Residents of Chelsea were recently invited by Transport for London (TfL) to attend a consultation on the route and tube site options for the Chelsea stretch of the proposed Crossrail 2 line, which is planned to connect Battersea to Hackney.
Our response to previous local consultations on this had ranged from strong and critical questioning to downright opposition to the need for another tube station to be sited in Chelsea at all – given that we are already served by Sloane Square and South Kensington tube stations and an excellent bus service.
Despite this a Chelsea stop on the route had not been derailed. So we duly attended this latest “consultation” at Chelsea Town Hall about this expensive scheme.
What follows were my immediate observations and the questions this exercise left hanging:
Firstly, the term ‘consultation’ proved somewhat misleading as a description. Yes, there were representatives from TfL to answer questions but since no officials from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) graced the proceedings many of questions we asked drew a blank, referred, as they were, back by TfL to RBKC.
We had to rely on TfL for what it was our local borough wanted from the scheme – and which of the two tube station site options (Chelsea West or Kings Road Fire Station) they favoured, or none at all.
We were told that what RBKC had really wanted was a Chelsea West station as part of a wider redevelopment of The Cremorne Estate in SW10 but that this had been successfully resisted by local residents.
However, in the absence of any direct communication from RBKC (until after the consultation closed) whether RBKC did support this or the alternative Kings Rd Fire Station site – or the third option of no Chelsea stop at all – remained unclear.
Given that a Chelsea stop would only add to the journey time on the line between Battersea and Hackney, our first question was why it was being proposed at all since either site would come at a cost of £1bn.
Answers were not forthcoming.
Nor were they on questions posed about the footprint of the Kings Roads Fire Station site. It transpired TFL did not know. They couldn’t say what area the development would cover either – whether it would be larger than the current area reserved for it (the Fire Station and Dovehouse Square) or whether it would include the shops on the opposite corner of Kings Road and Oakley Street, or not.
Nor could TfL enlighten us as to either how tall the building above the station would be. Or how this part of the King’s Road would subsequently look.
They were similarly unable to provide any information as to the number of passengers forecast to get on and off at the station, though one might be forgiven for thinking this was necessary information and critical for them to justify it.
Given the previous stop is Clapham Junction, would the trains be full when they reach Chelsea? Would people be able to get on and off? They didn’t know.
It became clear that TfL had not done even the most basic of research. They even seemed unaware how close South Kensington tube station is to the new site. They also curiously claimed that it takes 20 minutes to get out at South Ken (implying I suppose that having a Chelsea station would relieve this problem) though no one attending the meeting had ever taken this time.
Astonishingly, since South Kensington tube seemed such a significant factor for justifying a Chelsea station, they omitted it from the map used in the consultation. One might ask why?
TfL seemed remarkably vague too as to who asked or continues to ask for a Chelsea Station option in the first place or indeed who it would be for the benefit of – the locality, visitors or for the retail property value of the development itself?
By this stage we had given up hope of any information on the impacts on traffic of both construction and operation. There was none.
Concerned about this absence of information, and since TfL has made the consultation such a matter of urgency (it ended a few days later on July 25th), who were we to ask? Not TfL clearly.
RBKC were nowhere to be seen. None of the necessary information had been made available, yet local residents were expected to make up their minds and give a verdict on a billion pound project that would disrupt and irretrievably change the character of this part of historic Chelsea.
But TfL will say we have been consulted. Their box has been ticked.
The arrival of a RBKC letter today dealing with some of our questions (nine days after we asked for it to be sent to residents and two after the consultation closed) has just added insult to injury.