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.

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11 comments
  1. Stephen Spark says:

    Seems like an idea worth exploring. Trams are wonderful – clean, smooth, quiet and fun to travel in, and a world away from the smelly, jolting bus. Much depends on what the Bakerloo extension is intended to do. If it was built more like the Parisian RER with high speeds and limited stops, it could work well with the tram as a local feeder. But there’d be objections from the rest of London to so much money being spent on parallel transport systems in one place. I’m guessing it would have to be one or the other.

    The pointless little Sutton tram scheme is another matter. There are plenty of more appropriate places for trams, especially in south London. We desperately need a 21st century link to London’s main airport, for example – tram, tube, monorail, we really don’t care – anything would be better than a 90-minute journey for 10 miles.

  2. Ramon Prasad says:

    Virtually every major city in Europa has chosen trams as passenger transport between and around shopping districts. The way they do this in Zurich is to hold tram speeds down so that there is virtually no chance of a pedestrian/tram altercation. With frequent stops the trams have virtually become part of the shopping/coffee-break culture. Thus re-vitalizing town-centre type venues.

    For reasons best known to themselves the owners of Oxford Street, Westminster City Council, have turned their heads against this type of development. But it is precisely what is needed for the re-vitalization of Oxford Street and other town-centre type venues.

    For these reasons, and many others I could give, I strongly support the surface tram development for passengers on street level transportation schemes. It would strongly enhance visual amenity in decaying industrial areas from previous eras. To Southwark Council: bravery and beauty. Let’s turn the Old Kent Road into a line of beauty spots, with acres of visual amenity along its path.

  3. Melvyn says:

    Just think had the Cross River Tram project gone ahead then this project would have simply been an extension from Elephant and Castle and might have been already done !

    London will pay for generations the cost of voting Boris Johnson Mayor of London in 2008 !

    • ianVisits says:

      Setting aside the fact that it was cancelled due to the lack of funding from Gordon Brown’s Labour government, Sadiq Khan also refused to resume the project when asked to do so – “London will pay for generations the cost of voting Sadiq Khan Mayor of London in 2016”

    • Malc says:

      Replying to IanVisits comment, it was cancelled because Boris Johnson, on becoming Mayor, chose to cancel it instead of standing up for London and continuing to make the case for funding.

  4. MilesT says:

    Reminiscent of the famous Simpsons monorail episode, and many standalone “streetcar” projects in the US.

    Southwark should prove the viability with a cheaper bus rapid transit scheme first.

    Dedicated bus lanes, buses with fewer stops and all door boarding (use Boris buses and reinstate conductors, or, shock use a bendy bus, which is more representative of a tram as a later evolution), enhanced bus stops with countdown displays at least,possibly more.

    Then upgrade to electric /battery trolley bus, then upgrade to tram. Or maybe a cable hauled people mover (close to ground high speed gondola, with level boarding and ability to rise up over key junctions), as used in some south american cities

    Also..jago hazard on YouTube has done history videos of South London trams (and their issues)

  5. Leon says:

    If I remember correctly, a key justification for the Bakerloo Line extension is that the layout of Elephant and Castle station drastically limits the speed at which they can turn trains around, and it’s not really worth fixing that just at Elephant and Castle when it would be almost as easy to extend the line somewhere else – the reason they want to run tube trains to Lewisham is actually because they want to run more tube trains through Oxford Circus.

    That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good argument for running trams down the Old Kent Road; just that the tram would only achieve the benefits of the tube extension which Southwark care about!

  6. Clive Durdle says:

    Is anyone writing a full London wide Tube Rail Tram strategy that is fully inclusive and multi purpose logistics as well as people 24 hour high frequency making roads and road carriages niche like 35mm has become?

  7. Tasha says:

    I am in agreement south needs mord underground trains everthing stops at brixton, elephant clapham side. The cross river trams should have extended. The trams should be extended via croydon to brixton and crystal palace camberwell these areas are very congested and polluted so i do know why there is no alternative to bus. And the overhead trains are sometimes very unreliable. Norbury had trams it shold never have been scraped. London road is very very poluted also walworth road. Please open fhe underground that was in walworth road.

  8. Ramon Prasad says:

    London could have a trams strategy. But it would require consumer discipline as well as poviding benefits. A town centre plus environs strategy. South London is, as North London is, a collection of villages.

    So, we will get you there and round and about. What a shopping expedition looks like. But not travel from one town centre to another. Tubes are for that.

    If you accept this contract then trams could vastly enhance your local area, both from the point of view of easing the local travel situation, and making possible the transformation of your local town centre visual amenity.

    Tubes and London Overground still have their more long-distance role. If you like this idea, write to your elected representative and let him or her know.

  9. daveid76 says:

    Wonderful to see these plans and to imagine how much better things will be. However, like every transport scheme that is proposed to solve social and community problems, it won’t happen. It’ll be bounced back and forth and round and round and by the time it’s come out of the machinery it’ll be either cancelled or compromised to the point of being unrecognisable with millions spent and nothing to show for it. The UK is the theatre of false hope, where transport schemes come to die.

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