As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a strong supporter of Westfield and Hammerson’s plans to redevelop the Whitgift Centre. I believe that it will not only transform the quality and range of shops and leisure facilities in our town centre and create thousands of jobs, but also act as a catalyst for the transformation of the wider town centre by helping to change Croydon’s image and thereby encouraging others to invest here. Indeed, we are already seeing evidence of that even before work has begun.
But it will have significant implications for our transport system. More people will want to come here by train, tram and bus and we will need to improve those services to cope with the extra demand. But it is inevitable that more people are going to want to drive into Croydon town centre too. The current road network won’t cope with the extra traffic so there are plans to reconfigure it. At the moment, if you approach Croydon from the north and want to go into the Whitgift Centre or Allders car parks, you have to drive all the way down to the roundabout in front of the Fairfield Halls then come back up the Wellesley Road. Likewise, if you are coming out of the Whitgift Centre or Allders car parks and want to head south, you have to turn left and then do a U-turn just north of Poplar Walk. Under the new plans, there will be traffic light junctions at both entrances to/exits from the car parks.
But this in turn necessitates some changes to the tram network in central Croydon. At the moment, both through trams from Wimbledon to New Addington or Therapia Lane to Elmers End and trams going round the town centre loop cross Wellesley Road. If we are going to keep traffic flowing, we need to reduce the number of times the traffic has to stop to allow a tram to cross. Reducing the frequency of tram services is clearly a non-starter so TfL have come up with proposals for a new town centre loop that doesn’t cross Wellesley Road.
There are three different options:
Option 1: Via Dingwall/Lansdowne Road - anticlockwise routeing of trams
In this option, trams would follow a new single track from the junction of George Street and Dingwall Road down Dingwall Road then down Lansdowne Road to its junction with Wellesley Road. They would return via Wellesley Road and George Street to East Croydon station.
A new tram stop would be built along the north side of Lansdowne Road. This would serve as stop for the Westfield/Hammerson development (there will be an at grade crossing of Wellesley Road from Lansdowne Road into the centre, replacing the current underpass).
Option 2: Via Lansdowne/Dingwall Road - clockwise routeing of trams
In this option, trams would run down George Street then turn into Wellesley Road then into Lansdowne Road to its junction with Dingwall Road and then south to re-connect with the existing tram network at George Street.
Through trams from Wimbledon and Therapia Lane would be diverted via Lansdowne Road and Dingwall Road and stop at the new tram stop in Lansdowne Road rather than the Wellesley Road stop (which would only be used only by trams from Elmers End and Beckenham Junction going round the new loop).
Option 3: Via Dingwall/Sydenham Road - anticlockwise routeing of trams
This option proposes a longer route than options 1 and 2. Trams would follow a new single track from the junction of George Street and Dingwall Road down Dingwall Road then down Sydenham Road to its junction with Wellesley Road. They would return via Wellesley Road and George Street to East Croydon station. A new tram stop would be built on Sydenham Road.
You can find out more by visiting the TfL website. Information will be also be available at Croydon Central Library until 28th November and the Tram Shop in George Street until 14th December. TfL staff will be available at Croydon Central Library to discuss the scheme and answer your questions on Saturday 22nd November from 1 to 5pm.
All three of these proposals involve some inconvenience for some of my constituents - if you live in Addiscombe and Woodside and want to get to Reeves Corner or West Croydon, you will have to change at Sandilands or get off at Wellesley Road and walk. But they are necessary if we are to both further upgrade the tram system and cope with the extra traffic that the Westfield/Hammerson development will entail.
I’d encourage everyone to take part in the consultation - and let me know which of the three options you think is best too.