Petitioners Call For 'A Station Fit For Ealing'
Eric Leach reviews events of the last full council meeting
Save Ealing Centre (SEC) was finally able to present its petition for improvements to Ealing Broadway Station at the April 15 meeting of the full Ealing Council. A previous date that had been set to do so having been mysteriously cancelled for reasons that remain unclear.
However, the event did not proceed as entirely as expected, and for those who had never before been to such a meeting, the evening turned out to be a dispiriting example of local democracy in action in Ealing. Being the Council’s last meeting before the local elections most of the Councillors were in de-mob mood. Many seemed to treat SEC’s petition as one of the turns put on for their entertainment.
Having been kept safely out of sight for a half hour of valedictory speeches the three petitioners were ushered into the chamber and told to stand to attention in front of a table full of an assortment of silver trophies.
Sue New of Transport for All handed the petition with 2293 signatures to the Mayor of Ealing, Kamaljit Dhindsa. Will French of SEC and Nick Woolven of CENF were then invited to explain what it was about.
Will French reminded the Council that pledges to sort out Ealing Broadway’s overcrowding date back 35 years. He said the scheme recently unveiled by Crossrail is a huge disappointment. Cost cutting since the Crossrail Act means no escalators and a more cramped ticket hall. While planning for other stations along the Crossrail route has made great strides things have stood still in Ealing. Compared with less busy stations, figures suggest Crossrail is putting little more than peanuts into Ealing. Will French applauded the Council’s decision to resist Crossrail’s plans and he urged the Council to show it would fight for Ealing and take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity.
Nick Woolven, Chair of the Central Ealing Neighbourhood Forum explained the importance of the Station to the prosperity of the town centre and the borough as a whole. He wanted to know how many more passengers would use the station when Crossrail starts, as this would determine if there’s enough capacity. He also wanted to know what planning has been done about how people will get to and from the station. How many new buses will there be? Nick Woolven insisted on the importance of open and meaningful public consultation, including with local businesses and landowners.
The Council and opposition parties then had 20 minutes to respond. Most of them did so to a backdrop of cat calls and barracking and without addressing the key points the petitioners put to them.
Bassam Mafouz, portfolio holder in charge of transport in the Council, thanked SEC for organising the petition. He agreed Crossrail’s plans were not good enough. The Council had therefore rejected them and appointed its own architects to come up with alternatives. He said the Council has already done a lot to improve the station, such as removing the wall in the front of the entrance. Drivers can now set down passengers in the forecourt. This was just temporary, but something permanent will be planned.
Phil Taylor for the Conservative party criticised the Council who had not followed up on work by the previous administration. He said time has run out and it was too late to expect Crossrail to put in a decent station. For the Liberal Democrats, Jon Ball said that so many passenger use the station excalators should be provided. He dismissed the idea that work recently done at the entrance improve things very much.
After the 20 minutes allotted to the debate, the Mayor abruptly brought things to a halt by declaring that the petition would be noted and the three petitioners were ushered from the chamber.
Speaking after the meeting on behalf of the petitioners, Will French said people from all over the Borough had signed the petition because they were fed up with the dismal state of the station. His elderly father can no longer visit him by underground simply because the stairs are too steep and too high. He was therefore very pleased a matter of such importance to so many people had at least been discussed by the Council. He was disappointed that none of the key requests he had put to the Council were answered,
This saga now moves to the House of Commons, where MP Angie Bray has organised a meeting later this month at which Crossrail will unveil a new scheme. For the first time local groups will have a chance to comment and then the plans will be amended and put out to public consultation in May. It is a testimony to Ms Bray for having engineered the meeting, but it is a very unusual way to go about an exercise like this. In most other cases it is something a local Council would take the initiative to do.
23rd April 2014