C.
However, and the details are still unclear, somehow along the process, the Department for Transport (DfT) says that it expressed concerns about the economic viability of the station, but the local council and the housing developer – a joint venture between Countryside and L&Q, and the Greater London Authority (GLA) were under the impression that the station could still open.
Then last year, the DfT said that it wouldn’t authorise the station to open.
Since then, all sides have been trying to work on a solution to open the station, while satisfying the DfT’s concerns about the economic viability of the station – even though it will be eventually surrounded by some 20,000 new homes.
A subsequent development came that if the station can demonstrate it is revenue generative over three consecutive years, then the DfT would be willing to take over the full operation of the station.
Last week, the Leader of Havering Council, Councillor Ray Morgon published an open letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper MP, calling on him to resolve the impasse.
The talks had been expected to be completed by the end of this year, but the delays mean that the train company, C2C needs to study how it will slot the additional station into its timetable, and now says that it will not be in a position to formally approve the operational plan until May 2023.
The talks cannot progress until C2C sign off on its plans, and Councillor Morgon has asked the Minister to intervene so that the station can open by the end of 2025.
The matter was also complicated by a recent decision by the neighbouring Havering council to approve changes to the housing development on its side of the border.
That development has seen an uplift of 947 homes in the development, to 3,119 homes in total.
Due to a Grampian Condition in the planning application, the development can only proceed so far until the station opens, leaving the risk that about a third of the homes could be built, but the station never opens.
At a meeting of the Barking and Dagenham planning committee, Councillor Simon Perry asked if the business case for Beam Park station would be harmed by the amended planning proposal. The planning officers noted that the increased number of homes planned improves the business case for the station and that the earlier phases of the housing development will deliver more potential passengers for the station sooner than previously predicted.
Although the fate of Beam Park station is still up in the air, the amended planning application will provide £700,000 to improve nearby Dagenham Dock station.
However, Simon Thelwell, the head of strategic development at neighbouring Havering Council, raised the issue that the changes to increase the size of the development means that the number of homes on both sides of the border that could be delivered before the station has to open has risen by 900 homes.
He also raised concerns that the lack of car parking in the development means that there will be hightend demand on public transport in the area. He added that without the station, the aspiration for at least 3,000 more dwellings in this part of Havering is lost.
Barking and Dagenham council has however voted to approve the amendments to its side of the Beam Park master plan.
A decision about whether Beam Park station will be approved should be announced within the next few months.