Fresh calls for Elizabeth Line to be extended into Kent

A group of several London councils argue Elizabeth Line extension “vital to catalysing housing and employment opportunities”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A Elizabeth Line sign
Photo by Suntooth on Unsplash

Fresh calls for the Elizabeth line to be extended into Kent have been made by several London councils, who argue the scheme is “vital to catalysing housing and employment opportunities”.

In south-east London, the line currently only extends as far as Abbey Wood – in zone 4 – but a potential route further out into Ebbsfleet and Gravesend in Kent was ‘safeguarded’ by an Act of Parliament back in 2008.

Now, a group of borough authorities called Local London have commissioned an expert analysis to explore the benefits of delivering the scheme and other major transport projects.

The group – comprising nine boroughs across south-east and north-east London – argues that as well as being the fastest growing part of London, their area also contains significant deprivation, “with poor public transport links and a high reliance upon cars”.

Its leaders have warned: “Low levels of investment in transport infrastructure have led to house building rates less than half that of the rest of London in some boroughs.”

Local London has commissioned Eskogen, part of the GC Insight consultancy group, to analyse how an extension to the line could boost the region’s prosperity, along with other transport projects like the long-awaited Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham.

MailOnline reported on Tuesday that a business case is now with the Government – and that the proposal was initially costed at £1.5billion, but the most recent estimate is between £2.6billion and £3.2billion.

This would reportedly be the budget for a plan that sees eight of the 12 Elizabeth line services per hour that terminate at Abbey Wood being extended eastwards, sharing the existing North Kent line tracks with Southeastern and Thameslink services. Of the eight trains per hour, four would terminate at Northfleet, with the remaining four continuing to Gravesend.

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Baroness O’Neill, chairman of Local London and Conservative leader of Bexley Council, said: “Ekosgen’s research will quantify the economic growth, housing and job supply benefits of investing in transport, and identify projected transport needs of this fast-growing part of London. This is about ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth across our boroughs now and in the future.”

The scheme and its potential benefits were also recently highlighted by Thomas Turrell, the newly-elected Tory London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley.

In a written question to mayor Sadiq Khan last month, Mr Turrell asked what work Transport for London (TfL) has done on extending the Elizabeth line to Ebbsfleet via Erith.

Mr Khan has previously expressed support for the project, writing in his 2018 transport strategy that it “could support the 55,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs planned along the route in Bexley and north Kent”. But he also said the scheme should be “Government-led”.

In his reply to Mr Turrell, Mr Khan said an extension from Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Hoo Junction, including a station at Erith, “was safeguarded as part of the Crossrail Act 2008”.

He added that local authorities in London and north Kent conducted a Government-funded study to look at the options. TfL provided “technical support” to that study, he said. The details of this consultation work were submitted to the Government in the form of a business case for extending the line in 2021.

But the mayor played down the prospects of the project getting the green light any time soon, saying: “There are currently no plans by TfL to extend the railway beyond Abbey Wood.

“Should sufficient growth in north Bexley and north Kent be promoted by Government and sufficient funding be made available, an extension to Ebbsfleet could deliver benefits by supporting this growth.

“However, many technical, operational and financial challenges would need to be resolved, including the need to demonstrate that such an extension would not impact on the operability of the Elizabeth line.”

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