Thamesmead hit the news again last week with regard to yet another scheme to help the denizens across the river. This time, though, we’re talking a ferry crossing rather than a bridge or a tunnel. I’ve heard rumour that this may be in order to replace the Woolwich Ferry, which surprises me since I’d no idea it was going anywhere.
The whole thing is wrapped up in a lot of politics, and there is a disproportionate amount of comment in the press surrounding what people in Bexley think about it all. The plans were announced by Boris Johnson last week, and many say that it’s an attempt to appease those he angered by cancelling the previously considered bridge. It seems, though, that the plans don’t come to much more than hot air at the moment. The whole thing is meant to happen within ten years – which is a long time to wait, and as yet it seems no funding has been secured.
As a resident the ten year part of the whole thing makes it seem like something vaguely surreal. I have no idea where I’m going to be in my life in ten years time. I’m reasonably settled but I don’t really have much idea what’s around the corner. Even those who would welcome the crossing are unlikely to get excited about something so distant – kids age and change massively in ten years, people retire, redundancies happen. I can’t get excited about something so far away.
Excited? Well, kind of, yes. I think it would be good to have an extra way to head north without getting closer to the city than I already am. It would be good to see journeys that don’t involve trains and tubes into London and back out again if I want to visit somewhere likey Leyton. I think I might well use such a crossing, while it’s counter-intuitive to go to Woolwich for that ferry service. Whether it would serve me as a foot passenger, I’m not sure. It would depend somewhat on cost. Free? Covered by my Oyster travelcard? In that case it’s a possibility. Although it still depends somewhat on the onward travel options. The crossing would reach between Gallions Reach and Silvertown, which is not especially convenient for me in the southern part of Thamesmead, but it is likely to affect the town as a whole. Assuming the roads can cope with the influx of traffic (and I like to think, maybe naively, that such things have been thought through), it should put the area back on the map and let it be known for something more than being a failed new town and that crime ridden area where all of A Clockwork Orange was filmed because it had the right reputation. (Actually only one scene was filmed locally, and it bestowed that dubious reputation on the area, rather than being the inspiration and, well, come on, it was decades ago!)
What is promising, to some degree, is that good transport links make an area more desirable, and when there are enough residents they make demands. Perhaps Thamesmead Town might start to resemble more of a town centre, and less of a minor retail park bolted onto a village centre. I believe there are around fifty thousand residents in the area but we have no cinema or significant leisure facility. We don’t have a weekly market. Worse, there’s not even a bank. And for a place that’s so often linked with the word “deprivation” you’d have thought there would be a job centre, but no, residents have to go all the way to Bexleyheath for that.
It’s not awful, though. The train service gives us Dartford ten minutes down the line to the east, and Woolwich five minutes to the west. There are buses serving Woolwich and Greenwich.
In terms of leisure facilities, it will be interesting to see what the new initiatives, The Link and the Sporting Club shape up. We have a modest library and a small leisure centre with a swimming pool.
I’m reasonably confident that should this crossing come to pass it will do good, but I feel that Cross Rail is our biggest hope. Only time will tell for sure.
Some example stories regarding the transport plans: