Ex-Mayor Livingstone Tram

Tiny Tramlink

I have written back to the ASA today to point out that they have accepted Tramlink/TfL’s arguments too easily.

According to TfL’s 2005 Annual Report London Underground had 976 million passenger journeys and London Buses had 1,973 million passenger journeys in 2004-5. Croydon Tramlink journeys are so trivial that they do not even mention them beyond saying “Though passenger journeys were up on Croydon Tramlink, TfL still has concerns about the performance of our concessionaire company …”.

Croydon Tramlink.jpgSome indication of Tramlink passenger journeys can be found in the NAO report on trams. See Table 6 on page 21. This says that the promoters of Croydon Tramlink were expecting passenger number of 25 million. They achieved 15 million in the first year of operation and 19 million in 2002-3. This represented a 24% shortfall.

This tiny number are in no way comparable with London Underground (50 times bigger than Tramlink) and London Buses (90 times bigger than Tramlink). The total so-called network amounts to 18.5 miles of track with three tiny routes. Whilst there is nothing wrong with Croydon Tramlink it is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of Londoners. Therefore the recent TfL ads that put trams on a par with the tube and buses are essentially dishonest.

6 replies on “Tiny Tramlink”

The recent TfL ads are not, in fact, dishonest at all. If you lived in or around croydon you would know that since there are no UndergrounD facilities nearer than Morden and Wimbledon, both on the Tramlink route, they play no part in the perception of public transport. Busses, while readily available in Croydon are slower and less frequent than trams. I live on a bus route and have a stop outside my front gate but I find it much more convenient to travel to my nearest tramstop as the trams pass all the places in Croydon that people wish to travel to. No wonder that trams are well used and are often crowded. For Croydonians I would suggest that the trams are in fact the major form of public transport.

A current ridership of 25 million is hardly chicken feed, and is not only close to what was expected, but is such that parts of the network are reaching capacity at peak times. Those journeys may not matter to the vast mojority on Londoners, any more than the residents of Croydon would be worried about the congestion on the 207/607 bus route, but they do matter to the people of Croydon who use Tramlink. That does put trams on a par with the local bus network.

Julian and Jim,

I was not trying to run down Tramlink, which I think is a great little system. It is a little system though.

The Mayor wants more trams so he bigs them up and the way he presents trams is as if they are on a par with bus and tube which they are plainly not – the numbers speak for themselves: Tramlink 25 million journeys against a billion on the Tube and 2 billion on the buses.

Phil Taylor

PS Jim, Do you work for Tramlink or are you retired?

Comparing an 18 mile tramway with the whole of the London bus and underground network is a severe case of chalk and cheese. Translating the case into the West London context, the comparison should be between what the tram can do as against what the buses that use the Uxbridge Road corridor, principally the 207/607 are doing, and what those loads will be in, say, five years time if the situation is left as is. What is universal experience, and not just in London or the UK, is that there is a practical limit to the capacity of bus routes, and that this is well below the minimum that is justifiable for a railway route. It is into that gap that trams fit, and there is many years experience to support their ability to move large numbers of people efficiently and economically, at least in terms of running costs. Plus, they have a verifiable ability to induce a significant modal shift away from car usage, which in this day and age cannot be argued as a bad thing. Their biggest problem is the extent of public misinformation, particularly about operation and construction, and whilst some of the UK tramways have hardly been models in tha latter respect, there are better methods which mean that construction is not the end of the world, as some would have us believe. And, no, I am not retired and I do work in the tramway industry, as well as being a Hillingdon ratepayer.

Quoting out-of-date statistics while omitting to mention more up-to-date but inconvenient figures which are publicly available is also “essentially dishonest.”

An example: written evidence submitted by Tramtrack Croydon to the Transport Select Committee as long ago as February 2005 includes the following:

” 2.4 Shortly after opening, Croydon Tramlink was carrying 16 million passengers per annum (60% of the expected level). After five years of operation and beyond the initial growth phase, this has now reached 22 million pa (80% of expectation). The main reasons for this shortfall in patronage are:

— The policy pursued by Transport for London of expanding bus services in direct competition to tram routes. The level of bus mileage operated in Croydon is currently 32% higher than at the time when the Concession was granted, with some routes running directly parallel to trams.

— The setting of bus fares on competing routes at 20% less for cash and 30% less for all day and season ticket holders than for tram fares. The effect of this ticket pricing was predatory. In 2004, fares on buses were harmonised resulting in an immediate 12% increase in passengers using the trams.

2.5 Comparison of bus and tram costs suggest that buses would have been a much more expensive solution to Croydon’s problems. Three buses are needed to carry the same number of passengers as one tram. As bus speeds are about 55% of tram speeds, a further twice as many buses are needed to service a corridor for each tram. In London the average bus has a six year life compared with 30 years for the tram. Thus to carry the same number of passengers a fleet of 144 buses would be needed to replace Croydon Tramlink’s 24 trams and over 30 years 720 buses would have to be procured to replace 24 trams. TCL is conducting a detailed assessment of the impact of this on capital and operating costs but it is believed that for the volume of passengers currently carried by Croydon Tramlink, trams are the most economical mode.”


You are quite right, chalk and cheese. What I was complaining about was that TfL and the Mayor talk about trams in the same breath as buses and the Tube which are an order of magnitude bigger.


I did not use out-of-date statistics, I used easily accessible statistics!


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