Former Labour transport minister Andrew Adonis has backed calls from a Croydon MP and local businesses to re-zone East Croydon and West Croydon Stations, to make it cheaper to travel between the city centre and the south London borough.
Lord Adonis attended what was described as a “summit” yesterday – it was actually just a dozen people, mainly blokes in suits, sitting round a table in Fisher’s Folly – organised by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones.
Adonis said, “I fully support Sarah’s campaign. It’s a complete no-brainer. Re-zoning these stations won’t just save commuters money – it will change perceptions of Croydon as one of London’s most important, and accessible growth areas.
“I hope all the London mayoral candidates for next year get on board and back this fantastic campaign,” Adonis said.
Which raises one point of interest: there has been a Labour Mayor of London since 2016, Sadiq Khan, and Jones has been kicking around the Zone4Croydon idea since 2014, when she was first running for parliament. Yet in nearly five years, under what should be a sympathetic London Mayor, there has been no progress on this idea.
It was perhaps significant that not among those attending yesterday’s “summit” was Heidi Alexander, London’s deputy mayor for transport, and a key influencer on any decision to re-zone Croydon’s stations (although unnamed “senior TfL officials” were said to be in attendance).
Among those who were given seats at the table were, according to a press release from Jones’s Westminster office, “representatives from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Hammerson: the companies behind the £1.4billion ‘Croydon Partnership’ town centre redevelopment”. Unmentioned in the MP’s press release was that it is this project which has terminally stalled, which was supposed to have been completed by 2017, and which has delivered nothing but development blight to Croydon town centre for eight years.
After her “summit”, Jones said that she will work alongside Lord Adonis, the council, unspecified “transport experts” and local businesses to develop the business case for “Zone4Croydon”.
Jones’s proposals – which would need approval from both the Mayor of London and the Transport Secretary – would see East and West Croydon stations move from Fare Zone 5 to a Zone 4/5 model, similar to Stratford in east London. “This means,” the press release stated, “those travelling into Croydon from outer zones would not pay more, while those commuting into London (or into Croydon from inner London) would see big savings.”
The press was not invited to attend Jones’s “summit”, so it impossible to confirm the account issued from the MP’s office that said that, “attendees… discussed numerous other ways to boost business in Croydon”, while the gorilla in the room – the failure even to have a start date for the redevelopment of the decaying Whitgift Centre – apparently went undiscussed with those “representatives” of Westfield and Hammerson.
The Zone4Croydon campaign was welcomed by local business owners – just as it was welcomed when Jones first aired it five years ago.
John Hennessy, the owner of Smoothbean coffee shop on Dingwall Road, whose business relies on the passing trade from East Croydon commuters, said, “I think this is a great idea and would be really beneficial for local businesses.
“One of the challenges we currently have is recruiting enough baristas, because the cost of getting into Croydon from inner London is more expensive than it should be.”
The re-zoning plan borrows much from the policy applied to Stratford following the 2012 Olympics, and from which huge investment and growth have followed. In a curious oversight, unmentioned in Jones’s press release was that Boris Johnson was Mayor of London when Stratford and other East London stations were re-zoned in 2014.
Jones said, “London is no longer split between a centre and the suburbs. The wave of growth around Stratford after the Olympics showed Londoners what can be achieved with the right vision and commitment. West London and north London have also had big investment in recent years.
“The only part of the compass to complete is south London, and with billions of pounds of investment and exciting local businesses, Croydon is the obvious epicentre. But we need our town to be as accessible and appealing as possible to businesses and residents.
“That’s why our Zone4Croydon campaign is so important. It will save my constituents in Croydon Central hundreds of pounds a year on their commute and give a big boost to local businesses.”
As would, of course, ensuring that Westfield and Hammerson actually deliver on their promises made in 2012 – a matter on which Jones’s press release was notably silent.
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