LRTA logo Light Rail Transit Association
Light Rail for better public transport

London Developments

Scott McIntosh, 10th December 2003

This was the last LRTA meeting to be held at Fred Tallant Hall for the foreseeable future, due to a pending change of ownership. The LRTA and its predecessor the LRTL have been using this venue since October 1942. It was therefore fitting that an audience of over 70 people assembled to hear Scott McIntosh of SKM (Europe) Limited give an update on Light Rail developments in London.

Scott advised that he left Transport for London in 2003, having worked for the Corporation and its predecessors since 1987. He said the organisation has seen much change over the past 2 to 3 years, and when you change you bleed. After considering his future he had decided to join the private sector. The new person responsible for Light Rail in London is Luke Albenese and Scott wished him the best of luck.

In his presentation Scott showed that Government statistics confirm that Light Rail patronage in Britain continues to grow, with a 10.7% rise on the DLR, and 2.7% on Croydon Tramlink between 2001/2002 and 2002/2003.

The Docklands Light Railway continues to expand with work on the London City Airport branch in hand. Its aim is to improve access to Silvertown and to provide reliable public transport. It aims to connect the City Airport with Canary Wharf and the City by means of a direct rail link, and to allow the city to grow without adversely affecting the environment. It is also expected to speed the regeneration of the Southern Royal Docks. There are several proposals for further extensions. There is the logical extension from the City Airport across the river to Woolwich. Another idea is to take over the section of the North London line between North Woolwich and Stratford and to extend it northwards to Stratford International. Another possible extension would take in Barking and Thames Riverside.

Plans are being drawn up for upgrading the line between Bank and Lewisham to take three car trains. This will require the viaducts and bridges between Tower Gateway and Crossharbour to be strengthened. Platforms will need lengthening and extra rolling stock will need to be acquired, requiring enlargement of Beckton depot. South Quays station would be relocated eastwards and sited over the Millwall cut.

Proposals are being developed for a new £18m station at Stratford. A TWA is being prepared for submission in March 2004 with the earliest opening date being 2006.

A new Heron Quays station opened in December 2002 and was jointly funded by DLR and Canary Wharf Group plc. A new retail mall is under construction there.

Tramlink continues to perform well with 101% of the service operated in Quarter 1 of 2003 against a target of 98%. In the second quarter 100% of the service operated. Fare losses are at 2%, better than all other transport modes in London. Passenger levels are likely to break the 20m barrier in 2003/4. Ridership on the Wimbledon line is 900% up on the former rail figure. Demands for extensions continue unabated.

Recent Research has shown that Tramlink provides independence for the mobility impaired, and has enabled Job Centres to place unemployed people in jobs. It has also shown that there is a lower level of unemployment along the routes served compared with other areas. It has allowed employers to recruit staff more easily, has raised staff productivity and improved retention. The area for recruitment has widened and recruitment in Mitcham and Beckenham is an advantage. Staff no longer have an excuse for being late.

  News  

The profile of Croydon has been raised dramatically and it has attracted high profile inward investment. The confidence of property developers has been raised. Marginal retailers have been replaced with high profile retailers.

Good news for the NIMBY’S is that properties near Tramlink are highly sought after, and Estate Agents report that it has become easier to sell properties in New Addington and Coombe Lane, and Addiscombe has also become more marketable.

With all this good news why isn't TCL successful. Scott suggested the patronage rise was not sufficiently controllable. Trams attract a different user base than buses and trains. The cost of Finance was higher, compounded by a delayed opening. There had been engineering problems. Was PFI the wrong route? From the public sector viewpoint the risk transfer of a DBOM has worked well. Cost comparisons put buses at 13.7p/mile, LUL 14.9p/mile, DLR 44p/mile and Tramlink at 14p/mile plus 2p capital charge.

Planning for Tramlink extensions continues in the Sutton, Mitcham, Tooting, and Crystal Palace areas as well as along the Streatham-Norbury-Purley corridor.

The timescales continue to slip and opening is unlikely before 2012, and that is dependent on the 2004 spending review.

Work continues on the West London Transit scheme. The Uxbridge Road is the highest bus demand corridor in London. The tramway proposal is likely to attract a minimum of 29m passengers per annum, with a 16% modal shift. The original Semaly proposal was based on a high degree of segregation, which led to major opposition. The revised scheme envisages 60% segregated, 33% shared but managed, and the remainder shared. The revised scheme reduces speeds to 19km/h from 22km/h, which will require longer vehicles with a capacity of 300+ passengers. TfL admit they have learned the hard way from public consultation. Latest cost estimates are £425m for 22km of tramway which gives a BCR of 1.3;1. That is approximately £20m/km. Latest timescales are for a TWA to be submitted in 2005, consent in 2008 and opening in 2011. The Mayor wants it competed earlier.

The East London and Greenwich Waterfront schemes have been de-specified to "good modern bus". Phase 1 of ELT is scheduled to open in 2006 and phase 1 of GWT in 2008. However developers have doubts about their attractiveness.

Work continues on Cross River Transit which is expected to attract 72m passengers per annum. At present the cost stands at £300m but is rising. The Business Case is being reviewed post Congestion Charging, which should reduce some of the dis-benefits. A number of challenges face the scheme, including finding a suitable depot site, following the loss of the preferred site near Kings Cross. Traffic management at Camden Town is an issue. The scheme also has to take account of redevelopment at Kings Cross, Elephant & Castle and Peckham. There is opposition in the Somers Town area. The earliest date for a TWA is 2005, which is optimistic, and opening before 2012/3 is unlikely.

The City of London has initiated a study for extension of the scheme. Their proposals would complement the CRT scheme. The preferred route is from Battersea to Hackney via Vauxhall, Elephant & Castle, Borough High Street, Bishopsgate and Shoreditch. Initial estimates put the cost at £260m. It is seen as a cost effective way of linking the Olympic Sites at Hackney Wick and Stratford with central London.

The Royal Borough of Kingston-on-Thames signed a contract with the Halcrow Group and TfL on 9th May 2003 for a feasibility study into Integrated Rapid Transit in Kingston. The study was to look at radial and orbital links and to report in December 2003.

The Mayor has stated that he wanted Tramlink extended from Streatham to link up with CRT at Brixton. He stated that it would be dependent on the Government meeting 60% of the cost. Any tram routes or extensions would need Government support to make them happen.

A number of Problems stand in the way of achieving new tramways in London. These include the current hole in TfL accounts, the high cost of Tube PPP and Buses, the TfL Management Structure, the length of Time it takes and the need to gain Public support

Scott concluded by saying despite all the difficulties it is worth the effort.

John Laker, 8/1/04

London Area – 10th December 2003


London Developments: top of page