The Tramlink loop proposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, for the benefit of Westfield and Hammerson’s supermall in central Croydon, will cost an eye-watering £25 million.
At least £15 million of that will be paid by London’s tax-payers.
As Inside Croydon reported last week, the scheme – the first new section since Tramlink opened nearly 15 years ago – is intended to relieve some congestion on the trams, yet will provide considerable inconvenience for tram users compared to the current service, as passengers will have to make multiple changes to continue journeys past East Croydon.
And between them, the Hammersfield shopping mall developers will be expected to pay no more than 40 per cent of the cost of laying the new tracks around this Dingwall Road loop.
The Tramlink network, from Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction, opened in 2000 having cost a total of £165 million.
Journalist Christian Wolmar, a prospective Labour candidate for the Mayor of London who is widely regarded as one of the country’s foremost experts on public transport, today dismissed Transport for London’s tram loop proposal, saying, that it “… looks like typical policy of pandering to developers”.
TfL is “consulting” on its options, all variations of a similar scheme. In time-honoured style, the consultation is a little less than “public”: the location was almost hidden in Croydon’s Central Library, without any noticeable signage, tucked away in a small area behind the children’s section. Around half a dozen personnel were available to deal with any questions from the few members of the public who could find them, including someone going by the title of “Consultation Specialist”.
A further consultation session is planned for Saturday – if you are thinking of going, you might want to take a ball of string with you, so you can find your way back…
Officials at yesterday’s session were able to confirm the estimated costs of the scheme, and who will be paying. While any increase in costs are likely to be met from the public purse, Westfield and Hammerson’s commitment is likely to be capped at £10 million.
Based on answers provided at yesterday’s session, and from a supportive article written by Westfield’s cheerleader-in-chief, MP Gavin Barwell, the “Boris Loop” is clearly devised for the benefit of car drivers wanting to park and go shopping in the shopping centre than it is an attempt to improve public transport infrastructure or reduce the volume of traffic on our roads.
“It is inevitable that more people are going to want to drive into Croydon town centre…” Barwell states is a consequence of the £1 billion Hammersfield development which the MP for the Whitgift Foundation boasted of having brokered.
“The current road network won’t cope with the extra traffic so there are plans to reconfigure it. At the moment, if you approach Croydon from the north and want to go into the Whitgift Centre or Allders car parks, you have to drive all the way down to the roundabout in front of the Fairfield Halls then come back up the Wellesley Road.” First-world problems, anyone?
Barwell continues: “Likewise, if you are coming out of the Whitgift Centre or Allders car parks and want to head south, you have to turn left and then do a U-turn just north of Poplar Walk. Under the new plans, there will be traffic light junctions at both entrances to/exits from the car parks.
“But this in turn necessitates some changes to the tram network in central Croydon.”
No where in the 780-odd words of Barwell’s article does he mention his status as a governor of the Whitgift Foundation, the majority freehold-owners of the Whitgift Centre, and who will therefore benefit massively from the £15 milllion-plus of public money about to be spent on changing the town centre’s tram network, all to make it less passenger-friendly.
Basically, Westfield, Hammerson and their mates at the Whitgift Foundation have determined that trams crossing Wellesley Road are far too inconvenient and impractical for their car-borne customers.
Tram usage is expected to double by 2030, resulting in up to 31 trams per hour passing through East Croydon in each direction. There is even a possibility that the Croydon Underpass could be closed in future, in order to facilitate the tight tram line curve at Jury’s Inn, as proposed in the “Boris Loop”.
So many extra trams are expected to be using the network that a second depot is envisaged. Another reversing facility is being considered at Reeves Corner (the Whitgift Foundation owns a handy piece of real estate there, too) to enable Wimbledon trams to run into Croydon and back as a shuttle to provide extra capacity and a means of avoiding blockages in the town centre. There is also a proposed spur to South Wimbledon to increase capacity further and give access to the Northern Line.
Of course, the public, and tax-payers, might hope to have their broader interests represented by their local council, which is now under Labour control. Someone to look out for them, to ensure that public money isn’t being frittered away on private interests. To ensure that our local authorities are not “pandering to developers”.
There might be a slight snag with that, however. Council leader Tony Newman has appointed as his cabinet member for economic development, the key elected person overseeing aspects of the Hammersfield-isation of the town centre, veteran councillor Toni Letts.
And just like Barwell, Letts is a governor of the land-owning Whitgift Foundation.
Additional reporting by Bernard Winchester
- TfL’s tram scheme will benefit Westfield, but not passengers
- Crystal Palace tram decision is “disgraceful and inexplicable”
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, Effie Gray, Nov 20
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- David Lean Cinema, Lilting, Nov 22
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 23
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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