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Thameslink 2000 "a joke" admits transport secretary

Transport secretary Alistair Darling has admitted in the Commons that "the name is a bit of a joke". Meanwhile Borough Market residents have organised a petition to draw attention to the scheme's impact on the area.

At Tuesday's transport question time North Southwark and Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes asked Mr Darling "If he will assess the merits of an alternative north-south cross-London rail route to the proposed Thameslink route through London Bridge station."

The minister responded: "Alternative north-south cross-London rail routes have been considered at the Thameslink project public inquiry, which opened on 6 September and is expected to end in December. The inspector will subsequently write his report, which is likely be submitted to me and the Deputy Prime Minister next year."

Mr Hughes then asked a supplementary question: "The Secretary of State may know that I and many other local people gave evidence against the scheme at the inquiry. When the report reaches him, will he try to ensure that we get a north-south rail scheme across London that is not out of date, as the current one will be by the time it is completed, and that does not run out of capacity, as the current one will by the time it opens? An alternative scheme could be realised due to the change of plans for Waterloo, given that the cross-channel rail link will go elsewhere. Will he look at a scheme that either goes by Elephant and Castle and Herne Hill, or tunnels under the river, to provide the capacity that the whole rail network needs?"

Mr Darling responded: "Until we get the inspector's report, I obviously cannot pass any judgment on it. However, I say to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey and the House that the project that is known as Thameslink 2000 – we all know that the name is a bit of a joke -should have been completed five years ago. It fell at the last planning inquiry because it became so complicated that it eventually failed not on railway grounds, but due to the planning proposals on buildings that the then Railtrack submitted. Whatever the inspectorate comes up with, I hope that we will be able to do something quickly because a north-south link is badly needed by London and people who live to the north and south of London."

Local residents are collecting signatures on a petition to be sent to Mr Darling and the Deputy Prime Minister highlighting the threat posed to Borough Market by the Thameslink 2000 plans.

The petition reads:

To: The First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Transport
We oppose Network Rail's current proposals to extend the THAMESLINK line over Borough High Street and the Borough Market area. WE believe that this will disastrously affect a CONSERVATION AREA of national importance, lead to the destruction of many fine Grade 11 listed buildings, including – the Wheatsheaf Pub (loss of the top floor) all of Green Dragon Court, 16-26 Borough High Street (Smirke Terrace) and the r/o the Park Street Georgian terrace. The scheme will also destroy a popular and unspoilt film location – one of the few left in London. Construction of a new viaduct will destroy the WHOLE PRESENT CHARACTER of this neighbourhood. The scheme will be a disaster for residents and visitors, bad for businesses and the film industry. WE urge Network Rail to abandon this scheme and seek alternatives.

You can sign the petition on the Save the Borough Market Area Campaign website.

The campaign is also looking for volunteers to help collect signatures in and around the area – contact Jackie Power.

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