The extension of the Northern Line - how will the Monopoly board cope?

South London gets its tube stations.

 

North Londoners often joke that if south London is so great, why aren't there more Tube stations there? A proposed new extension of the Northern Line aims to redress the balance somewhat, with a new branch extending from Kennington to new stations at Nine Elms and Battersea.

As well as literally branching out into new territory, the £1bn project is also drawing attention for the unique financial scheme that will pay for it if it goes ahead. In a first for an infrastructure project in England, an innovative funding package has been agreed under which the Greater London Authority will borrow the cost of development from the Public Works Loan Board. The government will guarantee the repayment to minimise borrowing costs.

The loan will be repaid by revenue raised from local regeneration projects that will benefit from the new transport links. The two sources will be contributions by local developers collected by the Lambeth and Wandsworth local authorities; and the growth in business rates revue from a new Enterprise Zone planned for Nine Elms, which will stay in operation for at least 25 years.

Enterprise Zones usually offer incoming businesses a discount on their rates bills to stimulate growth and investment. Under this proposal, it would be used purely as a mechanism to fund the Northern Line extension.

Final details of the financing package now need to be agreed by Wandsworth Council, Lambeth Council and Transport for London (TfL), working with the Mayor of London's Office, for inclusion in an application that TfL plans to submit under the Transport and Works Act by the end of April 2013.

Leader of Wandsworth Council, Ravi Govindia, said: "This project could represent a major breakthrough in the way we pay for vital infrastructure projects in this country. We plan to use an enterprise zone as a funding tool for a major transport upgrade, which in turn, will create new growth, new jobs and even greater tax receipts in the future.

"Over the long term the scheme would pay for itself while delivering a major economic and inward investment stimulus for London. It would give Battersea its first underground station and help bring an underused part of the Thames riverside back to life.

Although businesses attracted to the area will not benefit from the usual rates discount, the local economy stands to receive a boost from the creation of as many as 25,000 new jobs and the building of 16,000 new homes across the Nine Elms on the South Bank regeneration area.

The proposals have received a healthy thumbs-up from local residents, with around three quarters of people responding to a third public consultation on the new Tube link with positive or neutral comments.

Michèle Dix, managing director of Planning for TfL, said: "This third public consultation very much confirms that there is very strong support for this transport link. These two new Tube stations at Battersea and Nine Elms will create access to the London Underground for thousands of people, as well as cutting journey times from this part of London to the West End and the City to around 15 minutes."

TfL also says it would reduce pressure on Vauxhall station, offer relief to the existing Northern Line south of Kennington and provide wider access to leisure and employment opportunities for local people.

Having lobbied in his own inimitable style for the Northern Line extension, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has welcomed the progress made to date on the funding scheme.

"I am delighted that after months of intensive discussions and hard work we have got the go ahead from government on financing an extension to the Northern Line, which is hugely significant as Nine Elms is one of the areas with the greatest prospect for new development in the whole of the capital," he said.

"It will be an incredible confidence boost for developers preparing to invest there and it will also be a considerable boost for local people who will benefit from the new Tube link."

As officials from the Mayor's Office and TfL finalise arrangements for financing of the extension with the government, a consultation is also underway for the extension itself, which must be carried out before the Transport and Works Act Order is submitted.

If planning approval is obtained from the government and a funding package is in place, construction on the Northern Line extension could begin in 2015, with the two new stations opening as early as 2020.

The go-ahead on a financing plan is the latest in a series of milestones the wider regeneration programme has achieved in the last year. Significantly, a new buyer has been confirmed for the iconic Battersea Power Station site where 3,400 new homes, a new office quarter, a retail centre, new hotels and an entertainment district will be built.

Once that is finalised, it only remains for the designers of the Tube map and the Monopoly board to squeeze in the new look Northern Line.

This article first appeared here

Tube goes south. Photograph: Getty Images

Berenice Baker is Defence Editor at Strategic Defence Intelligence.

Photo: Getty
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How a small tax rise exposed the SNP's anti-austerity talk for just that

The SNP refuse to use their extra powers to lessen austerity, says Kezia Dugdale.

"We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity."

With those few words, Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year that the SNP were a party opposed to public spending cuts. We all remember the general election TV debates, where the First Minister built her celebrity as the leader of the anti-austerity cause.

Last week, though, she was found out. When faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future or imposing cuts to our schools, Nicola Sturgeon chose cuts. Incredible as it sounds the SNP stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to vote for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts to schools and other vital public services, rather than asking people to pay a little bit more to invest. That's not the choice of an anti-austerity pin-up. It's a sell-out.

People living outside of Scotland may not be fully aware of the significant shift that has taken place in politics north of the border in the last week. The days of grievance and blaming someone else for decisions made in Scotland appear to be coming to an end.

The SNP's budget is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. It will impose hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local public services - including our schools. We don't know what cuts the SNP are planning for future years because they are only presenting a one year budget to get them through the election, but we know from the experts that the biggest cuts are likely to come in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For unprotected budgets like education that could mean cuts of 16 per cent.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. The Scottish Parliament has the power to stop these cuts, if only we have the political will to act. Last week I did just that.

I set out a plan, using the new powers we have today, to set a Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would raise an extra half a billion pounds, giving us the chance to stop the cuts to education and other services. Labour would protect education funding in real terms over the next five years in Scotland. Faced with the choice of asking people to pay a little bit more to invest or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, the choice was pretty simple for me - I won't support cuts to our nation’s future prosperity.

Being told by commentators across the political spectrum that my plan is bold should normally set alarm bells ringing. Bold is usually code for saying something unpopular. In reality, it's pretty simple - how can I say I am against cuts but refuse to use the powers we have to stop them?

Experts - including Professors David Bell and David Eiser of the University of Stirling; the Resolution Foundation; and IPPR Scotland - have said our plan is fair because the wealthiest few would pay the most. Trade unions have backed our proposal, because they recognise the damage hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts will do to our schools and the jobs it will cost.

Council leaders have said our plan to pay £100 cashback to low income taxpayers - including pensioners - to ensure they benefit from this plan is workable.

The silliest of all the SNP's objections is that they won't back our plan because the poorest shouldn't have to pay the price of Tory austerity. The idea that imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools and public services won't make the poorest pay is risible. It's not just the poorest who will lose out from cuts to education. Every single family and business in Scotland would benefit from having a world class education system that gives our young the skills they need to make their way in the world.

The next time we hear Nicola Sturgeon talk up her anti-austerity credentials, people should remember how she did nothing when she had the chance to end austerity. Until now it may have been acceptable to say you are opposed to spending cuts but doing nothing to stop them. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. It makes for the most important, and most interesting, election we’ve had in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of Scottish Labour.