Transport for London has binned the proposed Sutton tram extension due to its “weak business case”.
According to a senior official at City Hall this week, it’s unlikely that the Sutton link will be revisited any time soon. “It’s hard to see how anything could change that would mean we are able to come back and take it forward,” they said.
The decision appears to end any prospect of the highly successful tram system being expanded for the foreseeable future, with another extension, from Croydon to Crystal Palace as favoured by previous London Mayors Livingstone and Johnson, seemingly long forgotten.
Cost estimates for the Sutton extension, which would link to the Northern Line Tube at Colliers Wood, were put at £560million – more than five times the cost of the entire tram network from Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction when it was built in the late 1990s.
TfL together with Sutton and Merton councils have between them budgeted less than £120million for the project.
The scheme proposed was part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s 2018 transport strategy, much of which has had to be abandoned due to the cost of covid and the Tory Government’s stern terms of the post-lockdown financial bail-out for the capital’s transport system.
The decision was announced at the Greater London Authority’s transport committee on Wednesday, where Trish Ashton, TfL director of rail and sponsored services, said: “We are no longer able to commit the funding that we were at that time.”
She also indicated that “costs are likely to have increased significantly since 2019 because of inflation and rising material costs”.
Ashton said, “I know there has been some interest recently in revisiting that business case but we would be looking for something that has a great journey time impact and benefit to offset the considerable costs we are looking at.
“It’s hard to see how anything could change that would mean we are able to come back and take it forward. It’s really hard to get increased journey time.”
The tram network consists of 39 stops along 17 miles of east-west track through south London. It has been largely unaltered since it opened in 2000.
Ashton said other commitments, including increasing tram usage by 85% by 2030, were being reviewed. Sutton was the only tram line extension included in the Mayor’s 2018 strategy. TfL confirmed it is not currently looking at any alternatives.
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