TfL’s loopy scheme will strangle town centre to a stand-still

TfL tram graphicCROYDON COMMENTARY: Multi-million pound proposals for the trams in the town centre could see the Croydon road network being gridlocked, says bus passenger VALERIE HUNTER

According to Transport for London, the improvements – new platforms and more frequent services – which they are introducing on Tramlink’s line from Wimbledon to Croydon will have positive impact on other transport services in the area, “helping to relieve congestion on buses and encouraging car owners to leave their vehicles at home, reducing traffic and carbon emissions”.

However, the Dingwall Road loop of tram track which they are also proposing will have exactly the opposite effect.

TfL recently published its report on the responses to its consultation. The report was almost exclusively about the benefits for Tramlink – adding passenger capacity without contributing to additional congestion in Croydon town centre. The TfL report managed to ignore completely the additional congestion, the delays and pollution which their scheme will cause along Wellesley Road and George Street for all other transport modes – particularly the two dozen bus routes which stop outside East Croydon Station and bring many more people to central Croydon from many more destinations than do the trams.

The tram junction with Wellesley Road at West Croydon. Will TfL's proposals reduce congestion here - or make it worse? TfL admits it hasn't yet done the modelling work to test their proposals

The tram junction with Wellesley Road at West Croydon. Will TfL’s proposals reduce congestion here – or make it worse? TfL admits it hasn’t yet done the modelling work to test their proposals

The TfL report on so many aspects of it Dingwall loop proposals is unsatisfactory. TfL’s response to requests for more information on the impact to road users? “The modelling  will be completed by the time TfL makes a TWAO…” that’s Transport and Works Act Orders, for those not fluent in wonkspeak “…application. Following the application, the results will be available for comment through the TWAO application process.”

So they admit that they haven’t done the preliminary modelling work to test their own assumptions, but the information from this essential modelling on traffic flows will only be available once they have set the development process under way. It’ll all be a bit late then, won’t it?

In any case, what’s the point of the public making more comments at a later stage, when, through the previous consultations, these issues have been ignored?

What are the impacts of the proposed changes?
It is estimated that five trams an hour will use the Dingwall Road loop.
At present, seven daytime bus routes use the roads that comprise the loop, averaging between 30 and 40 buses per hour.
These buses, by turning into Lansdowne Road, reduce the congestion on Wellesley Road, and, by dropping off or picking up passengers at the Dingwall Road bus stop, reduce congestion and delays at East Croydon bus station stands, too.

Most of these bus routes will be displaced or diverted if the Dingwall Road tram loop is built.

As many as 40 buses per hour could be displaced on to Wellesley Road if the Dingwall Road tram loop is built

As many as 40 buses per hour could be displaced on to Wellesley Road if the Dingwall Road tram loop is built

These 30 to 40 bus routes will be forced on to the stretch of Wellesley Road between Lansdowne Road and George Street with 14 other bus routes from the north, having to cross two tram lanes in Wellesley Road instead of one, causing even more congestion at the crossover point just south of Lansdowne Road.

Crossing George Street at this corner will become an even more serious hazard for pedestrians. The traffic lights at this junction, already a complex sequence which can sometimes force traffic on George Street to queue for several minutes, will potentially be an even greater frustration for road users.

Any problems or accidents here, and a redirected bus would block all 20 bus routes from the north, all stuck behind one vehicle in the single lane.

At the George Street junction with Dingwall Road, the turning trams could delay the trams going east. Pedestrians who would have got off at the “quieter” bus stops in Dingwall Road will now have to cross tram and bus lanes to get to the station.

The TfL Dingwall loop which they intend to impose on the tram network, for the benefit of utility providers, rather than passengers

The TfL Dingwall loop which they intend to impose on the tram network, for the benefit of utility providers, rather than tram or bus passengers

But worse is the danger to pedestrians on the busy pedestrian crossing at Dingwall Road to East Croydon Station, where the tram curve could takes over half the current pavement area. Some trams will be making the turn, others not. Even a minor accident here would block all trams.

What about the impact on other road users?
Vehicles (including coaches from the hotels) in Lansdowne Road or Walpole Road that want to go north would be forced to turn left into Wellesley Road, go south down the underpass, back up and around the Flyover roundabout, and then return all the way back via Wellesley Road or George Street, putting extra traffic there. Where trams and cars cross, another traffic light sequence would be needed for each, to avoid collisions, delaying Wellesley Road traffic even more.

Some 900 homes are planned for the corner of Lansdowne Road and Wellesley Road, which in addition to other residential and office buildings there, would involve a considerable amount of additional traffic just where the tram is stopped at the junction.

With Lansdowne Road central island removed for the tram loop curve, tram passengers from the north alighting in Wellesley Road will find it more difficult to cross Lansdowne Road safely to get to the planned pedestrian crossing.

What route could cyclists take safely to get out of Lansdowne Road or Walpole Road if they wanted to go north? How could they go eastwards down Lansdowne Road other than walking?

The April 2015 TfL consultation paperwork said, “We are looking at three new cycle crossings at all three junctions”. But there is no mention of these cyclists’ crossings in the latest TfL report.

What was the support for this £28m scheme?
Of the 379 who responded, 36 did not give their postcode, and at least 61 did not live in the Greater London area.
Of the 289 in favour, at least 32 were from Merton and Sutton, who are not affected by the Dingwall Road plan at all.
At least 23 in support were from Bromley. Of the 174 Croydon residents in favour, considerably more were from along the Beckenham or Elmers End lines than the New Addington line – not surprising as the proposed loop gives them a direct line to Wimbledon, whilst abolishing that service from New Addington.

A direct service between Wimbledon and New Addington could become a thing of the past if TfL gets its way

A direct tram service between Wimbledon and New Addington could become a thing of the past if TfL gets its way

Because under these proposals, half of all New Addington line trams will go round the Dingwall Road loop dropping, off an estimated 500 people at the Lansdowne Road tram stop at peak times.

TfL states that, “Some passengers may prefer to alight at a quieter stop which is a short walk from the shopping centre”, assuming that the shopping centre is where they want to go. But then, all the disruption, all the track building, and the tram loop which threatens to strangle central Croydon is all about servicing the wishes of the developers of the Westfield and Hammerson shopping centre.

In fact, for the shopping centre many passengers would probably prefer to get off in George Street, avoiding what TfL call the “short” walk and possibly a long wait at the pedestrian crossing, especially in inclement weather. For it is a long walk from there or East Croydon Station for tram loop passengers wanting the George Street area or Reeves Corner – or having to wait for another tram for these stops or Therapia Lane or Wimbledon.

These 500 people deposited at Lansdowne Road would join the crowds on the pavement from 20 bus stops, the non-loop trams, guests from the hotels, office workers, the residents of the flats and railways passengers also waiting to cross the main road – with no subway available – stopping the traffic for even longer when they do so.

The main idea of the Dingwall Road tram loop was to bring tram passengers to a new stop nearer to the Westfield main entrance, with £15 million contributed by the developers. But as the completion of the new shopping complex has been put back to Christmas 2020 (at the earliest), and the tram completion is due in 2019-2020, will Croydon Council end up being stuck with the bill, as they did with the Bridge to Nowhere at East Croydon, when developers Menta failed to cough up their contribution?

Aren’t Croydon Council already paying for the Whitgift Centre and surrounding land CPOs?

Lengthening the trams and tram stops form part of TfL’s longer term planning for passenger growth by 2030, so £28 million will be spent on the Dingwall Road loop unnecessarily, making life hard for bus and car passengers, not just during construction, but permanently after completion.

Tough for TfL commuters in general who will no doubt be faced with more fare rises.

And hell for all road users trying to go somewhere other than the shopping centre, with its entrance and exit placed absurdly close to the underpass, potentially contributing even more traffic mayhem.

With a mere 289 respondents in favour of the TfL tram proposals, it is not surprising that Croydon Council has decided to reserve its position. Those who share a vision of a more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly place will expect much more work to be conducted to deliver a scheme which has much less impact on the highways and fewer pedestrian hazards than that caused by this proposed tram loop.

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4 Responses to TfL’s loopy scheme will strangle town centre to a stand-still

  1. Great article, 100% accurate and to the point. Disaster looms with the whole Tramlink/Wellesley Road/Hammersfield/A23 link/Fairfield Halls refurbishment, College Green building, oversupply of private houses and flats mess.

    Will anyone in Bernard Weatherill House pay the slightest attention? Watch for fleets of flying Gloucester Old Spots. They are much more likely to occur.

  2. Excellent analysis. I responded to TfL’s first consultation questioning if the left turn could be achieved out of Lansdowne Road. I took the trouble to actually visit Croydon to check and I was proved correct. The turn couldn’t be made unless Lansdowne Road was made one way westbound allowing trams to occupy the offside lane. This one way system leads to the problems that Valerie has so carefully detailed.

  3. Croydonres says:

    It’s funny how TFL seems immune from the cuts afflicting local authorities.

    Time to clip their gilded wings!

  4. johnjefkins says:

    Val is quite right about this loop affecting Buses.
    The “consultation” was invalid. Our own petition for the £28m to be instead spent on longer trams was signed by 2,000 people (4 times as many).
    TFL is daft to think anybody would use the proposed new stop positioned so close to a Wellesley Rd one that would has 3 times more frequent trams and which is nearer to the shops!

    Most of the money for this is coming from Westfield (ie immune from cuts).
    But what Westfield need to realise is that most of the cost of this loopy loop is in paying utility companies inflated fees for moving their pipes from underneath the new tracks. Gold plated pipes!

    2,000 people agreed that this money would be better spent on longer platforms & longer trams – (ie the same 5 minute frequency but LONGER).

    That way, Wellesley Road would be crossed by about as many trams/hr as now (so no conflict) but in each traffic light phase LONGER TRAMs would carry twice as many people across.

    And if a few (eg 5 trams/hr) need to turnback, East Croydon’s third platform has proved itself fine to turnback twice as many trams/hr.

    Right now Westfield money is paying for pipes instead of passengers to their shops.
    Longer trams would mean more passengers to Westfield – by both tram and (as Val says) by bus.

    The tragedy is that TFL bosses are indeed warm to the idea of longer trams.
    They need to understand that money is tight. The cost of the loop could DELAY longer trams!

    £28b is better spent as £8m on longer platforms and £20b on 8 new trams (to enable 16 existing trams to be coupled together without any loss of frequency).

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