One of the country’s leading transport experts has described Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision not to fulfil his promise to deliver a tram extension to Crystal Palace as “disgraceful and inexplicable”.
Christian Wolmar, the author of several books on transport policy and a correspondent on transport in London for a range of national newspapers over the past four decades, was speaking at an open meeting in Croydon on Monday.
He is critical of Mayor Johnson for his “stop-go policy” on transport issues and an “amazing lack of vision”.
Johnson, together with Conservative candidate for the London Assembly Steve O’Connell, had made tram extensions to Crystal Palace and Sutton the centrepiece of their London election campaign in Croydon earlier this year. Within months of being re-elected, though, the pledges of these regenerative schemes have been dropped, without a mention in the Transport for London business plan published last week. Even the normally arslikhan Croydon Sadvertiser, once they got round to covering the story, described the decision as “Boris’s Tram Scam”.
According to Wolmar, the business plan for transport “contains no big schemes going forward, and is merely patching up London’s infrastructure. There is an amazing lack of vision”.
“I think the decision not to extend the tram to Crystal Palace is disgraceful and inexplicable. It was promised originally, then scrapped, then reinstated for the election and now scrapped again. It is exactly the sort of journey for which trams are suitable.
“In Paris, they are building trams precisely in this type of area, orbital routes away from the main city centre. I think that is the future for trams in London, and yet this delay means there are unlikely to be any additions this side of the next mayoral election.
“We need to encourage non-motorised transport, and yet we are having this sort of stop-go policy.”
Wolmar, an expert on the privatisation of Britain’s railways, was giving a talk about his book On The Wrong Line: How ideology and incompetence wrecked Britain’s railways.
Today he was with Harriet Harman at an event at Peckham Rye station. Dame Tessa Jowell this week called for a primary election to choose Labour’s next candidate for the London Mayoral election, and Wolmar – a “Man in the White Suit”-type candidate without any previous political baggage – is considering putting himself forward for election in 2016.
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