Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cross River Tram

We seem to have heard very little of the Cross River Tram since Ken Livingstone's departure. It has come up at several Mayoral question times with Boris, but he has been rather non-commital on the matter. London Connections blog appear to think that a decision will be due in July. I'm not sure where that information has come from. We've had consultations that have been going on for aaaages. Lots of talk about whether the depot might be in Peckham or the Old Kent Road. Endless route discussions about which roads should be taken in Kennington, Brixton, Peckham, Camberwell, Elephant, Waterloo etc. And yet, we've still no tram, no tram tracks, no happy people travelling around south London marvelling at the environmental goodness of no longer needing cars...

The tram isn't particularly set to benefit the SE11 area. It will run through Kennington if its built, but Kennington and Oval are already well connected by virtue of their tube stations, the walkable Vauxhall or E&C overground / tube stations, and lots of buses. What it would do in actuality, would be to open up South London. Everybody knows that regeneration is not possible without good transport infrastructure. In the meantime, regeneration has just come to mean making the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre derelict without giving its tenants any new options or building lots of buy-to-let properties (not always accessible for locals) in Peckham, on vague promises of a "yet to arrive tram" and then not delivering. (The cynic in me thinks that regeneration is just a glossy word for "removal of existing people who are not considered capable of generating capital and therefore are not assets"). But I do love South London, and I think everybody who lives south of the Thames should have the opportunities available to the rest of London. And those opportunities are made possible because it's possible for people to travel in and out of their London disticts. If Boris is serious about cutting knife crime, he'll back the tram and ensure that funding is forthcoming. If he is not serious about knife crime, he will just do a lot of fund-raising for local youth that will benefit this generation and he'll put lots of police people on the streets. And then the next incumbant mayor will arrive and decide to scrap those projects. At least if the tram is built, it would leave a very tangible legacy, accessible for all.

I have hopeful dreams that the already existing Croydon tram could be connected to the Brixton or Peckham branch of the Cross River Tram. But maybe it's because I'm a secret public transport geek. I like travelling on buses on the top deck in the window seat. And I like zooming along on the (only just affordable) tube to arrive somewhere different when emerging from underground. And I like the Thameslink line that will drop you from London to Brighton. And I also like cycling because it's free and good for you.

And anyway, how come they managed to get funding for the Cross Rail Project? It's not fair. *enters foot-stomping mode* You know, the Three Wheeled Pleb doesn't even care if the Cross River Tram doesn't cross the River. But please please, just get it built. Only, umm, preferably not in time for the Olympics :) :)

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