Councillor Maggie Carman and Mayor Sadiq Khan
Councillor Maggie Carman and Mayor Sadiq Khan

Councillor Maggie Carman calls on the community to work together to defeat plans for a coach park at Royal Oak at the Public Meeting on 5thMarch at Porchester Hall and tells the packed meeting that she has handed the Mayor a letter calling on him to think again about the plans.

“Coach travel is an essential part of the public transport system – especially given that we have the most expensive railway system in Europe. I don’t drive and if I wanted to visit my daughter and grandchildren in Cheltenham this weekend a one-way ticket, leaving on Friday morning, would cost £109 on the train and £10 on the coach.

So I am familiar with Victoria Coach Station and the problems it brings.  But this is the reason that Westminster’s Homeless services are based in Victoria. We have no such facilities in Bayswater.

With St Mary’s Hospital nearby, emergency services access is vital and would be hampered if there were hundreds of coaches clogging up our roads. Our air quality is already amongst the worst in Europe and with 640 coaches daily, the number presently using Victoria, the exhaust fumes from these vehicles is horrific to imagine.

At the previous meeting in St Stephen’s Church a resident told me that he had never been on a coach in his life.  This reminded me of the quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher, possibly apocryphal, that, a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure. I don’t suppose the 28 year old Hugh Grosvenor, the 7thDuke of Westminster, and the richest man in the world under the age of 30 and the 5thrichest man in Britain has ever been on a coach either.

It’s the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estates that own the land on which Victoria Coach Station is built. Now some of the leases are expiring.  This is prime land in Belgravia and eminently suitable for lucrative redevelopment. But I would call for some social responsibility on the part of the Grosvenor Estates.  Why not work with TfL to retain at least part of Victoria Coach Station as a central hub? The previous Duke of Westminster showed some social conscience when the Poll Tax was introduced.  Some of you will remember the Poll Tax in the 1980’s?  The Duke was appalled to find that his staff had to pay the same amount that he did and so paid their poll tax himself.

On Saturday I was at a conference where Mayor Sadiq Khan was speaking.  I had my hand up to ask him about Royal Oak but wasn’t picked to speak.  I had 3 questions

  1. Do you know about the proposal to relocate Victoria Coach Station to Royal Oak?
  2. Do you know about the concerns many local people have about it?
  3. Could you seriously look again at the coach station, or at least a part of it, remaining in Victoria for the foreseeable future and negotiating new leases from the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estates.

I was able to nab him on his way out and hand him a letter with these questions in it.  I’ve had no reply as yet but I’ll let you know if and when I do.  Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so already, why don’t you write to Sadiq or Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for TfL. And also take a petition around your street, your workplace, or yoga class.  The more letters and signatures, the more chance we have of TfL looking for an alternative solution.  I believe that by working together we can win.”

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