TfL abandons tram expansion funding commitment for Sutton and south London

A TfL tram in Croydon. (Photo by David Cook)

Transport for London (TfL) has admitted it can no longer commit to funding the Sutton extension to the South London Tram network.

The extension, which formed part of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s 2018 transport strategy, has been on pause since 2019 due to what has been deemed a “weak business case” due to limited journey time benefits.

An initial estimate placed the total funding required for the extension from the Belgrave Walk stop to Sutton town centre at £560 million. However, TfL admitted that despite money being put forward by both itself and local councils it still had a £440 million funding gap.

Speaking at the Greater London Authority’s transport committee on Wednesday (September 27), Trish Ashton, director of rail and sponsored services, said: “From a TfL perspective, we are no longer able to commit the funding that we were at that time.The other thing that is worth flagging is that when we look across our infrastructure projects, the costs are likely to have increased significantly since 2019 because of inflation and rising material costs.

“I know there has been some interest recently in revisiting that business case but we would be looking for something that has a great journey time impact and benefit to offset the considerable costs we are looking at.”

When pressed to provide a scenario in which the case be taken forward, Ashton said: “It’s hard to see how anything could change that would mean we are able to come back and take it forward. It’s really hard to get increased journey time”

She said other commitments, including increasing tram usage by 85% by 2030, were being reviewed. She cited the impact of the pandemic and a desire to ensure sustainable patronage for the future.

Sutton was the only other tram line extension included in the mayor’s 2018 strategy. TfL confirmed it is not currently looking at any alternatives.

The borough technically has two tram stops on the current route. However, these are located in the far north-east corner on the border with Croydon and Merton.

Sutton is one of six London boroughs without a tube station.

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