(Photo taken from 9th May Rail News article about the Northern Line Extension)
I've been meaning to comment on the Northern Line Extension for a while, but I've been taking time to formulate a view. This may prove controversial locally (and I'm reserving any full support until the positions of temporary shafts are known), but I'm broadly in favour of the Northern Line Extension provided that the developers agree to certain stipulations around minimising disruption which are likely being hammered out at present. (Clearly, the developers won't listen to me, but the local community is calling for relocating certain shafts, which may prove necessary!) I will obviously blog about and publicise the campaign groups who are arguing the other point of view, but as a local blogger and public transport supporter, my view is generally favourable. Before you go any further, you may wish to read further information on the NLE proposals at Treasury Holdings' Northern Line Extension site and/or complete their online questionnaire by the deadline of 17th June 2011.
The Northern Line Extension would see the Northern Line Charing Cross branch splitting at Kennington (it terminates at Kennington for all intents and purposes at present) with two new stops added to the branch, one at Nine Elms (on Sainsbury's site) and one at Battersea Power Station. I like the idea of being able to get the tube from Kennington Park to Battersea Park, and of expanding the underground to overlooked areas in South London.
My major criticisms of the scheme strategic and don't pertain to the developers. The main issue that I have is that the proposed extension is not a TFL strategic transport decision, but a developer-funded initiative. Ideally, for any extension, the tunneling equipment hire expenses should be allayed through a wholesale expansion, rather than a one line extension. The Battersea stretch of Northern line could branch north of the river to Victoria. The Northern Line tunnel should be expanded west beyond Battersea (which could receive two stations, not just one) to link with Clapham Junction rail station and then onwards to the district line. Finally, the Bakerloo line is would prove a much more worthy candidate for expansion than the Northern line. Camberwell, Peckham, Dulwich, Upper Norwood, Beckenham, New Cross, Lewisham and Catford should receive underground linkup with their overground railway stations. The money is not there, but it seems that this is possibly through years of overlooking south London's Underground requirements, and it's a shame that this window of opportunity can't be made to do more than a minor two-stop extension. This seems to be one of the criticisms made by a ranty-Anonymous insider on Vauxhall Civic Society, but the fact it would have been better to do a wholesale strategic expansion does not remove the good of expanding and adding two stations to the Northern line. I remain unconvinced that everybody is so busy focusing on the Olympics that they're overlooking VNEB.
There is also a related issue that the proposed Northern Line Extension is of major benefit to Nine Elms and Battersea, and of less benefit to Kennington, which will experience quite high levels of disruption. The money being used to fund the NLE could be put to better use to improve Vauxhall (and will result in the Vauxhall-end developers facing a heavy levy for a line less accessible to their residents). Tradescant Road also makes the criticism (as does David Boardman of the Kennington Association Planning forum) that the NLE will be funded with private money that would have otherwise entered the public purse for amenities such as libaries, schools, health etc. I think that criticism should indeed be admitted, but the NLE clearly costs above and beyond normal Section 106 costs and the developers must by statute provide certain public services. I suspect that whether or not you see the NLE as a good thing will depend on how much you value the expansion of the Underground tube network into South London and whether you think this balances the disruption that will inevitably result.
We are hoping that Lambeth Council will ensure that Lambeth doesn't lose out and that Vauxhall gyratory issues are resolved (more on this in a later post). I think that arguing that Kennington will be disrupted is a NIMBY issue rather than a major criticism of the plan to expand the NLE. (Mind you, we haven't yet been told how long/if they'll have to close Kennington tube station for the development, and *that* might irritate a greater number of people than at present, but I suspect those people won't pay any attention to the issue until it arises, by when it will be too late to stop the closures!) Wapping became a distinctly undesirable place to live for some commuters when its tube station as closed for an age a year or so back.
I do sympathise with people who will be inconvenienced by the permanent or temporary shafts at Kennington but a straightforward utilitarian "greater transport good" argument can be made to support the NLE. Successful oposition to the NLE would ensure that the development could not proceed at Battersea. I cannot see that there is enough opposition at present, considering that most of it emenates from Kennington and Oval residents, to stop the very determined Treasury Holdings from regenerating their building. I suspect that wider London sentiment would fall favourably with the dilapidated iconic Battersea Power Station owners to avoid the loss of a much-loved building.
I intend to write a second post re. the developers contribution at the KOV meeting that took place last night, and answered many questions that will be of interest to local residents unable to attend.