Transport for London has plumped for a tram extension that links Sutton town centre with the Northern Line Tube at Colliers Wood.
The outcome of a lengthy deliberation of a public consultation was published by TfL last night, with the transport authority opting for what appears to be a compromise option, and certainly not the route favoured by Sutton council leader Ruth Dombey’s LibDems, who were keener on a tram link to Wimbledon which will have also served their multi-million-pound “cancer hub” at Belmont.
It will now be for the councils in Sutton and Merton to find at least half the budget to build any tram link – including a potentially costly new bridge across the existing tram lines at Belgrave Walk – before the scheme will be given a green light. And with TfL budgets groaning under the strain of the over-running CrossRail project, that’s not likely to be any time very soon.
The south London tram network celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but despite its success in providing an east-west public transport link from Beckenham to Wimbledon via Croydon, it has yet to have any major extensions to celebrate.
In ooutlining the options in its consultation, TfL estimated that Option 2 could cost £420million.
In releasing its report on the consultation – which concluded nearly a year ago – TfL stated: “While some of the funding to deliver the project is currently in place, other sources of funding need to be confirmed if the project is to move forward. We are continuing to work with the London Boroughs of Sutton and Merton to explore options for obtaining the remaining funding needed.
“We are also considering how we can collectively access national sources of funding.” In other words: potless.
One significant outcome from the TfL report is the decision to go with a tram extension rather than what they called a “bus rapid transit”, or BRT. The BRT was thought to be TfL’s preferred option, simply on grounds of lower costs – the bus would run on road segregated from traffic where possible, not on rails, though each BRT could carry fewer passengers than the tram.
Of nearly 6,000 responses to the TfL consultation, 86 per cent were in favour of some form of “Sutton Link”, but the overwhelming majority of those favouring a tram, with only 40 per cent supporting the BRT.
The TfL report notes that, “Some of the key reasons informing this route preference are that it has the greatest transport benefits; is the most effective option at regenerating the areas served and supporting new homes; and has fewer delivery challenges compared to the other routes.
“While delivering as a tram is more expensive, compared to the Bus Rapid Transit alternative it has greater transport benefits; enables more new homes; has greater potential for funding; and has much greater support from respondents to the consultation.”
And the report’s authors warn: “If there is a substantial delay to securing funding for the project then this decision would need to be reviewed to identify whether anything has changed which would influence the decision.”
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