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Cross River Tram: City Hall committee divided on prospects for 1.3 billion scheme

Members of the London Assembly have called on Boris Johnson to continue searching for funding for the proposed £1.3 billion Cross River Tram across Waterloo Bridge as he decides whether or not to include it in Transport for London's new business plan.

Val Shawcross AM
Val Shawcross AM chairs the City Hall committee which has published the 46-page report

A report published this week by the London Assembly's tranport committee summarises the submissions made at an in-depth seminar the committee held at City Hall last month to explore ways of boosting north-south transport links in the capital.

The seminar – attended by more than 100 people – was intended to review the case for the tram linking Brixton and Peckham in the south with Camden Town and King's Cross in the north via Elephant & Castle and Waterloo. The Cross River Tram (CRT) is not currently funded beyond the initial design phase.

Transport for London's own figures show that the capital cost of constructing the CRT scheme is currently estimated at 1.3 billion. TfL considers that the proposed light rail link has a benefit-cost ratio in excess of 2 to 1.

The draft report was endorsed by the Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party members of the committee but the Conservative Group does not support further spending on the Cross River Tram at this time.

Conservatives sceptical about tram scheme

"I have to say that on our side are extremely unhappy about the conclusions [in the report]," said Conservative committee member Richard Tracey AM.

"We feel that there is no case for the tram to go north of the river," he added, complaining that suggestions about bus alternatives to the tram raised at the seminar were not reflected in the final report.

Mr Tracey was extremely doubful about the scheme's future prospects: "I do not see any prospect of the money being found for this," he said.

"We just feel that the whole thing has a very unstable basis on costing ... and we feel that it would be misleading people to come forward with these conclusions. I'm sorry, but that is our adamant view."

Boris Johnson's view

Whilst Ken Livingstone was an enthusiastic advocate of the Cross River Tram his successor at City Hall has been lukewarm at best about the desirability of the scheme.

"I am considering the best way forward for Cross River Tram in the context of wider decisions on TfL's emerging business plan," Boris Johnson said this week in a written answer to a question tabled by Lib Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon. "Future work on the project will depend on this decision," he added. The business plan is expected to be published next month.

The Mayor was also asked whether he had investigated options for funding the Cross River Tram other than existing TfL budgets and additional government grant.

Mr Johnson replied: "TfL has investigated a number of different options for alternative sources of funding and finance for Cross River Tram and do not believe there is a realistic option at the present time."

Alternatives

As well as urging Transport for London (which is now chaired by Boris Johnson himself) to continue to explore funding options for the CRT, the committee has also called on TfL to examine alternative proposals to improve north-south transport links.

"Most committee members agree that the Cross River Tram would address the gaps in services and lack of capacity that plagues transport links, particularly in south London," says Val Shawcross AM, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and constituency member for Lambeth and Southwark.

"Transport for London must explore all possible options for funding the tram or we risk losing an opportunity to connect properly the north and south of the capital, and much-needed regeneration schemes along the route may not go ahead."

• The report can be read in full online [PDF]

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