Cutty Sark station on the agenda

Pressure is mounting for the construction of a railway station to serve one of London's most high-profile tourist areas which includes attractions such as the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.

Greenwich council has pledged pounds 1m towards a new below ground station which would form part of the Docklands Light Railway's Lewisham extension.

London Transport, which was responsible for the extension from its inception until the Bill received Royal Assent last year, also favours the Cutty Sark scheme, saying that of all the stations on the extension it presents the 'greatest scope for attracting new passenger markets and improving revenue'.

But the London Docklands Development Corporation, which is now overseeing the project, has cast doubt over whether the pounds 13m required to build the station can be raised. The LDDC is not convinced the station, which would be sited just yards from the Cutty Sark, is a viable proposition.

The LDDC is currently trying to raise pounds 139m from the private sector for the extension to go ahead. Other tourist attractions which would benefit from the Cutty Sark station include Gipsy Moth, the boat in which Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world, the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College and the Fan Museum.

Richard Ormond, the National Maritime Museum's director, said the Cutty Sark plan would relieve tourists of the walk through the Thames foot tunnel and would shake off Greenwich's current backwater image, putting the borough on the public transport map.

Mr Ormond said both visitors to his museum and the local community would benefit from the station.

'The transport infrastructure here is pretty appalling. Everyone thinks Greenwich is outer space because it is not on the Tube network,' he said.

Referring to the recently approved below-ground DLR station at Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs, he said: 'This museum is one of the glories of England and, lo and behold, with brilliant British planning you'll have a deep station on the wrong side of the river. Where all the tourists are there's nothing.'

He estimated that a station next to the Cutty Sark could increase the number of visitors coming to the museum by DLR from 10 to 30 per cent.

About half a million people visit the museum each year, 60 per cent of them in family groups and 20 per cent in school parties.

Greenwich council decided on the pounds 1m offer at a meeting on Tuesday evening and hope that the move will tempt private landowners and companies to follow suit and invest.

However, proposals for the Cutty Sark station are by no means watertight and with the recent House of Lords ruling confirming that an underground station would definitely be constructed at Island

Gardens, the chance of another so close across the river is uncertain.

The LDDC, which is masterminding the extension, said the Cutty Sark plan is still on the table but is now dependent on funding.

'We would love to have both stations operating on either side of the river, but our advice at the moment is that it is not financially viable,' a spokeswoman said yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)

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