CROYDON COMMENTARY: As first revealed by Inside Croydon last week, Transport for London is to make some wide-ranging schedule changes to the tram network from November 5. In particular, there will no longer be a direct service from New Addington to Wimbledon.
JOHN JEFKINS, pictured, outlines here the reasons for those changes, how they will affect passengers, and also what he believes is a better alternative
To cope with new speed restrictions at four corners on the tram network, which were introduced after the Sandilands derailment tragedy last year in which seven people died, Transport for London is proposing to cut two trams per hour on the busy Elmers End route – resulting in 25 per cent fewer trams connecting with trains from Elmers End and 14 per cent less capacity from East Croydon through Addiscombe to Arena.
Other changes being introduced from November 5 mean that more people will need to change tram en route to Valley Park or Wimbledon, as New Addington trams will run via West Croydon rather than to Wimbledon.
These cuts appear to be an overreaction to 10 seconds of delay at just four corners.
It is worth asking if another reason for the changes – which were never consulted with passengers or Croydon Council – is the lack of proper insurance cover to replace the crashed tram.
These capacity cuts are worrying when tram passenger demand is predicted to surge and when tram travel is already so much safer than road travel. They should also mark the end to the proposed Dingwall Road loop project.
At a meeting with TfL that I attended, their directors told London Assembly Transport deputy chair Caroline Pidgeon that they now agree with ideas for a future of longer, rather than extra, trams. This also removes any long-term need of a costly Dingwall Road loop.
But the November 5 tram changes remove any short-term need, too – as with just 20 trams per hour along Wellesley Road removes any need to move trams to Dingwall Road to cope with road traffic needing to access Westfield’s new car parks.
A Dingwall Road Loop would be empty and unused even in peak times.
Its £28million cost is better spent on (a) extending a building at the Therapia Lane depot (to build and maintain longer trams); (b) adding 10 metres to platforms and (c) extending most of our newer Variobahn trams to 43 metres – to copy what Bergen in Norway is doing with the same type of tram.
Westfield has told us that their Section 106 agreement (under which they have allocated millions of pounds towards local environment improvements) allows their money to be spent on longer trams, rather than an empty loop. They also said they would prefer to add seats on trams towards their shops than fund an empty loop.
TfL is still awaiting safety recommendations after last year’s tragic tram crash.The accident inspector’s report is expected after the anniversary of the crash next month.
Any death is tragic, but tram travel is already far safer than either bus or any other type road travel (there were at least 1,500 road deaths in London in the eight years, when there were no deaths caused by crashes or derailments on railways or trams across the whole of the Britain). Capacity cuts to the tram network would force more people to use less safe road travel instead.
Comparing journey time savings for swapped services on TfL’s changes, it is clear that with Beckenham-Wimbledon almost equating to New Addington-Wimbledon trams, the main saving is from two trams per hour running to Wimbledon from Elmers End instead of from New Addington. That five minutes each way, multiplied by two equals 20 minutes total tram time saved, which more than copes with the 10 seconds delays for speed restrictions around the network’s four tightest corners.
Why do we also need to cut two trams per hour from the Elmers End to West Croydon route – causing a 25 per cent cut in trams to Elmers End rail station and 14 per cent cut along the busy East Croydon to Arena route through Addiscombe?
To help, Caroline Pidgeon is now asking if we could at least add a peak hour two trams per hour shuttle service from East Croydon to Elmers End (as shown below), that would re-instate the cut trams through Addiscombe.
- John Jefkins MBE is a member of the Croydon Liberal Democrats
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