Longer trams could save London millions, say LibDems

There is rapidly growing realisation that the major transport projects proposed in and around Croydon – so far amounting to more than £100-million-worth of publicly financed works – are concerned only with increasing the number of cars on our roads, and so satisfy the developers at Hammerson and Westfield.

Adding extra cars to Croydon's trams could save millions of pounds on TfL's proposals

Adding extra cars to Croydon’s trams could save millions of pounds on TfL’s proposals

Transport for London, the Mayor of London and Croydon Council launched a public “consultation” earlier this week, offering just two options for the Purley Way and A232 junctions, costing an estimated £85 million but putting at risk a public park and the homes of hundreds of people.

Another transport consultation proposes a new Tramlink track loop along Dingwall Road, and could cost £25 million, of which the Hammersfield developers will at least contribute £15 million. But that is all money that might be better spent – or even saved – simply by providing longer trams and platforms.

There remains a complete absence of any proposals to reduce the number of cars driving into the centre of Croydon. There’s no Park and Ride proposals. There’s no additional tram routes to Sutton or Crystal Palace. Just more or wider roads, and alterations to the existing tram network so that it doesn’t get in the way.

The TfL tram proposal appears to have as its sole objective to reduce the number of trams crossing Wellesley Road – and thus inconveniencing car drivers looking to drive to Hammersfield.

According to the £1 billion Hammersfield scheme’s cheerleader-in-chief, Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, there is to be a 42 per cent increase in the number of visitors to Croydon town centre as a result of the development of the super-mall – an extra 8 million people a year. And they will mostly be driving into car parks which will in future be controlled by… Hammerson and Westfield.

Our long-term plan for trams

TfL’s sketch map of its proposals for the Tramlink network. Over-simplistic, and yet missing the simplest of solutions

Yet there is a lower cost solution to providing more capacity on the tram network: longer trams.

“Planners worry that extra trams would hold up traffic on Wellesley Road,” John Jefkins, the chair of Croydon’s Liberal Democrats, told Inside Croydon. “But existing traffic signal phases would let three- or coupled four-car trams through.

“Longer trams would thus add capacity before Westfield opens (and again by 2030) without adding extra tram paths around the town centre. People would still be able to reach places they want to go, instead of having trams curtailed at each side of the centre.

John Jefkins: asking awkward questions of TfL over why they have not looked at a simpler, less expensive option for our trams

John Jefkins: asking awkward questions of TfL over why they have not looked at a simpler, less expensive option for our trams

“Longer platforms ought to cost about one-tenth of the £24 million cost of the proposed loop – leaving the rest to pay for longer trams.”

“TfL plans two loops (one by East Croydon and another in Old Town) that would turn back trams short of the town centre. Around 30 per cent of passengers would have to change tram to reach North End. People from Wimbledon would have to walk half a mile from Old Town to reach Westfield,” Jefkins said.

“Many trams would not run around the existing town centre loop or cross town to Valley Park or Wimbledon, or cross town to East Croydon from the west.” Of itself, this inconvenience may be enough to dissuade people from using public transport, and end up driving more people into using cars.

Jefkins together with London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, the chair of the transport committee at City Hall, have had meetings with TfL to try to discover why the longer tram option has not been properly explored.

“Without satisfactory answers to these questions, we concluded that we should not waste £15 million of Westfield planning gain money on curtailing trams at town edge loops,” Jefkins said. “That could harm Croydon shops by dropping people off short of popular destinations. We should instead spend it on extending the platforms and trams.”

Oddly, Labour’s new administration running Croydon Town Hall has failed to notice this obvious, simple and cost-effective solution to provide increased capacity on our tram network in the town centre. Instead, they’ve jumped aboard another policy which was originally put in train by their Tory predecessors.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to Longer trams could save London millions, say LibDems

  1. I agree we need to stop wasting money on projects that we don’t need.
    We should use the money promised for longer trams (Not for digging up more of Croydon and disrupting traffic)

  2. Nick Davies says:

    For all things tram it’s always worth looking at the late Stephen Parascandolo’s website.

    http://croydon-tramlink.co.uk/info/trams/couple.shtml and look to towards the bottom of the page.

    The existing vehicles can be lengthened by replacing the bit in the middle with a longer section, but coupling the trams in pairs brings other problems, both practical and regulatory. He concluded that it would be better to run a more intensive service.

    There’s plenty of capacity to run more trams round the town centre: the concept of “paths” alluded to above doesn’t really exists as they are driven by line of sight rather than spaced by railway type signalling.

  3. John Jefkins says:

    Thanks Nick, but Stephen Parascandolo never actually measured between those Town Centre roads. They are actually far enough apart to cope with coupled trams.

    You can check this yourself if you use Google Maps to measure between the roads at Church St or Addiscombe tram stops – where you will see that there is over 70m between roads (eg Bingham Rd & Lwr Addiscombe Rd).

    Only one side of the Lebanon Rd stop would need to be moved to instead span between Chisholm/Bisenden roads.

    For all of the other platforms, we’d just need 10 metres added to each end (to make them 53m). The door positions on the Bombardier trams are 4m from each end, so the tram ends can overlap the ramps and that still leaves one metre tolerance for the tram driver.

    As the trackwork (junctions, passing loops etc) was designed to cope with coupled trams, there are actually no practical problems. As for regulatory, Manchester has already approved 4 car coupled trams (for their similar Bombardier Flexity trams) and coupled trams have already been tested in Croydon to allow a 2nd tram to push a broken down tram back to base.

    Platforms on almost all of the network could be lengthened to 53m (to cope with either 4 car or 3 car trams) for a cost of under 5 million. That leaves plenty of change from the £25m to buy 8 more trams. Those 8 new trams would allow 16 of our existing Bombadier trams to be coupled together at peak times – as 8 trams of 4 cars – meaning extra capacity with no loss of frequency.

    And we’d have no extra trams crossing pinchpoints – ie roads – ANYWHERE on the network.
    Indeed, between now and 2030, longer trams could double capacity at peak times without TFL’s solution of twice as many short trams crossing roads like Cherry Orchard road – and without half of them turning round instead of reaching our shops.

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