View from the chamber: Responsible thing would have been to press for Tube services to be restored...
- Credit: Oliver Cooper
As we move slowly but steadily towards the new normal, we’re all looking to build back better: restoring what works, revising what needs it, and revolutionising where it would make things better for residents.
Judging by my inbox, residents want a healthy balance between the three. All too often, Camden Council has been in the clouds, focusing on revolution, not the restoration or revision. If there’s one example that sticks out, it’s transport. I’m talking about the restoration, and in particular TfL’s restoration of services at our tube stations – or, rather, their failure to restore them.
Just 12 stations across London are still not operating dawn until dusk seven days a week. Of those 12, fully half serve Camden: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Chalk Farm, Swiss Cottage, Goodge Street and Chancery Lane.
This shutting down of public transport has caused gigantic harm to residents and businesses. Small independent businesses in particular are hardest hit. As the Ham&High reported two weeks ago, it is hitting some businesses in Hampstead and threatening the survival of the High Street.
It also means less social distancing – residents from Hampstead have to walk to Belsize Park and residents from Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill are forced to go to Camden Town, crowding out those stations.
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I’m relieved some stations are opening up – with Hampstead opening at weekends from this week and Chalk Farm opening at all for the first time in months.
But that only happened after I made the case myself several times and then met the government’s minister for London so he could intervene.
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A condition of the £1.6bn bailout the government gave the mayor was restoring all services to all stations so as to maximise capacity and allow more social distancing. Asking for that promise to be kept was, I thought, the responsible thing to do. To my astonishment, Camden admitted this week it had not asked TfL even once to reopen stations or restore them to full service.
Furthermore, the council is the landlord of almost 100 businesses on Hampstead’s Heath Street and nearby. Any major landlord would lobby for public transport to be restored nearby, yet Camden didn’t. The council’s Labour councillors love to talk about revolutionary new schemes that win architectural prizes or how much it doesn’t like national policy. But the more prosaic truth is that good government means listening to residents, hearing what affects their lives, and then acting on that. And if residents want things retained or restored, it’s up to a well-run council to do that too.