Southwark council is to investigate the viability of a tram network as an alternative to the Bakerloo line extension.
A proposal put forward by the Southwark Liberal Democrats at a council meeting was voted on last week, calling for the council to investigate the options.
In support of the proposal, they noted that the Croydon Tramlink’s initial costs came in at around £200 million, but triggered some £1.5 billion of inward development to the area. A similar project for Sutton is projected to cost circa £330 million, although it’s on hold at the moment.
There’s no indication of how much a tram service along the route of the Bakerloo extension would cost, but is unlikely to be worse than the Sutton link.
The route between Elephant and Castle to New Cross has the advantage of a road that is mostly wide enough to support a tram line running along it, although in places fairly wide pavements may need to be narrowed, and some mature trees cut down.
Once it gets past New Cross, although trams can easily share the road with cars, the road towards Lewisham is much narrower and busier, which could cause problems.
The council and TfL are both committed to the Bakerloo Line Extension, so any tram proposal would likely also have to be seen as a long term plan to replace bus services in the area when the tube line is eventually built.
Cost aside, the big issue would be whether the Bakerloo line extension is to be delayed by long enough to justify the 5-8 years it would take to build an alternative tram service. As it would probably mirror the Bakerloo line extension, a tram service would also have to show that it both wouldn’t reduce the expected revenue for the tube service and could also be delivered in a way that wouldn’t reduce the available investment pot for this area of London.
Putting forward an option to reduce bus services in the future could however make the running costs of a tram service more economically viable, boosting it as a complimentary service to the Bakerloo line extension.
Last week, the Council Assembly directed Southwark council to add exploring a tram service as part of its work supporting the Bakerloo line extension and explore route options with local residents, along with other transport improvements, such as cycle lanes and enhanced bus lanes.
Although the Bakerloo line extension is on hold at the moment, the proposed building sites and the route have been safeguarded so that any property developments have to be done in a way that wouldn’t prevent the tube tunnel from being built at a later date.