TfL’s £28m tram loop that benefits no one but Westfield

CROYDON COMMENTARY: VALERIE HUNTER has been digging into Transport for London’s documents on its plans to impose a new loop of tram track around the town centre. And she’s found the scheme is not all that the City Hall transport wonks would have us believe

Changes to the trams on Wellesley Road seem certain to inconvenience other public transport users

Transport for London’s “modelling” and “forecasting tools” indicate that the design of the Wellesley Road-Lansdowne Road junction for the proposed tram loop improves bus journey times, and a “beneficial impact on bus journey times” is a key advantage of the scheme, they say.

TfL wants to spend £28million of our money to create an additional loop of track down Dingwall Road at East Croydon. Many of us suspect it is money being spent at the insistence of Westfield, the shopping centre developers, for no other reason than to make it easier for shoppers, if the mall ever gets built, to drive their cars into Westfield’s mammoth-sized car park.

The proposed tram loop may be many things, but it is not an improvement for bus users.

Six bus routes for East Croydon Station, when stopped at the lights in Wellesley Road instead of turning into Lansdowne Road as vehicles come out, will only serve to increase the traffic.

Those additional 40 to 60 buses an hour (according to TfL’s own timetables) then go on the single bus lane to George Street –  representing a 50 per cent bus route increase.

Turning left on to George Street they then increase the number of bus routes there by 175 per cent.

Unable to get on or off their buses in quieter Dingwall Road, it seems likely to me that their passengers will now increase the congestion and delay at East Croydon bus station.

No longer will pedestrians be able to cross the north side of George Street east while all buses go straight on to Park Lane.

Some buses will turn on to their crossing – necessitating an additional sequence of traffic lights for their safety, stopping for longer all the southbound buses in Wellesley Road, and all the eastbound buses from Park Lane.

TfL’s Dingwall loop which they intend to impose on the tram network, will be of little, if any, benefit for tram and bus passengers

So which bus journey time is improved and benefits from the creation of the tram loop?

All 20 bus routes (and other traffic) in Wellesley Road will be additionally held up at the traffic lights as follows:

Lansdowne Road traffic
– trams slowly exiting Lansdowne Road
– vehicles exiting but unable to do so at same time without collision risk
– vehicles, including taxis, forced, because of reversed one-way system, to come out of Lansdowne Road and its side streets on to Wellesley Road, instead of north down the back streets
– vehicles from Sydenham Road that would have exited on to Wellesley Road now going down to Lansdowne Road instead to avoid the increased congestion at the traffic lights
– vehicles delivering bulky, heavy or internet shopping to, and additional cars from the car parks of, hundreds of planned high-rise flats and offices to be built but not included in TfL’s survey in spring 2017.

Thousands of people crossing, without the subway, at various times of the day
– from/to 20 bus stops on both sides of the road, tram stop, East Croydon Station, existing hotels, offices, residences, restaurants etc.
– and new offices (for example, HMRC just opened in Ruskin Square, with 2,500 people eventually).
– new high-rise flats (for example No1 Lansdowne with 794 flats, and Emerald House 120 flats in Lansdowne Road, Cambridge House 92 flats, and Westfield’s own 1,000 flats – presumably with many residents heading towards the station at peak times).
– and hundreds from the new tram stop.

Queues of pedestrians on the pavements or central reservation in the middle of Croydon’s urban motorway are likely will be horrendous. And when they are able to cross safely, it seems possible that Wellesley Road buses and other vehicles will be stopped for a long time, potentially with polluting fumes affecting the health of pedestrians waiting to cross, or walking to and from or waiting at the bus stops.

Air pollution in the town centre has regularly exceeded legal limits

There is an air quality monitor on this stretch of six-lane road, which was moved recently from the corner of George Street, to be re-sited well above the Underpass. Data from that air quality monitor has, for many years, indicated that the air around the roads in the centre of Croydon is well above legal limits for NO2 and other pollutants.

Yet according to TfL’s “environmental specialists”, their assessment indicated “likely effects … on air quality are not significant”. They say that they used “evidence including the forecast impacts on traffic resulting from the scheme”.

So if this £28million scheme is bad for air quality, pedestrians and bus passengers, will it really deliver any benefits for tram passengers?

It does offer one advantage: less crowded trams.

But it also has disadvantages. It assumes that 50 per cent of tram passengers on the New Addington line want to get off in Lansdowne Road.

For those who might want to go to the £1.5billion new Westfield Centre, they face:

– a long wait at the traffic lights to cross Wellesley Road, breathing traffic pollution fumes.
– getting wet or cold taking the relatively long walk between the new tram stop outside Emerald House in Lansdowne Road and the shopping centre, instead of getting off in George Street, right outside the shopping centre entrance with minimum weather exposure and avoiding traffic fumes.

Those wanting everywhere else – the council’s offices, the Clocktower, Surrey Street Market, the other shops in what is now Centrale, Argos, Reeves Corner or West Croydon Station will, under this scheme, face a long walk from East Croydon Station, or a wait on another platform for another tram to take them to other stops on the existing tram loop.

The recently completed East Croydon bus station (a cool £5.4m on three bus shelters) is likely to get very busy once the Dingwall Road tram loop is built

Pedestrians already have additional hazard at the Dingwall Road pedestrian crossing in George Street of some trams turning across their path, and some not – and on the George Street crossing by Wellesley Road with some buses turning and some not.

All the extra vehicles continuously coming down Wellesley Road, or out of Lansdowne Road stopped just north of the underpass to let the Westfield traffic out, could cause a serious queue and blockage also affecting buses at the Lansdowne Road-Wellesley Road junction.

Bus and other traffic delays at the junction of Park Lane, Wellesley Road and George Street already cause frustration and irritation to bus passengers and drivers alike.

But this tram loop initially will involve major road works, traffic light and pavement alterations, and subsequently cause worse traffic congestion, and bus journeys taking far longer than they do already.

It is hard to see where there’s even a penny’s-worth of “improvement” in this £28million scheme.

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3 Responses to TfL’s £28m tram loop that benefits no one but Westfield

  1. It’s all gone very quiet from Westfield. I was in Selsdon yesterday,you can see the future for retail there. An assortment of food and drink outlets, hairdressers and nailbars.

  2. I’m all in favour of doing anything to facilitate the Westfield Development, but I must say I really don’t understand how this helps anyone. A strange one.

  3. veeanne2015 says:

    As the only advantage of the planned Tram Loop would appear to be less crowded trams on the New Addington line, why can’t some trams reverse direction on the extra line in George Street east instead ?
    This would not delay other trams any more than the loop trams turning at the Dingwall Road and Wellesley Road junctions.

    But would, however, allow the £millions to be spent on other Tfl projects, and avoid the misery for all traffic caused by countless roadworks etc., and the additional congestion caused directly by the tram loop line/trams – both resulting in maximum traffic fume pollution for pedestrians in an already over-polluted area !
    What will happen in the future if Wellesley Road is declared way above the legal limit for pollutants ?

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