HomeGovernanceA week in parliament: Beam Park, the IRP and "adaptive" investment

A week in parliament: Beam Park, the IRP and “adaptive” investment

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Beam Park station

Frustration was aired in Parliament by Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, who raised the issue of Beam Park Station – which has not gone ahead despite widespread support and residents saying they bought houses in the expectation it would.

Jon Cruddas, MP; credit: official portrait

Cruddas said the station was key to further housing developments on the A1306. He added those that had bought houses were seeing the value of them “fast depreciating”. “They feel that they have been deceived,” he said, adding existing residents had not opposed plans for new housing in anticipation of the new infrastructure.

He said: “Beam Park station is an example of how not to regenerate local communities and how to maximise cynicism and anger in them. People feel manipulated and exploited by the planning system. It is a story of promises made and subsequently withdrawn once consent has been secured.”

He said it had won support at every step before the scheme fell away at government level: “It was signed off by the Conservative mayor, the Conservative council and developers, and had secured the backing of the Conservative government, or so we were all led to believe – for example, by the way that Network Rail was involved in progressing the project throughout the process. Network Rail was a willing partner. The Network Rail route utilisation plan from July 2020 describes Beam Park as a ‘committed scheme’. Once operational, the station was to be transferred to the franchise operator c2c, who would have ongoing responsibility for the station. Once again, c2c was a willing partner.”

He said Beam Park would have alleviated pressure at other stations for c2c.

Conservative MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell backed him, saying to take the benefits away “would be a betrayal of the people of Rainham, South Hornchurch and the London Borough of Havering.”

In reply, under-secretary of state for transport Wendy Morton said they were committed to levelling up, but that value for money had to be there. She said the Greater London Authority (GLA) had to provide financial assurance it would do so, or the UK government was not in a position to back the development. She said the new station would mean an extra train and crew, which had not originally been factored in, and that an extra station would add more time for Essex commuters.

Wendy Morton, under-secretary of state for transport ; credit: official portrait

“The department’s concern throughout the process has been to ensure that we are held immune from all financial risk caused by a new station at Beam Park,” she said. “The GLA’s offer of a £10 million capped amount limited to a 10-year period is not acceptable to the department.

“The GLA’s offer does not cover the full cost risk we believe Beam Park station imports; it would need to be unlimited in both time and cost. In addition, the GLA business case was prepared and approved prior to the covid pandemic; passenger volumes are now significantly lower than previously forecast. Ticket revenue from Beam Park is unlikely to cover the additional costs in the short term, and it may not do so even in the long term.

“Let me take the opportunity to clarify that the department has not withdrawn support for the development of the station; support was never given in the first instance.”

She added that “the department’s position is to look for a commitment to hold the department immune from any financial risk we believe the new station presents. The department fully supports the housing development in Beam Park and the wider Dagenham and Rainham area, and continues to work alongside the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to assist with strategy and planning.

“We will provide support to develop and enhance the existing stations, and we encourage local stakeholders and the GLA to focus their attention on opportunities to improve access to those stations by improving street access where the former industrial land use made station access difficult from parts of the surrounding area.”

Is the IRP adaptable?

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, MP credit: official portrait

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough, Lab) said that poor public transport connectivity was an issue in Liverpool: “The majority of short trips – under 5 km – are made by car, and as a result, the region has a significant air pollution issue. In the Liverpool city region alone, over 1,000 deaths a year are linked to this silent killer.

“On public transport, 80% of journeys are taken by bus, yet bus fares have risen by 40%, and routes have been mercilessly cut nationally.

“Rates of active travel, such as walking and cycling, are relatively low, making up just 4.5% and 1% of journeys respectively.

“Given the population and the scale of the region, rail connectivity across the region and further afield is poor.”

He lamented changes to HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail brought by the Integrated Rail Plan.

He said: “A London-style integrated transport system is what they want. True devolution is required from government, not mere soundbites. Significant funding is needed to meet the challenge ahead.”

Andrew Stephenson, MP; credit: official portrait

Minister of state for transport, Andrew Stephenson, however, suggested the implications of the IRP are more flexible than many might expect: “I am aware of the call from northern leaders for more discussions. I am happy to have those discussions, both with the Mayor and with other northern leaders, to see how we can progress a variety of schemes. It is fair to say that I spoke to all the northern leaders regularly when considering the integrated rail plan and drawing it up. The Secretary of State met northern leaders through the Northern Transport Acceleration Council, which he founded.

“He also worked with Transport for the North to bring together a wealth of evidence and come up with the plan, but I am more than happy to continue to speak to the Mayor and others to ensure that we take local communities with us as we progress the plans. As we said in the plan, we take an adaptive approach towards investment. We are keen to continue to work with the Liverpool city region and others on delivery of the plans.”

Official Parliamentary portraits licence can be found here.

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