Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on how the Town Hall scrutiny committee wants Croydon to ‘champion’ the local tram network to ensure that TfL ‘takes passenger safety seriously’
Croydon Council’s scrutiny committee has warned that the town centre’s “current road network will not cope with the large increase in car usage” as a result of the opening of the Westfield supermall, and that there needs to be significant expansion of the tram network, linking with trains and the Docklands Light Railway to provide better connectivity with Brixton, Lewisham and Peckham.
The influential Town Hall committee has also recommended that Croydon Council should have a greater say over the management of the south London tram system, and more input over transport safety issues.
Sean Fitzsimons, the Labour councillor who chairs the scrutiny committee, wants Croydon to resume its role as “champion” of the tram system, for both its future development and over safety issues.
The recommendations follow discussions with passenger groups and safety experts following the Croydon tram disaster in November 2016, in which seven people were killed and all 62 other passengers on board sustained injuries when a tram travelling from New Addington to Wimbledon left the tracks on a sharp bend approaching the Sandilands stop.
The Tramlink system was originally built by Croydon Council, opening in 2000, before being handed over to the capital-wide transport authority, Transport for London, which franchises out the operation of the 26 miles of tram network to First Group.
Croydon’s scrutiny committee, which meets this week, has agreed that, “To help ensure that TfL and Tram operators take passenger safety seriously the Council should devise measures of public accountability for TfL on its safety actions in regards trams.”
The committee’s minutes from its last meeting, held in April, also note: “It would also be sensible to consider whether to include safety on buses within any proposed structure.”
Over the past 12 months, Fitzsimon’s committee has held evidence sessions with various parties, including TfL, to explore public transport safety issues and broader matters.
As Inside Croydon reported in March, TfL has even been accused of suppressing vital information related to the causes of the Sandilands crash by keeping secret an audit report into the events of November 9, 2016, even to the point of not releasing the information to its own investigation into the fatal derailment.
The committee’s minutes state, “Tramlink has not had an effective champion this last 20 years since Croydon Council handed over this role to Transport for London.
“All other transport systems in London, including trains, Tube, DLR and buses, have expanded in the last 20 years since Tramlink was built, during a time when other trams systems in the UK have expanded and added new lines. Political promises have been made on expansion by various Mayors of London, but necessary funding for expansion has never materialised.
“This has to change.”
With TfL focused so much on the opening of Crossrail later this year, and under severe budget pressures, the Croydon committee makes it clear that south London risks becoming the forgotten part of the capital once again.
“It was difficult to determine TfL’s priorities on future proposals as a result of information contained in the presentation,” the minutes note. “The Mayor’s new Transport Strategy alludes to [tram] expansion to Sutton, but experience of previous Mayors’ promises means these have to be taken with a pinch of salt.”
When Ken Livingstone was Mayor, a tram extension to Crystal Palace was promised, but this was axed once Tory Boris Johnson moved in to City Hall in 2008. And while Johnson four times made election promises to build the Crystal Palace extension, he never did.
With Westfield coming, Croydon’s scrutiny committee is pushing to get firmer promises on new tram lines, to help divert the public from using their cars. “Tramlink to Tube and DLR network will help alleviate this problem,” the report states.
How this might be funded is not addressed. Westfield recently pulled the plug on £15million-worth of community infrastructure funding towards a town centre tram loop, as the developers look to shave its costs on the £1.4billion scheme which won’t now delivered until 2023 at the earliest.
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