Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on the difference between what is really happening, and what an advertising feature in the rag edited by trainee journalist Gideon Osborne says
Transport for London has spent the past 24 hours trying to calmly damp down wishful thinking over the possibility of the first real extension to the tram network in 17 years, after the Evening Standard’s estate agents’ advertising pages – Homes and Property – did its best to artificially boost house prices in Sutton and Merton.
“The London tram is on the move once again,” Gideon Osborne’s eager advertorial staff gushed. “Homes and Property can reveal…” note that disingenuous suggestion that they had actually done some journalism? “… that Transport for London (TfL) has committed £70million to an extension of the Croydon network. The new branch will run from South Wimbledon, through Morden to Sutton.”
Except that it won’t, at least not any time soon.
The extension plan was not “revealed” by any intrepid Homes and Property reporter, but it sits, bold as day, in the Mayor of London’s draft transport plan.It is exactly the kind of public transport investment which south London needs.
And yes, TfL has earmarked some money towards its cost. But just like the often-mooted Crystal Palace extension which was never built (and doesn’t look as if it will ever be built – it is not in Mayor Khan’s transport plans), having the blueprint doesn’t mean that the bulldozers will move in.
Homes and Property, in order to keep driving estate agents’ advertising budgets into their pages, tours around the different areas of the capital each week, always seeking to find some way of boosting the property market there. This week, it happened upon Merton and Sutton, in the knowledge that, just as being near a Tube station can add tens of thousands of pounds to a property price, so having a tram link close by can nudge house prices upwards, too.
“This budget has been allocated from the TfL’s £550 million growth fund, a pot of money earmarked to help boroughs with small transport infrastructure projects,” they gush.
Funny definition of “small”.
Conservative estimates of the cost of completing the extensive link covering the four miles from South Wimbledon to Sutton town centre (providing useful additional inter-changes with the Undergound network at South Wimbledon and Morden) is somewhere north of £200million. The balance would need to be found somehow by Sutton and Merton councils.
And in the past, Sutton has always been reluctant to shell out for such public infrastructure projects.
Which might explain why the Standard deliberately did not include the bucket of cold water on their story contained within TfL’s statement.
A press officer at TfL HQ sent Inside Croydon the statement it had sent to the property advertising supplement.
TfL’s full statement says this:
“An extension of the tram network from Wimbledon to Sutton is included in both TfL’s current business plan and the draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Delivering the scheme would support the provision of new jobs in the area, at least 10,000 new homes and improve public transport accessibility to Morden, Sutton town centre and St Helier.
“Earlier this year, TfL allocated £70m toward the proposed tram extension through its Growth Fund, which looks to help deliver targeted and relatively small-scale transport infrastructure schemes to unlock growth and development opportunities across London. Additional funding for the scheme would need to be identified by the local boroughs.”
Thems our italics. That part of the TfL statement never made it into the Standard’s story. probably because if it had, they wouldn’t have had much of a story at all. And that would have been a grave disappointment to their estate agent chums working in south-west London.
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