Southwark “Supertram” Could Link London Bridge And Denmark Hill

Image of the tram in Camberwell, on a typical low-traffic day

A planning application for a privately-funded “Supertram” to run through Southwark is to be submitted, according to a notice posted along the proposed route.

Tram Power, the ambitious, Preston-based company behind the plan, claims that the line, which would run south from London Bridge through Elephant & Castle, Walworth Road and Camberwell before terminating at Denmark Hill, could be up and running within two years, and would cost around £50m; by way of comparison, the last serious tram proposal in London, the Cross River Tram between King’s Cross and Peckham that was axed by Boris Johnson in 2008, had a price tag of £1.3 billion.

The service would be privately funded, and would share space with existing road traffic, although signalling would be re-jigged in order to give trams priority. Access would be via island platforms in the centre of the road, and a site near the Bricklayers Arms has been identified for a depot. The architect Milan Babic has drawn up early schemes for where the stops would be located, while political backing comes courtesy of Lib Dem councillor James Barber, who in April cited the streetcar in Portland, Oregon as a good model. The local website SE1 has an excellent report from earlier this year that discusses the logistics in finer detail.

Sounds promising, but we can’t help feel sceptical about the scheme’s chances. While it would be privately funded, it would still need sign-off from both Southwark council and Transport for London, who might not be keen to hand over space on what is a busy route. How it would integrate with the Oyster system is another potential hurdle.

Croydon aside, 50 years have passed since trams trundled through London, but tram dreams aren’t rare among London’s quixotic town planners: last year Ken Livingstone mused over a new north London service, while the tramification of Oxford Street is a perennial topic, and strong local opposition toppled the proposed West London Tram in 2007.

Perhaps the most damning comment comes via the local Labour party, which noted: “I know the Liberal Democrats are excited about this scheme, but I’m worried they’re just getting carried away by the pretty graphics”.

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  • JP

    I really don’t see how this is realistic at all. For a start, as the article linked here http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/6184 states, the council is in favour of trams in principle, but the company with these ideas has never built a tram system before and simply claims they know how to build a tram more cheaply (funny how none of the existing tram manufacturers worldwide have stumbled upon this discovery). It all just seems a bit like a guy who wants some publicity.

    I think £50m is a random number they’ve pulled out of their heads and there’s no way it’s realistic – the new tram upgrade in Birmingham is costing I believe about £60m for the route extension through the city centre (just 4 stations) and another £40m for new trams themselves (although a much larger number of trams I presume). I just don’t see where they got this number from. As good as it would be to have a more comprehensive tram network in London, I don’t see an idea like this ever gaining ground.

    For reference: http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-transport-news/2012/04/30/40-million-midland-metro-deal-for-25-new-trams-signed-off-65233-30855179/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_Metro#Line_One_.28Birmingham_City_Centre.29_Extension

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.guppy James Guppy

    he he…typical low traffic day – nice!

  • Kay

    Highly unlikely this will come to fruition, but about time a more serious tram proposal with a realistic budget was put on the table (in inner London). Ken’s North-South tram idea was ace, too bad it was so costly.

  • Tom

    Walworth Road is far too narrow in parts to make this in any way practical. There is no way this will happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.barber.1238292 James Barber

    Hi Tom, Anyone who been to Amsterdam will have witnessed multiple tram routes along narrower streets than Walworth Road. Lots of other cities with similar examples.
    Hi JP, I feel concern that Trampower havent yet built a whole tram system. But no one had until they had. Have to start somewhere. Most wouldnt have had 1 km of overhead in place ofr 8 years on test, or a decade of track in place on test or a tram build using standardi ndustrial components to reduce the cost that ran successfully until an arson attack.
    And the £55M was calculated from civil engineering quotes and is slightly more expensive per km than new trams built in Europe.
    Hi kay, I’d say unlikely to come to fruition in Southwark with a dollop of good luck and some vision. We know the cash is around as 1 Blackfriars development is providing one its own £50M. We know Europe build trams routes for these costs. So it about political will from whoever runs Southwark Council and Transport for London when a planning applicaiton is made.

  • SE15

    I’m not convinced by this for a number of reasons:

    - £50m is less than the cost of building the cable car
    - it merely duplicates part of two existing bus routes, the 35 and 40
    - would the tram run alongside the 35 and 40 or cause them to be cut?
    - if the 35 and 40 were cut, would that not inconvenience people who use them to travel to and from places south of Camberwell or north of London Bridge?
    - terminating at London Bridge would mean dropping people some distance short of where many of them want to go (the City)

    I can’t help but think that this is a solution looking for a problem, a transport scheme for the sake of a transport scheme, someone who has come up with a “good idea” and is looking for somewhere to put it.

    A short distance to the east of this scheme lies an area which has very poor transport links (densely-populated, even further from any access to rail services, and fairly limited but severely overcrowded bus services). If the Southwark Supertram were to aim to solve a problem such as that, it might have more merit.

  • Brian Hutchinson

    Why do we get our knickers in a twist over this; it’s the norm in Europe and some areas of N America and we need to reduce the number of private cars polluting South London!

  • Serafina

    I love trams especially, in foreign cities, but usually they’re running along roads that are at least twice as wide as the Walworth Road and they don’t have the 35, 40, 171, 176 , 148, 68, 12 , and 468 queuing up behind them, or, alternatively, blocking the road in front, not to mention other traffic. We’ve just got rid of bendy buses which, in principle aren’t that different and have a degree of flexibility and now propose a bulkier, more rigid alternative? We have lots of transport above ground. Let’s think the unthinkable and return to the possibility of extending the Bakerloo line to Camberwell – that would regenerate the area faster than anything the council can dream up.