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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Lies, damned lies and Council surveys

Transport for London (TfL) carried out a London-wide consultation to gauge the level of support for Crossrail 2, as proposed, amongst residents between May and August 2013. 

For some strange, and as yet unexplained reason, the Council (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) decided to run its own survey before responding to the TfL consultation. As far as we know Kensington and Chelsea was the only London borough to actually do this; every other London borough just let TfL get on with it. 

The Council's survey and its results are described on the Council's website here:


The page also contains a report on the outcome of the survey and the now infamous letter from Councillor Timothy Coleridge to Mayor Boris Johnson suggesting, for the very first time, a Crossrail 2 station "further west" of the safeguarded location at Chelsea Fire Station.

The report makes interesting reading. Given the content of the letter from Tim to Boris you might have expected it to have produced some truly outstanding and unexpected results that prompted Tim to write to Boris with the greatest of urgency. 

Did it reveal, we wondered, that the vast majority of residents were against Crossrail 2? 

Did it reveal, we wondered, that the vast majority of residents did not want a Crossrail 2 station at the safeguarded location at Chelsea Fire Station? 

Did it reveal, we wondered, a groundswell of support for a Crossrail 2 station further west, perhaps near World's End or the Cremorne Estate?

Let's take a look.

Question 1 tried to determine the level of support for Crossrail 2 (aka "the Chelsea-Hackney line"). It asked: "How strongly do you support or oppose the introduction of the Chelsea- Hackney Line, with a station in Chelsea?"

And the results were: Support - 70% (2051 residents); Neither support nor oppose - 4% (115 residents); Oppose - 25% (729 residents). 

So 70% of residents, 7 out of every 10, were in favour of both Crossrail 2 and a Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea. 

Question 5 tried to determine the level of support for a Crossrail 2 station at the currently safeguarded location of Chelsea Fire Station. It asked: "Are you in favour of a Chelsea-Hackney Line station in the Dovehouse Green/Chelsea Fire Station area?"

And the results were: Yes - 59% (1734 residents); No - 32% (934 residents); Don't know - 8% (235 residents).

Again, pretty conclusive. 59% of residents, or 6 out of every 10, were quite happy with the proposed location of the station at Dovehouse Green/Chelsea Fire station.

Now based on this you might start to wonder just where the idea for a station "further west" actually came from. If 7 out of every 10 residents supported the idea of Crossrail 2, with a station in Chelsea, and 6 out of every 10 residents were quite happy with the currently proposed site why would the Council even contemplate writing to Boris suggesting anything else? The answer is question 7. 

Question 7 tried to prompt residents to propose alternative locations for the Crossrail 2 station. It asked: "Is there a better location for a station than the Dovehouse Green/ Chelsea Fire Station area?"

And the results were: No - 33% (959 residents); Yes, to the west - 30% (892 residents); Yes, to the east - 4% (115 residents); Other (blank or don't know) - 34% (984 residents).

It's worth noting that by far the largest group of respondents to the question is the "other" group - those who simply didn't answer or didn't know. This is cause for some concern and should have prompted those analysing the results of the survey to treat the response to this question with particular care. Sadly they did not. 

The second largest group of respondents are those perfectly happy with the station at Dovehouse Green/Chelsea Fire Station. Add those two groups together and you pretty much end up with the same number of residents who answered "yes" to question 5 (959 + 892 = 1851; versus 1734). Those proposing a station "to the west" are actually the third largest group of respondents. 

Unfortunately question 7 leads the Council to make a very spurious claim. The Council has claimed that

"there was strong support for a station at the Chelsea Fire Station site on Dovehouse Street, but an almost equal number of respondents thought a new station would do more good if it were further west, towards Fulham"

Is this statement true? The actual survey results suggest otherwise.

The number of residents who favour a station at Dovehouse Green/Chelsea Fire station is indicated by the response to Question 5 - 1734 residents. 

The number of residents who favour a station "to the west" is indicated by the response to Question 7 - 892 residents. 

On what planet are 1734 and 892 comparable and "an almost equal number"? 

What's even more shocking is the actual break down of the alternative sites proposed also listed in the report. The number of respondents suggesting a station "near World's End" (i.e. the Cremorne Estate) is an outstandingly enormous 136

It would appear that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea were perfectly happy to change their own long-standing policy on Crossrail 2 - for a station in Chelsea at the safeguarded site of Chelsea Fire Station - and write a lengthy letter to Mayor Boris Johnson proposing an alternative site on the Cremorne Estate on the strength of just 136 respondents whilst simultaneously ignoring the wishes of 1734. 

That can't be right surely?

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