Political figures in south-east London have expressed fury over the possibility of the Docklands Light Railway extension to Thamesmead being axed.

One local councillor said his residents “have not had the same opportunities as other Londoners” due to decades of poor transport links in the area.

Cllr Sizwe James, Greenwich Council’s transport, environment and sustainability cabinet member, also accused the Government of playing “political football” with Transport for London’s finances, and called for “concrete actions” to ensure the future of the extension. 

“As a Thamesmead councillor, I know first hand just how vital the DLR extension will be in regenerating the community I represent,” he told the local democracy reporting service.

“For too long, Thamesmead has been cut off, and my residents have not had the same opportunities as other Londoners.”

The comments comes after TfL warned last month it faced “very difficult choices” over which of its development projects could be “funded and completed”, as it unveiled a revised budget appealing for an extra £2 billion in emergency Government funds to get it through 2020.

It warned that some projects would require “further certainty over Government support before they could be progressed”.

This Is Local London: Thamesmead ward member and cabinet member for transport Sizwe James.Thamesmead ward member and cabinet member for transport Sizwe James.

Among the projects mentioned were the Crossrail 2 rail link, the Bakerloo Line extension, and the DLR extension to Thamesmead, which have a combined cost of £28.8bn.

Uncertainty over the Bakerloo extension to Lewisham was revealed by the local democracy reporting service in May.

Cancelling the DLR extension to Thamesmead would ensure the area remains one of London’s most poorly-connected in regards to public transport.

While it has been mooted for the past decade, firm plans to extend the DLR from Gallions Reach were finally put out for public consultation by TfL late last year.

It was part of a “high-growth”, major regeneration plan which would see more than 15,000 new homes developed across the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood area.

It would have provided a major facelift for Thamesmead, which has received comparatively little investment since the 1960s when the former marshland experienced a boom in social housing construction in a bid to address a post-war  homes shortage.

Cllr James confirmed that, prior to the funding crisis, Greenwich Council figures “were working loosely” with TfL on potential route alignments for the proposal.

He accused the Government of showing “no real commitment” to funding the project, which he said would “create thousands of homes and access to thousands of jobs”.

This Is Local London: While much of the Thames riverside has undergone significant regeneration, the area still suffers from a lack of public transport. While much of the Thames riverside has undergone significant regeneration, the area still suffers from a lack of public transport.

“I’m deeply concerned that as the pandemic has continued, the Government have chosen to play political football with TFL, and their actions have now meant projects like the DLR extension are at risk,” the Labour councillor said.

“We’ve been pushing for a DLR extension to serve this area for many years, so for its future to be in jeopardy is very disappointing…It is about time their hollow promises turned into concrete actions and my community receives the investment it needs.”

His thoughts were echoed by the MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Abena Oppong-Asare, who said the proposal would provide a “huge uplift” to thousands of residents post-pandemic.

The Labour MP revealed that 12,000 of her constituents had been furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic, while another 1,600 had applied for Universal Credit, with better transport to jobs potentially providing an economic life-life to many.

She accused Government hard-balling over the TfL budget of being “counter-productive to creating economic growth which is what we should be focussing on if we want to secure jobs and rebuild the economy post-Covid”.

 “If the Government wants to promote an economic recovery from the pandemic it should not be looking at ditching the DLR extension which would connect Erith and Thamesmead with the centre of the capital,” she said.

This Is Local London: The extension of the DLR to Thamesmead would have potentially resulted in two new stations being built on the route. The extension of the DLR to Thamesmead would have potentially resulted in two new stations being built on the route.

Bexley Council’s Conservative leader Teresa O’Neill, whose authority boundary sits to the east of Thamesmead, was ambiguous when asked of the council’s stance on the issue.

“Covid-19 has had an immeasurable impact on services up and down the country. The way people travel and use public transport has changed and no one knows when we may return to the previous level of use,” she said.

“We will all learn from this difficult period and we will continue to lobby to make sure our residents and businesses have the best possible transport infrastructure to help build a better Bexley.”

Uncertainty over the future of TfL’s project is one part of major political fight that has erupted over the organisation’s funding, after the Government stumped up a £1.6 billion bailout in May to cover a financial blackhole caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative Greenwich councillor Charlie Davis, commenting on uncertainty over the Bakerloo Line extension in June, took aim at London Mayor Sadiq Khan and what he called “the poor financial management of the Labour administration at City Hall”.

“Even now, the Mayor refuses to take responsibility for this issue and provide the leadership required to guide TfL through this challenging period,” he said.