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.
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.
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.
“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.
- TfL’s Tramlink proposals will benefit developers, but not passengers
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