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”.