One of the main talking points tonight was the idea of an integrated transport interchange, let’s call it the ITI. Quite rightly Labour transport spokesman Bassam Mahfouz raised the £40-50 million cost of what SEC is proposing. Some time was spent discussing ideas of how this kind of money could be raised. One American lady wanted to tax users of the station. Bassam himself proposed and quickly withdrew the idea of using a local congestion charge.
The idea that this amount of cash is going to come from central government or TfL over the next decade is a total non-starter. To give some idea of scale the over-sized Arcadia development was only ever going to produce £10 million of Section 106 contributions. These contributions need to cover all sorts of local issues they can’t all go to transport. If you built ten Arcadias in Ealing town centre you could perhaps fund the ITI. For another idea of scale the council’s capital budget is about £50 million per annum. This needs to pay for new schools (about £50-60 million), new road surfaces (about £25 million), I could go on.
One sensible member of the public made the point that we don’t want buses lurking in Ealing town centre, we want them to pass through and spend their lurking time elsewhere.
This idea really is the most fantastical that SEC are pursuing. I am not complacent about the quality or usability of what is provided at Ealing Broadway station. I have been using it myself since 1987. It is just dishonest though to be promoting a set of ideas that have no hope of going anywhere. There are lots of small things that can be done to improve Ealing Broadway Station. The ITI is not the answer.
Of course one reason that SEC are pursuing this notion, however impractical it is in the current financial climate or any near future climate, is because they think it is an unbearable burden to load up on to any scheme proposed on the Arcadia site. Remember what the planning inspector said about this:
I fully appreciate the desirability of adopting an integrated approach to development and transport planning, and national policy encourages that approach. Nevertheless I do not consider that it would be appropriate, or reasonable, to inhibit or delay a development of the appeal site which was desirable in other respects, provided the development itself would not prejudice the achievement of these objectives.
In other words the Arcadia site shouldn’t get in the way of better transport but it can’t reasonably be expected to provide it.