A Modest Proposal

Idea for a tram network, off the back of all this talk of infrastructure capex; here’s one scheme I think would genuinely help some of London’s more deprived areas… apologies for poor renderings…

Tottenham was a depressed, underemployed and somewhat, well, disconnected area before the riots. It’s home, and I love it, but we feel a bit neglected here.

So, inspired by Edinburgh’s bungled attempt (inspired to do it *properly* I should say), I would like to suggest that Tottenham becomes the hub of a new tram network for London. The government is planning to spend on infrastructure projects – while this is a good thing to do, they are doing it for the wrong reasons and they are choosing bad schemes. The High Speed route is ridiculous – there’s a post coming up with my ideas on how that should be improved (!).

Anyway, four main reasons for the project generally, then three reasons why Tottenham deserves to be the HQ:

1) London’s public transport is heaving and overly expensive, and needs augmenting with alternatives

2) London’s roads are clogged and cars now need actively to be removed from circulation

3) London has significant ‘black holes’ in its mass transit system

4) At other points, London relies overly heavily on buses which are subject to external restraints

A tram on route 149 passes Wards Corner

And why Tottenham?

i) As Seven Sisters rail-tube interface shows, we are ideally placed as a meeting point for routes from North and East of London to head down either into the City or to the West End; however, intermediate points on those lines are not served well, and many people are priced off the tube and trains

ii) There is underused brownfield land available for offices, depots and control centres. Moreover, the Wards Corner campaign has shown a great community desire to rejuvenate the area around Seven Sisters. Surely in the aftermath of the riots a similar spirit could be invoked further north around Bruce Grove too.

iii) Back to the opening sentence: Tottenham deserves a break. The Swan garage used to be a major bus hub; with White Hart Lane desperately short of public transport capacity, the area could once again be a home for mass transit.

A tram on the revised 29 route, from Wood Green to Euston (eventually Brixton)

So here’s my idea. A wider tram network for London, not precisely like the Croydon Tramlink, which is too heavy (essentially like the Edinburgh version) and is better thought of as Light Rail. Instead, we should pursue a pedestrian, bus and cycle friendly road-tram, on a human scale – in my mind, the size of two double decker buses on most routes, though some of the suggested spur routes (especially Highbury to Highgate and Muswell Hill) would need to be single-decker due to existing infrastructure restrictions.

In design terms, I am naturally drawn to elements of the trams of the past rather than the buses of the present. Recognising the heritage of London Transport in a way the daft new ‘routemasters’ really don’t, I would like to see designs which incorporate features of the trams linked to here. The somewhat crude pictures I have sketched out don’t really do my daydreams justice, but as you can see I’m not much of an artist! The wheels would be more or less shielded for safety, and the doors would open at platform level for step-free access.

Phase one, as I imagine it, would essentially see Seven Sisters Road turned over to trams, with an occasional lane of one-way northeast-bound car traffic for getting on and off the road, but not as a through route. The idea, as you can probably imagine, only works in the context of a wider traffic-reduction plan, which is entirely necessary in my view. The compensation is, to me, worth it – a 24-hour fast, safe and cheap transport link which would take you from (say) Edmonton to Euston in around 40 minutes for (say) a pound. Mass transit as it used to be, when it was correctly recognised as necessary.

Here is phase one, as I conceive it – the bracketed destinations are future extensions:

Phase One: North East London (click to enlarge)

Following that, a second network with the A10 as its main thoroughfare could open up, running from Edmonton and Tottenham Hale (as with phase one) down to London Bridge and Elephant and Castle, then eventually through to Brixton where it would meet another line coming down from Camden. Incidentally that latter idea was almost put into effect recently, but the Mayor blocked it. Having Brixton as a southern hub with fast access to the City and the West End would do wonders for a whole chunk of the area south of the river.

Junction at High Cross - sorry about the poor freehand drawing...

The spirit I wish to evoke is that of buses ten or twenty years ago. Not too overcrowded, frequent, and with a clear run at their destination. While TfL and its private collaborators can wheel out statistics saying the bus network is fine and dandy, my experience (even as a partisan defender of buses) suggests that on many of the routes under consideration here, they are stuffed to the gills, often stuck in traffic and increasingly expensive. Buses used to be the cheap option. Since the 73 was scrapped between Tottenham and Stoke Newington a couple of weeks ago, it is now impossible to travel from Tottenham to the West End on one bus.

The Tottenham Hub

It’s disgraceful, really, and targets a less affluent demographic, essentially saying ‘you won’t need to get into the West End in your situation’. Affordability – actively subsidised pricing, at around a pound a single, with as few necessary changes as possible (achieved by long routes and in opposition to the current bus policy of shortening services).

So there it is. Uncosted, as I’m no expert, and sketched very roughly, as (said above) I’m no artist. But the idea is this: a tram network, initially focussed on a Tottenham hub, running from Edmonton (eventually Enfield) in the north to the City (eventually Brixton) in the South; from Tottenham Hale (eventually Walthamstow and Woodford) and Homerton (eventually Hackney Wick) in the east to Camden (eventually Regent’s Park) and Euston in the west. Additionally the old Muswell Hill to Finsbury Park line could be integrated – single-decker, as mentioned above – running through to Highbury & Islington.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  

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