Labour councillors block pro-active Cycle Hire proposal

Labour councillors in Greenwich have blocked a Conservative plan that could see the Santander Cycle Hire scheme extended to Greenwich, after refusing to make a pro-active proposal to Transport for London making the case for investment.

At October’s council meeting, opposition Conservative councillors tabled a motion to commit Greenwich Council to making a formal proposal for docking stations in Greenwich Town Centre. The move follows comments from Mayor of London Boris Johnson in June that Greenwich would be a good place to expand the scheme, and comes amid continued lobbying by Conservatives in Greenwich and on the London Assembly.

The Conservative motion argued that the Cycle Hire Scheme extension is needed “for the benefit of residents and to further encourage tourism and economic growth” and that the council should pro-actively develop a proposal for linking Greenwich to the existing Cycle Hire network at Island Gardens, just 400 metres away. The plan would have seen the council nominate an initial 4 to 7 locations for docking stations in Greenwich Town Centre, in consultation with local residents.

Rejecting the plan, Labour Cabinet Member for Transport Danny Thorpe said there was “no need” for the council to be pro-active in making a proposal.   Councillor Thorpe had earlier rejected a Conservative offer of a compromise motion making explicit reference to Transport for London “bringing forward the resources required to deliver a scheme expansion”, instead instructing Labour councillors to vote down the proposal.

Councillor Matt Clare, Transport Spokesperson for Greenwich Conservatives, said: “I really do not understand why Labour councillors are blocking this. With a large cycling community and significant demand from commuters, Greenwich would be a perfect place to extend the Cycle Hire Scheme. But if the Council does not make the case for investment, then it will not happen.

“It is little wonder Greenwich is so poorly served by public transport when our own Council refuses to even make the case for investment. Conservative councillors will continue to press for the Cycle Hire Scheme to be extended to Greenwich, and I hope that Labour councillors will change their mind and join our campaign.”

Adam Thomas, newly-selected Conservative London Assembly Candidate for Greenwich & Lewisham, added: “This vote shows a total lack of ambition for Greenwich from Labour councillors. They could be backing residents by making the case for Cycle Hire in Greenwich, but instead – as with bringing the DLR to Eltham – they are choosing to sit on their hands. Residents expect their representatives to champion their interests, and will feel rightly let down.”

In February the Mayor of London, Transport for London and Santander announced a seven-year partnership to grow and develop Cycle Hire, initially run in partnership with Barclays, in a £43.75 million deal, the largest public sector sponsorship in the world. The scheme is the second largest in the Western world, with 40 million journeys over the last five years. Usage rose by a quarter last year and is now at a record high, with more than 10 million journeys made in 2014.

South East London has so far been omitted from the scheme, which has seen a total of almost 40 million journeys since its launch in 2010.

The full text of Conservative councillors’ motion at the October Full Council meeting is below

Council acknowledges the resounding success of the Mayor of London’s Cycle Hire Scheme, with over 43 million journeys made and a near doubling in size since launch in 2010 to 750 docking stations and 11,000 bikes. Further expansion is planned to the Olympic Park in March 2016 as well as 1,000 new docking points in the existing area.

Council states that its ambition is to secure the expansion of the Cycle Hire Scheme to the Royal Borough of Greenwich, for the benefit of residents and to further encourage tourism and economic growth. Council agrees with the Mayor of London that Greenwich would be a good place to expand the scheme.

Council therefore requests that the executive pro-actively develops a proposal to Transport for London for an initial expansion to Greenwich Town Centre, linking to the existing Cycle Hire network at Island Gardens, just 400 metres away. This proposal should include nominating an initial 4 to 7 locations for docking stations, in consultation with local residents and stakeholders.