By Kiro Evans, Local Democracy Reporter
The Government is facing calls to extend the Elizabeth Line to Kent just days after the massive transport project opened.
The leader of Bexley council said having the new line go beyond Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet would be vital to support “hard-pressed communities”.
The new train service, originally known as Crossrail, opened to huge acclaim this week as commuters lined up to praise the new transport system.
Those in South-east London now face a far quicker journey to destinations in Central London like Tottenham Court Road and Paddington.
But Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill said that the Elizabeth Line should not stop at Abbey Wood.
She said: “The original vision for Crossrail was that it continue through Bexley and into north Kent.
“It was only dropped because of uncertainties over growth and worries about delays.
“We think we have shown in our recent work that these are no longer significant issues.
“The Elizabeth Line is a world class transport system that will blow people away, but we can’t stop there.
“We have got to make sure that we make the most of all this knowledge and investment, and that we spread the benefit as widely as possible.
“The opening of the line offers a unique opportunity to commit to doing that and show we are not content to rest on our laurels.”
Her comments were echoed by Government-appointed Estuary Envoy Kate Willard.
She leads the Thames Estuary Growth Board, an organisation which seeks out new opportunities to help grow South East England.
Ms Willard said: “Bringing the new service to Abbey Wood is a game-changer – but we now need to complete the vision and connect Ebbsfleet and communities in Bexley, Dartford, Gravesham and – through greater connectivity – coastal east Kent, which are amongst the Government’s top priorities for levelling up.
“Completing the line would bring new capacity, resilience and rail destinations to some of our hardest pressed estuary communities.”
Plans have previously been presented to ministers by the C2E Partnership that explored expanding transport links between Abbey Wood and Gravesend in 2020.
Cllr O’Neill added: “The Government is yet to respond to the submission, but the partnership considers that the celebrations around the opening of the Elizabeth Line are just the right time to kick on with the project.”
Pictured top: London Mayor Sadiq Khan was at the centre of a media scrum as he visited the new Woolwich Elizabeth Line station on Tuesday of this week (Picture: Kiro Evans)