East London Line sell-off: having the arguments

Submitted by Janine on 22 January, 2004 - 12:08

Two weeks ago, the Hackney Gazette published a prominent article outlining local trade unionists' opposition to the privatisation of the East London Line Extension.

This has prompted a reply from a senior manager of the East London Line Project, printed in this week's Gazette. Read his letter below, followed by my reply, sent today.
NO GROUNDS FOR TUBE LINK FEARS

The concerns of individuals regarding the safety and levels of service for the proposed East London line project reported in the Gazette (January 9) are without substance and misplaced.

As such there is an urgent need to clarify the actual situation.

The residents of Hackney are rightly looking forward to getting a major enhancement to its transport infrastructure that will provide a level of service far higher than that offered today.

Much greater connections will be achieved by extending exisiting services north to Highbury & Islington, west to Clapham Junction and south to Crystal Palace and West Croydon.

Public access for Hackney residents will be optimised with four new stations at Shoreditch High Street (Bethnal Green Road), Hoxton (Cremer Street), Haggerston (Lee Street) and Dalston Junction (Dalston Lane).

Train frequency will be 60 per cent higher than current services, with 16 trains an hour running in each direction.

These considerable enhancements will only be made possible once the existing East London line track and signalling has been replaced by national rail infrastructure.

This significant development was incorporated in 2001 when responsibility to deliver the project was transferred from London Underground to the Strategic Rail Authority by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Readers should be further reassured that safety along the proposed route will be fully compliant with the requirements of the Rail Inspectorate.

In addition, secondary means of escape will enhance safety at appropriate existing stations to cater for the predicted increase in passenger numbers.

In essence, a private consortium will deliver the project. Network Rail (a not-for-profit company) will then become responsible for maintenance of infrastructure with services the responsibility of a train operating company.

Transport for London (incorporating London Underground) will remain a principal stakehlder throughout the life of the project and Underground ticketing will be valid on the service.

A further benefit which this project will deliver is increased employment opportunities. It is envisaged that 100 extra train drivers will need to be recruited to deliver the proposed level of service.

Peter Boxall
Communcations Manager
East London Line Project

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KEEP THE EAST LONDON LINE PUBLIC

Peter Boxall of the East London Line Project wants to reassure us about the privatisation of the line and its extension (Letters, 22 January). But I am not reassured at all.

Peter tells us about the benefits of extending the line into Hackney, the new stations and extra services it will bring. We know that. That is why Hackney people have campaigned for a new Tube for years.

The issue is not whether the extension is a good thing - we are all agreed that it is - but whether it should be a public service or a private enterprise. I believe that public transport should be run as a public service, not as a source of private profit.

Most people share this view, which is why opinion polls repeatedly show that three-quarters of the population want the entire railway system brought back into public ownership. With the record of the private railway in the decade since it was privatised, it should be obvious why. The last thing people want is to see a railway line that is currently publicly-run (the East London Line), franchised out to a private company.

Peter thinks we should rest easy in our beds because the line will be compliant with the Railway Inspectorate. I assume he means the same Railway Inspectorate that gave Railtrack a clean bill of health before the Hatfield crash, and which approved London Underground's 'Public-Private Partnership'. I do not share his faith.

Hackney TUC opposes this privatisation because we want to see the extension come to Hackney as a public railway. We will be campaigning alongside rail trade unions and local communities to ensure that it does.

Janine Booth
President
Hackney Trades Union Council