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Trams in London: Derek Reynods December 2006

 

Subject: Trams in London
Message:

This from Derek Reynolds is similar to his letter published in Local Tansport Today Feb or March 2006

Wp Ref. Trams reynolds 01

I like trams. They are photogenic, quiet and 'swishy', accelerate rapidly, you know exactly where they are going to go, and can shift hundreds of people in an articulated set. Trams are like beautiful women, or expensive cars; lovely to see; lovely to watch; lovely to hear - but they'll break your heart, and your pocket.

For London, the writing was on the wall for trams as far back as 1927. In 1949 the presence of a tramcar on the streets of London was an embarrassment to the capital's post war planners. In the 'County of London Plan', tramways, modern or otherwise, did not enter the equation. They were seen as an impediment to progress, trackwork and overheads being the major issue.

Yet, in London half a century later, there is an army planning the onslaught of the tram on the streets of the capital. Here is some background: In February 2003, the Guardian reported Amey shuddering under a £100m deficit for Croydon's trams. Also In February West Londoners marched in protest at the proposed Uxbridge to Shepherds Bush tram. In response the authorities declared that it was important to listen to objections from the public at large. Despite that, Ken Livingstone is adamant that West Londoners are clamouring to get trams. Perhaps he was talking to those who do not drive, those with recollections of seventy years ago, those with vivid imaginations - or vested interests.

The £100m Croydon deficit pales into insignificance when Ken talks about the £300m projected for the Peckham to Camden route, and the £450m for the West London, Uxbridge to the Bush. Set something on rails and you sign for hundreds of million of pounds of debt - eventually settled at the tax payers expense, for without Government Guarantees, who would ever put the money up for such a pipe dream?

In the July 1952 issue of London Transport Magazine, a message from the Chairman of the London Transport Executive, Lord Latham sums up, what to him were the main features if the conversion to Buses with the conclusion that: 'The final replacement of the trams by a more modern, more flexible, and more manoeuvrable vehicle will be a landmark in the history of the capital which we serve, and a major work of civil importance'

What has changed? The failure to learn from history, or the wilful ignorance of the facts?

Look not at the sleek temptress as she glides along - look to the path she rides. Track replacement every ten years as in the town of Grenoble. Overheads impeding emergency access by fire escapes, and construction. The temptress demands the best, most expensive trappings.

 

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