Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tram on the Edge

Transport committee considered the arguments around the proposed Cross River Tram this morning. The debate took the form of a seminar with invited guests, and an audience of around 80 people - no mean feat considering the committee meets during working hours and the holidays are over.

Amongst those present there was clearly support for the scheme, which would see Brixton and Peckham linked by separate lines to Waterloo Bridge, the tram then crossing the river and passing through Bloomsbury to Camden. However there was a vocal minority who opposed the tram, largely because of its effects on Somers Town and Bloomsbury.

Professor Stephen Glaister, lately of the TfL board, sounded a timely warning about funding the scheme in difficult times, pointing out the need to prioritise the many projects on TfL's drawing board. Going ahead with the tram means sacrificing something else, so TfL need to be clear about the costs and benefits. Considered against other projects, the tram is looking more like the sick wildebeest lagging at the back of the herd, as another London blogger recently commented.

Following the financial problems of Croydon Tramlink, involving the private sector in a finance deal is likely to prove difficult without paying them more to shoulder the risk.

Furthermore, raising the money from public sources would also be challenging. To borrow £1 billion for instance, would incur and interest payment of £140,000 per day. To raise £1 billion from fares would entail a fare increase of 10%, on top of the increases announced last week. And the £1 billion figure is no longer academic - because TfL predict the cost of Cross River Tram to be in the region of £1.3 billion, almost double what they predicted two years ago.

With the need to tighten belts and face the recession, Cross River Tram could be a goner.

Railway Overcrowding

The committee also undertook to carry out a review of overcrowding on main line railways in London. This is a hot topic and will prove interesting, particularly as the industry cannot even agree on a definition of overcrowding.

Dial A Ride

Complaints continue to pour in about the operation of dial a ride. There are plans to open a new depot and make changes to the system in October, so the committee agreed to carry out a review in March next year - a bit late in my opinion, but better late than not at all.


Anonymous said...

Tightening "our" belts and deciding the tram is a "goner" from the district of Romford is probably not a difficult proposition. It might look different from the perspective of the residents of Peckham.

Still, tighten away, I'm sure Peckham will benefit from all of TFL's other plans!

Anonymous said...

I went along to the Tram event yesterday (my first time at anything like that!) and it was really interesting...thanks for putting it on...do hope you can identify a funding solution for the scheme! It sounded like the best option of those presented (mainly more buses) to reduce pollution, help some deprived areas in south London and boost the capital's economic and environmental standing on the world stage!

Roger Evans said...

Some reasonable points, well made - thank you for attending our 'Traminar'. The committee are keen to repeat the exercise with other issues that affect Londoners, so watch this space...

Andy M said...

Mr Evans,

As a south Londoner I can assure you Cross River Tram isn't just another transport project for us. It is the ONLY transport project which does anything at all for a part of London which has always been woefully under-served.

In east London you have wonderful things like the tube and DLR. Crossrail - the £16bn scheme I am helping to pay for - goes right through Romford. Convenient, eh? Sadly not for me.

You have to understand parts of south London have virtually nothing. No tube. No light rail and slow and inefficient bus services. Yes we have overground trains - but on some routes they run only every half an hour, many finish well before midnight and you can't use Oyster prepay on them. And we're not talking way out in the sticks here - this is the reality in parts of zone 2.

We pay our fares and taxes too and get little in return. Remember this when the £16bn gold plated, diamond encrusted Crossrail diggers move in.

Cross River Tram will do for Peckham and Brixton what the DLR has done for the Isle of Dogs. The money can be found, what's lacking is the political will - particularly among Conservatives on the assembly, many (if not most) of whom seem stunningly ill informed on the issue.

Come to Peckham and Brixton to see what needs to be achieved and want can be achieved. You could help make a real difference to thousands of peoples' lives by making your Conservative colleagues see the light. Why don't you?