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Spending on transport infrastructure is crucial to the success of the Gateway project


TRANSPORT is critical to the vision of the Thames Gateway as a series of high-density, high quality residential developments.

Planned densities of around 100 dwellings per hectare are unworkable for communities that are totally car-dependent.

The road infrastructure simply couldn't cope.

Unsurprisingly, a substantial amount of transport infrastructure is planned. Some of this is already at an advanced stage.The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, with stations at Ebbsfleet and Stratford, is due for completion in 2007 and the Docklands Light Railway extension is scheduled to reach City Airport next year and Woolwich Arsenal in 2007.

So it was good news last month when the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone unveiled a £10 billion, five-year transport investment programme 'designed to end the stopstart funding of London's transport' The programme includes £3 billion in new borrowing, £3 billion of capital investment funded by government grant and revenue surpluses and £4 billion from existing PPP and PFI Tube contracts.

The good news in the programme included confirmation of the Thames Gateway Bridge linking Thamesmead to Becton and funding for conversion of the North London Line to the DLR, which introduces four new stations on the Lee Valley between the river and Stratford.

The programme also includes extending the East London Line to Dalston, Croydon and Crystal Palace.

Crossrail, which Transport for London is progressing as a joint partnership with Government, is not part of the programme. But Mr Livingstone described the scheme as 'essential' and said 'it is now moving forward' According to transport planning expert Professor Sir Peter Hall, the Thames Gateway transport schemes need to be delivered sooner.Despite the Mayor's rhetoric, he maintains, it is still not clear where the money is going to come from for many of the 'critical'Gateway schemes.

Timing of the DLR Barking Reach extension appears uncertain and the Mayor's plan made no mention of the previously mooted proposal to continue the line to Dagenham Dock.Yet this, reckons Sir Peter, is absolutely crucial to the regeneration of these areas.He says: 'There won't be any serious development without it.'

Outside of London, Thames Gateway needs massive capacity increases on the C2C railway line to Southend, which cannot be achieved without expensive resignalling.Unless there is funding commitment here the regeneration potential in South Essex will be stalled or limited.

Kent represents less of a problem, Sir Peter says, although the Integrated Kent Franchise won't be in place in time to deliver high-speed commuter services from 2007, when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link is fully opened.

But by 2009, it was announced last month, Kent should have an excellent high-speed domestic rail service based around a fleet of Japanese bullet trains, feeding onto the CTRL at Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

Much has been made of the interlinked bus-based light transit schemes East London Transit, Greenwich Waterfront, Fastrack in Kent Thameside and Medway Transit.These make use of buses running both on dedicated bus tracks and normal streets - and could become highly cost-effective local rapid transit systems. But again it's not clear where the funding is coming from and these schemes are at risk of being scaled back. Sir Peter fears the dedicated bus track sections will be significantly reduced, which would undermine the schemes' reliability.

The big unknown is Crossrail, which in terms of cost is an order or magnitude greater than a DLR extension.As Tim Williams, chief executive of Heart of Thames Gateway and former chief executive of Thames Gateway London Partnership said: 'you can start the Thames Gateway without Crossrail, but you can't finish it.'There is still a multi-billion funding gap and, despite talk of premium fares and land value capture to bridge this, a workable funding mechanism is yet to appear.Tony McNulty said last month that Crossrail had reached the stage of 'how and when, not whether' and, although there were still big issues to contend with, completion should be between 2013 and 2015.