A lingering hope that the Northern line could be extended southwards from Morden has been killed off in favour of a Tram extension instead.
Realistically, the cost and difficulty of extending the London Underground had already made it an unlikely option, but a public meeting last week confirmed that as far as Transport for London (TfL) is concerned, it’s a dead option.
It was one of 185 different options for improving public transport south of Morden, which were reduced to a shortlist of 5 more realistic suggestions.
The tube extension, which was actually planned back when the Northern line was being built, would see tube trains run over mainline tracks down to Sutton. However, even if funding were possible, the difficulties of squeezing the tube platforms into the small space available at Sutton Station pretty much ruled it out of contention.
At the Sutton Local Committee meeting, it was confirmed that TfL will be seeking to push ahead with a Tram extension running from South Wimbledon through Morden to Sutton, which was always their favoured option anyway.
If the plans are approved, and critically, funding is available, then work could get underway in 2022 and the tram would be up and running in 2025.
TfL says that it has committed £70 million to the scheme with another £30 million split between Merton and Sutton councils. However, the TfL funding is not a specific budget, but could be made available through TfL Growth Fund, which then means any funding is dependent on there being commercial developers willing to pick up the rest of the bill.
With the Tram extension actually projected to cost around £330 million, that’s a sizeable shortfall to be met by developers.
That’s just for the South Wimbledon to Sutton town centre extension. A planned second extension of the tram further south to the Royal Marsden Hospital site which is being promoted as a London Cancer Hub would cost an additional £100 million.
One funding idea that is being looked as as a possible way of funding a “major infrastructure project” is a Development Rights Auction Model (DRAM), where large plots of land around transport hubs are built up by TfL, and then sold off, with TfL taking a share of the profits.
The currently preferred tramlink route seeks to integrate the extension into proposed major new developments coming forward in the borough. This includes developments at St Helier Hospital, the North Sutton sites (the Gas Holders and Zurich House) and the South Point site which is the safeguarded terminus for the route with a possible future pedestrian connection to Sutton Station.
Next month, an eight-week public consultation will open with three shortlisted options. The first is the Sutton to Wimbledon tram and the second two include “bus rapid transit” options.
A consultation on the final option will take place next Summer, with the intention to issue the necessary Works order in 2020 to allow construction to start in 2022.