TfL’s £48m loop schemes could break the link in Tramlink

Transport for London seems determined to double the cost of new Tramlink loops in the centre of Croydon – to around £48 million of public cash – and all at the behest of local council planners who want to reduce the number of trams heading across Wellesley Road.

Are Croydon Council and TfL plotting together for a scheme which will break apart the Tramlink link across Croydon?

Are Croydon Council and TfL plotting together for a scheme which will break apart the Tramlink link across Croydon?

That’s according to a local expert, who believes that the plans – which were subject to a public consultation last autumn – will split the Tramlink network in two, and all to help more cars drive into the car parks of the proposed £1 billion Hammersfield super-mall.

Shopping centre developers Hammerson and Westfield are contributing, between them, just £15 million to the changes in the tram network, which appear to be instigated mainly at their insistence.

Inside Croydon reported on the loopy nature of the TfL loops last autumn.

TfL announced today the findings of that consultation on the building of a loop via Dingwall Road and Lansdowne Road, stating that, “An extension would enable us to run additional tram services to and from the east of the town centre to a new tram stop on Lansdowne Road, without creating a bottleneck at East Croydon Station or overloading the existing town centre loop; the most congested part of the network.

“This proposal would enable us to deliver the same levels of reliability by 2030, when passenger demand is expected to have nearly doubled from 2013-2014 levels.”

TfL claims that 72 per cent of respondents to its consultation last year said they “supported an extension in principle”.

This seems odd. A local petition which raised serious questions about the premise of the TfL proposals received four times as many responses as the official consultation, with more than 2,000 asking for the proposition that the “Westfield money to be spent on MORE or LONGER trams instead of the Dingwall Road Loop”.

It is worth noting that in their public email today, TfL have not reported how many of those who backed a Tramlink extension favoured any of the (essentially very similar) schemes which they put forward.

And so Boris Johnson’s TfL has opted to go ahead and do what they always wanted to do in the first place: “We have decided to take forward Option 1, anti-clockwise up Dingwall Road, along Lansdowne Road and south along Wellesley Road.” The new loop could be operational by 2019 – so possibly 12 months before the new Westfield super-mall opens its doors for business.

“We would like your views on a more detailed proposal,” says TfL, for all the difference that it might make. The proposals can be viewed here.

John Jefkins is convinced that the council's proposals for Tramlink will split the network, and drive more passengers back on to Croydon's roads

John Jefkins is convinced that the council’s proposals for Tramlink will split the network, and drive more passengers back into their cars and on to Croydon’s roads

John Jefkins, a leading figure in Croydon’s Liberal Democrats, had meetings with TfL last year accompanied by London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, the chair of the transport committee at City Hall.

Then, Jefkins said that around one-third of all tram passengers would have to change tram to reach North End. Nothing that his group has seen since has altered that view – and there remains a risk that Hammersfield will reclaim its £15 million contribution to the costly scheme.

“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 said then.

Jefkins has continued to have meetings with planners from TfL and from the council, and has noted how spokespeople for the Town Hall have been stating publicly that there will not be any impact on tram traffic across the centre of town.

“There does appear to be a difference of opinion between Croydon planners and TfL directors over Wellesley Road,” Jefkins said today.

“At our meeting with TfL directors last month, Tramlink director Sharon Thompson described Wellesley Road as an ‘urban motorway’ and said that Croydon Council wanted fewer trams across Croydon than now and also to slow them down to only 20mph.

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

John Jefkins: remains unconvinced that TfL’s loop schemes will provide an improved tram network

“They say that Croydon thus forced TfL to plan these two loops (at Dingwall Road and Reeves Corner) at a total cost of two doses of £24 million – and all so that half the trams running by 2030 would fail to cross Croydon.

“Croydon Council has verbally refuted this – saying that current tram traffic would not be cut by them. But so far they have failed to say this in writing.”

Jefkins favours simply lengthening the trams serving the network – a technique often used in continental Europe to cope with increased demand. Such changes would incur some costs, to enable the rail system and platforms to cope with the longer trams. It is something which TfL has already been considering, and which could be delivered for a fraction of the £48 million bill that seems likely to be paid under the loop schemes so favoured by Hammersfield.

“It is still far cheaper to lengthen platforms and couple our existing trams together than it is to build just one of these two proposed loops,” Jefkins said.

He says that longer trams are already needed on the Elmers End route. “It happens where frequency gets under five minutes. Trams bunch up like buses, but cannot overtake each other.”

TfL has shown Jefkins its growth projections for passenger demand by 2020 – which shows a 45 per cent increase, from 31 million passenger journeys per year to 45 million, meaning that in addition to the four new trams already on order, the network will need another 10 more trams within the next five years.

“East Croydon’s third platform is already used to turn-back some trams without need of a loop,” Jefkins said. “Instead of cutting Croydon in two, we could thus have the same number of trams per hour crossing Croydon as now – but have each tram twice as long.”

Jefkins is hoping for cross-party support for a new set of petitions, which will be submitted to TfL, Westfield and to Croydon Council over the next month.

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13 Responses to TfL’s £48m loop schemes could break the link in Tramlink

  1. Mr Jefkins’ solution seems so obvious and so in line with the thinking of transport planners elsewhere that anyone opposing it would need to explain their thinking very carefully.
    TfL is the strategic transport authority in Croydon. Why would anyone in their right mind take any notice of Croydon Council, given its consistently appalling planning record and the fantasists it appoints to senior management positions?
    And it cannot be in Croydon Partnership’s commercial interests to make cross town travel more time consuming by disrupting through tram traffic. Less people coming to town means less potential shoppers in the new retail complex.
    I’m quite prepared to believe Croydon Council would shoot itself in both feet. Both the major parties have become adept at it, but not Hammerson or Westfield.

  2. I understand that it is proposed to close subways under Wellesley Road and replace them with “at grade” crossings.

    There are several good reasons for this but such crossings do cause delay to road traffic and trams. The artist’s impressions I have seen do not have a central reservation for pedestrians and if these were provided then that would reduce road space for cars, buses etc.

    Thus we are likely to have crossings over 20 metres in length that require a time in excess of 25 seconds to allow people to cross safely. That is bound to have a significant effect on traffic if the crossings are going to respond quickly to pedestrians pressing the buttons. Unless tram frequency is reduced then there is insufficient time for both pedestrians and trams.

    The outcome would be queuing trams or footways packed with pedestrians waiting to cross. These loop ideas are a way of resolving the issue but obviously prejudice passengers wanting to travel through Croydon.

  3. There are quite significant implications of this plan for people who are trying to hop into Croydon and beyond for a few hours of work and get back in time to care for young and elderly dependent relatives. I know of various families who live in substandard accommodation in Central Croydon because they just cannot juggle all their commitments and live further out. We need 21st Century transport links to support all our citizens to live full lives.

  4. I have previously commented that I had doubts about the ability of trams to make the tight left turn out of Lansdowne Road into Wellesley Road. The plans show this being achieved by making Lansdowne Road one way west and using the offside for trams, thus giving a gentler turn. This creates a problem for cars etc using Lansdowne Road, Walpole Road etc should they wish to head north or east. This is because they will have to leave via the west end of Lansdowne Road, head south through the underpass and then left along Barclay Road and beyond. I cannot find any mention of that in the latest consultation and it will be a major inconvenience for them as well as adding to traffic in the East Croydon area.

  5. veeanne2015 says:

    As usual, little regard for buses and cars.
    With Lansdowne Road westbound only, buses going east will have to go down to George Street junction and turn left. How then will they get to the bus stop in Dingwall Road ?
    The twenty buses going south down Wellesley Road will have to cross the tram lane exiting Lansdowne Road, and then the junction of trams from the north and east.

    The loop proposal will ‘allow some vehicles from the east to provide a return service without the need to use the existing town centre loop’. Some ? Which ? Where ? How ?
    No details are shown of where the vehicle lanes are, or how they’ll avoid conflict with the trams changing lanes at the Dingwall Road/Lansdowne Road roundabout area and Wellesley Road/Lansdowne Road junction, crossing two tram go to the underpass.

    At the very busy Dingwall Road pedestrian crossing to East Croydon Station, some trams will not turn into Dingwall Road and some will, creating a hazard for pedestrians, especially as some of the pavement there is being removed.
    And that’s just for starters !
    But then, ‘extensive traffic modelling’ thinks it will work !

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  7. It takes too long to get to West Croydon from East Croydon by tram. There should be a circle line anti clockwise.

  8. veeanne2015 says:

    Patrick, there are 6 buses that go from East Croydon station to West Croydon, 64, 194, 198 ,367, 410 and T33, if you’re in a hurry.

    On the reverse journey, if the planned tram loop makes Lansdowne Road one-way with the trams on the existing bus lane, how will the buses get to the Dingwall Road stop ?
    Make Sydenham two-way, putting more vehicles on Lansdowne Road between the trams ?
    Make buses go into Bedford Park instead, with even more traffic exhaust pollution causing harm to the infants in the playground on the corner of Bedford Park ?

    Also if a likely pedestrian accident occurs on Dingwall Road pedestrian crossing as the tram turns into Dingwall Road, the tram will straddle the tram lanes bringing the central Croydon trams to a complete halt – much more delay then than going round the loop.

  9. Mark Townend says:

    A more elaborate and expensive scheme might look like something like this (second page of .pdf):

    This would create a north-south transit reservation for buses and trams along Wellesley Rd at street level, with the northbound road carriageway for general traffic sunk into a tunnel with access for parking and shopping centre servicing peeling of and joining to the left.

    An important benefit of this proposal would be to allow Wimbledon bound trams to stop at West Croydon with its Overground and bus connections, and also to provide a more balanced service in both directions between the two mainline stations. The current loop via George Street would remain for trams terminating in the town centre.

    • KristianCyc says:

      *broken record mode* would be good to see some #space4cycling in that Wellesley Road cross section?

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