I have an insanely busy couple of weeks ahead of me but when they are over I think I will volunteer my copywriting and editorial services to the campaign team. I have emailed written a letter to my MP:
Borough Market is a vital focus of the Southwark area and attracts thousands of visitors each week. It was recently named themost popular 'day out' destination for Londoners. It has also just undergone a major - and extremely expensive - refurbishment to restore the ironwork to its original Victorian glory. The Market should not be moved at all without a full public enquiry to examine the need to do so. It should certainly not be moved to accommodate expansion of London Bridge station unless the various companies involved can guarantee it will be relocated within the same quarter mile, as a number of independent local businesses will suffer if it is no longer drawing people to their neighbourhood.
Nor should the market be moved unless the various rail, construction and retail companies who will profit from the expansion can provide incontrovertible evidence that a larger station will result in significant and sustained improvements to the level of service provided to rail passengers. Since the privatisation of BR, a major focus of station expansion - at Waterloo and Liverpool St (and currently at King's Cross) has been to create rental space for retail and catering units. Liverpool St has been crammed with additional layers of generic mall-style shop buildings which have destroyed the spatial integrity and harmony of the original listed structure without demonstrating any kind of design innovation or aesthetic merit. At both Waterloo and Liverpool St profits from the leasing have spiralled since the refurbishments but passenger service levels have, in real terms, declined. The number and frequency of trains has been reduced; levels of cleanliness and reliability have not improved and the occurence of recorded near-misses or SPADs (signals passed at danger) has remained the same or increased.
The expansion of the London Stations in my lifetime has been obscenely expensive and designed to achieve short-term political and financial goals. Nowhere is this more evident than Waterloo. The Waterloo and City Line was a magnificent feat of engineering and provided much needed service to Londoners, but a few years after its inauguration the lift - the largest and most expensive in the world - that was designed to transport the rolling stock and maintenance machinery to its tracks was buried and rendered unusable by the construction of the Eurostar Terminal. In a couple of years this Eurostar terminal will be closed and relocated to another new, expensive development at King's Cross. South West Trains currently has no plans to redevelop the signalling and access to these platforms to enable them to provide relief to the mainline station, where the majority of peak time delays are caused by a lack of platforms for trains to pull into, but have indicated that this area will be used to provide additional services to passenger, i.e. shops.
In common with all the other London rail users who do not have shares in the rail companies or chain stores involved, all I require from a rail service is that it is runs safe, reliable, regular and prompt trains from clean stations equipped with basic passenger facilities. I might want to buy a newspaper, a sandwich and cup of coffee or go to the lavatory. I do not want to be kept hanging about on the station so long that I become so desperate for distraction that I have time to buy humorously patterned socks or inflatable armchairs or gold-plated jewellery from one of range of stores I could find in any - every- High St or shopping centre. In the case of London Bridge I do not want the added despair of knowing that after the expansion the train still won't run on time, still won't have a seat for me, still won't be clean or even safe, but that a showcase of the best produce the UK can produce (from traditonal Lamb from a guild of farms in the Lake District to innovative Caribbean-style chocolates from a cottage industry enterprise in Brixton), a market whose re-invigoration has helped to regenerate and promote one of London's poorest boroughs and demonstrate its unique character, a magnificent culinary and cultural asset to London has been destroyed in the name of an ill-conceived expansion that will benefit no one but the executives and shareholders of a range of construction, rail and retail companies.