Plans for a new railway station in East London next to a future housing development have been dealt a blow after the station was apparently cancelled.
The site, Beam Park is the former Ford manufacturing plant in Dagenham, now owned by the GLA, and in 2019 received consents for a 3,000 home development by L&Q and Countryside, with around half classed as “affordable”. As part of the agreement, a new railway station was to be built next to the site on the existing C2C railway line, roughly half way between Dagenham Dock and Rainham.
The station is needed as the area chosen for the housing development currently has the lowest Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) rating of 0 which represents very poor links to public transport. The provision of a new railway station together with improvements to the bus network was expected to increase the PTAL rating to 3 which represents moderate public transport links.
The planning application for the Beam Park housing development also includes a “Grampian condition”, where later phases of the housing development cannot start until the railway station is operating. Due to that clause, until the station opens, the planning application effectively limits the development to around 1,290 homes, less than half the 3,000 homes being planned for.
Cumulatively, delivery of the station had also been expected to unlock housing sites with the capacity to deliver between 4,000 and 6,000 additional homes on the former Somerfield development site, and other adjacent sites situated within the Housing Zone.
So somewhere in the region of 5,500 to 7,500 new homes are dependent on the new station being built.
The Development Agreement included the obligation for Countryside to provide a station building to a shell and core specification. A total of £9.6 million had been allocated by the GLA to the initial phase of the development of the station, with Network Rail responsible for the station fit-out, and the cost being picked up by the GLA.
A later decision by the Mayor committed £32.7 million from the Homes for Londoners Land Fund to the development of the station to ensure it gets built. As the GLA is also a part-owner of the housing development, this is effectively an investment in the housing project as well.
The new railway station, provisionally called Beam Park Station had been projected to open in May 2022. However, following rumours that the opening of the Beam Park station had been pushed back due to funding issues, Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham has been informed that the promised delivery has been cancelled.
This has been confirmed by the property developer, Countryside Properties, who said that the decision by the DfT was disappointing, but that they remain fully committed to delivering the railway hub.
“The delivery of the station cannot progress until DfT changes its position and agrees to support its adoption onto the wider network, and we will continue to press for their support.”
The DfT’s position appears to be that the station was “poor value for money” and there were concerns about a long term operational subsidy being required. With the GLA agreeing to effectively underwrite the running costs for the next decade, by which time it’s likely that the other 6,000 homes will be completed this would bring around 9,000 homes within walking distance of the station, and any operational loss should fade away.
DfT said that its concern has been to “ensure taxpayers are appropriately protected from the financial and operational risk associated with a new station at Beam Park.” At the moment, they do not feel that the GLA’s financial offer achieves this in full.
That does leave open a negotiating position depending on how large the gap between the DfT’s expectations and the GLA’s funding would be.
A proposed alternative of an upgrade to Dagenham Dock or Rainham stations would leave residents living next to a railway line but having to rely on the bus or car to get to a railway station.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London confirmed that “City Hall has already committed £43 million to deliver the station, which includes a ten year indemnity to protect the DfT against any expected operational deficit. This decision by the Department for Transport is extremely disappointing, but City Hall and partners are in ongoing discussions with DfT to agree a way forward for this important project.”
Updated 18:20 to include details from the DfT.