Monday 11 December 2023

Environment Monday - WIll Brent Cross West make a difference?

 Yesterday, Brent Cross West station opened. I was quite tempted to go down for a mosey, but thought the better of it. I felt that there would be a little bit too much back slapping and people saying what a marvellous job they were doing fopr my tastes. The station is a mere six minutes down the line from Mill Hill Broadwayand so at some point, when things are quieter, I will deffo have a look. The main problem for me at the moment, is that it is a station without a point. There is a rather grotty and run down adjacent retail park and an enormous building site. There are few houses. It is not really very near Brent Cross shopping Centre at all. If there was a rapid transport link between the station, the shopping centre and the tube station, it would transform public transport in the locality, but that was never part of the scheme.

However, the station hasn't been built for today, it's been built for 10 years time when tens of thousands of people move into the flats. For once, TFL and Barnet Cuncil have planned ahead and put infrastructure in first, which is a very good thing. For me, the real game changer will come when the West London Orbital rail link is built, linking Brent Cross West with Old Oak Common, HS2 and The Elizabeth line. When this opens, a rapid transport link would be even more significant and useful. 

As this feature looks at the environmental benefits of such schemes, the question is whether Brent Cross West will make a major difference to Barnet's CO2 emissions. Of course, anything that removes car journeys, will have a beneficial effect. The Thameslink line is in situ and the station will offer fast journeys to central London for the residents of the area. One could point out that the whole Brent Cross development will generate millions of tons of CO2, but as there is a housing crisis, we really have little choice. 

In truth, the big game changer is not the station, but the Thameslink project, that delivered a high capacity rail link, and took the best part of 35 years from it's opening in the late 80's as a rather ramshackle link, to the current, high capacity railway. I believe it is now the busiest main line railway in the country. That it took so long to deliver the benefits is a lesson just how bad the UK are at doing infrastructure. The West London Orbital is another example, the blog link above is to a blog written in 2018. Thus far, we are still at the study and planning stage. 

If the UK is to succeed as a nation, we need a rethink on how we deliver projects like Thameslink and the West London Orbital line. The Elizabeth Line is now exceeding projections and is packed. This brings economic opportunities without creating pollution. So yes, I welcome Brent Cross West. I suspect though, that until the West London Orbital link is delivered, it will be rather more grand than the paassenger numbers require. One thing that demonstrates just how badly we plan things is that Mill Hill Broadway, that had over 2 million passengers a year in 2019, still doesn't have step free access. 

I don't really understand why politicians are always more keen to deliver shiny new projects, than to get the existing infrastructure, that is needed now, not in ten years time, working properly.

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