TfL’s loopy proposals will cut some tram services by 13%

Another week. Another pointless, self-fulfilling “consultation”, this time from Transport for London as they steam-roller through their scheme to sever the tram network in Croydon town centre, all for the benefit of Hammersfield, and mainly at massive public expense.

TfL tram graphicThis poorly publicised consultation (we’d seen no leaflets until yesterday) is being staged today and on the afternoon of Saturday, June 20, at Croydon Central Library. There will be TfL officials “available to answer your questions”, and listen to your views – but unlikely to bother taking any notes – and then once the consultation period ends (on June 28), they will go ahead and spend about £48 million of mostly tax-payers’ cash doing exactly what the Westfield and Hammerson developers have told them to do.

Nice new graphics, though. Get that graphic designer a job with CBeebies.

The disingenuity of it all – the lies – to justify spending public money not for the improvement of the Tramlink network, but to make it less convenient, is breathtaking, even by the usual standards of local government.

“We propose to extend the tram network in Croydon”: actually, no they don’t. The loops don’t extend the network anywhere.

A journey from one end of the network at Beckenham Junction to the other, at Wimbledon, may in future require three trams and two changes. Even if you want to travel from New Addington to Reeves Corner, you may have to change trams to navigate the new loops to complete a relatively short the journey in future – a factor which could drive many tram passengers back to the convenience of their cars.

“An extension would enable us to run additional tram services to and from the town centre, without creating a bottleneck at East Croydon station and without compromising the reliability of the service through the existing town centre loop – the most congested part of the network”: Note the use of the word “additional”. This is the Big Lie. At the core of the scheme is reducing the number of trams crossing road junctions in the town centre, particularly near the car park access for the new super-mall.

While TfL says the scheme is proposed because of an expected increase in tram passenger numbers, the proposals will see a reduction in the number of trams travelling across Wellesley Road, between East Croydon and the western part of the Tramlink network, from 22 per hour (as is the case at present) to 19 per hour – a 13 per cent reduction in service.

Fewer trams interrupting the car traffic flow into Hammersfield could all be achieved at a fraction of the cost, without the loops, by doubling the length of the trams and extending some platforms, as has been suggested by a group of local transport and engineering experts, headed by John Jefkins. It’s what is done on tram networks on continental Europe. But they don’t have £1 billion super-mall developers calling the tune.

John Jefkins: has put together a cheaper, more efficient tram proposal

John Jefkins: has put together a cheaper, more efficient tram proposal

It is more than eight years since the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, promised a tram extension to Crystal Palace. When Boris Johnson moved into City Hall, he cancelled that project. London’s part-time Tory Mayor has since, with the aid of Assembly Member (and Conservative Kenley councillor) Steve O’Connell, promised to deliver the Crystal Palace extension on three separate occasions. The Crystal Palace tram extension remains like a unicorn: a thing of great beauty and legend, much talked about but never seen.

For the estimated £48 million cost of the central Croydon loops, TfL could deliver longer trams to carrying the extra passengers expected, and go a long way to funding the Crystal Palace extension. Or perhaps paying for an improved public transport service between Sutton and Croydon.

The latest consultation leaflet seems to suggest that TfL has rejected the solution which the rest of tram-using Europe has adopted with great success.

“Considerable thought has been given to the lengthening of trams and tram stops and they form part of our longer term planning towards accommodating passenger growth by 2030,” TfL says. “We have looked at options for single trams up to 43 metres long, as well as coupling two trams together.

“Both options would require significant platform lengthening works across the network. This would require us to buy additional land…”, that’s “additional land” alongside the already existing tram tracks.. “and would also have an impact on highway operations, particularly at junctions. Another key consideration is the statutory need to retain good access to trams for those with mobility impairments or pushchairs – which in some cases would force us to realign the track.” There will be much realigning of the track with the new loops, though i that case it doesn’t appear to be a problem.

There is, at least, some honesty in the latest consultation leaflet, since it admits what the principle reason for the bogus “consultation”, and the loops TfL seems hell-bent on delivering. Their scheme, TfL says, “Accommodates the additional demand that will be generated by the Croydon Limited Partnership development of the Whitgift Centre and other developments in Croydon, through the provision of a new tram stop at Lansdowne Road and a newly refurbished stop at Wellesley Road.”

We’d never have guessed.

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2 Responses to TfL’s loopy proposals will cut some tram services by 13%

  1. At the consultation session in the Clocktower yesterday there were 4-5 TfL staff and a consultant engineer on hand to talk to members of the public. Hardly any members of the public came to the stall while I was there (c. 30mins), apart from a Councillor and members of a Committee which was about to start its meeting. Two officers were outside the Clocktower to hand out leaflets to the almost non-existent passing public. The next session is 20 June and I suggested that TfL should have a presence on the Heritage Festival Day in North End on that day.

    The following key points were made to me:

    1. There are two main drivers for the scheme: the new Whitgift Centre development and a projected increase in the number of travellers into and out of Croydon.
    2. The cost is about £27m of which the Croydon Partnership will contribute £15m.
    3. The long-term aim will be to try and extend to Sutton and increase the length of trams but there is no identified finance for this.
    4. A second platform will be added at Wimbledon.
    5. A cycle lane will be put in; this involves CPOing bits of land belonging to office block owners.
    5. There is likely to be a public inquiry.

    Some points why the scheme should not go ahead.

    1. £27m is an enormous sum of money to spend to provide a tram service for office workers around the loop who could easily walk to and from West and East Croydon Stations.
    2. Croydon Partnership and the office developers should pay the whole sum.
    3. The two way traffic on part of the loop with one lane sharing.
    4. The small gain of 2 in the number of trams on part of the system, and a reduction on another part does not justify the cost.

    The fact that there are only two public consultation sessions allows TfL to tick the box without being serious about it.

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