Opposition councillors in Southwark are calling for a tram service in the borough after funding for the £3.1 billion Bakerloo line extension was put on hold.  

In a motion being put to full council on March 24, the Southwark Liberal Democrats are calling on the council to look at a study on restoring a tram service in the borough, “possibly leading to a pilot before 2030”.   

They highlight the example of the Croydon Tramlink, built in six years at a cost of £200 million.  

According to the motion: “The Croydon Tramlink has been running for around twenty years and is considered a success.  

“Studies found that 19 per cent of Croydon Tramlink passengers switched from cars, there was £1.5 billion inward investment into the area due to its development, and that it is liked by all sections of the community. 

“This piece of infrastructure took only six years to build at a cost of £200 million.  

“In the last three years, Transport for London calculated that a potential Sutton tram extension would cost around £425 million and could commence service by the mid-2020s. 

“Although this work was paused in July 2020, TfL stated that if ‘new funding opportunities emerge then the case for taking the scheme forward will be reviewed’.” 

They say trams also have the advantage of having a lower carbon footprint than other modes of transport as they can run on renewable electricity. 

Lib Dem councillors also say TfL is “unlikely to commence building the [Bakerloo line extension] until well into the 2030s with no service before the 2040s”.  

The plans, which would see the Bakerloo line extended from Elephant and Castle in Southwark to Lewisham via the Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate, suffered a blow in October when TfL failed to ask for funding for the extension from the Government.  

It said it was “being realistic about what is affordable over the next decade”. 

However, the route for the extension gained protection from any conflicting developments recently. 

On March 1 Transport Secretary Grant Shapps issued safeguarding directions for the land required for the proposed extension. 

This formal process requires local planning authorities to refer planning applications that include land within the safeguarded area to TfL for comment. 

However, it seems unlikely the extension will be built in the next decade.  

Cllr Damian O’Brien, Lib Dem transport spokesperson, said: “Trams have been in Southwark before and could be a realistic and fast solution for climate action and our public transport needs.  

“Every time we present this Labour administration with realism, it dithers and delays and spends a decade failing to invest in the critical infrastructure needed in Southwark to sustain its (also failing) house building programme.  

“We call on Labour to wake up and be realistic about the zero likelihood of rail upgrades in the next 10 years. They have no choice but to look at other modern day low carbon solutions. ” 

Cllr Johnson Situ, on behalf of Southwark Labour Group, said the council is already looking into it.  

“We are already actively exploring the rollout of trams with TfL as a Labour council which is committed to reducing car travel and toxic emissions, alongside other low carbon transport options such as cycle infrastructure and the Bakerloo line extension.  

“It doesn’t need to be one option at the expense of others – we’re adamant that Southwark residents should have a variety of reliable, green transport options to help them get from A to B.  

“Unfortunately, thanks to a Conservative government funding for TfL has been cut by almost £700 million annually, making it much more difficult for TfL to fund low carbon transport initiatives such as trams.  

“Despite this Southwark has seen a huge investment in transport under a Labour Mayor, from investigations to reopen Camberwell Station to the roll out of new cycleways across the borough.  

“We very much welcome the recent news that the land needed for the Bakerloo line extension has been safeguarded – meaning we are one step closer to the completion of this major project,” he said. 

The council has previously been lobbied to allow a privately funded tram route linking Camberwell with London Bridge via Elephant and Castle scheme go forward. 

The Southwark Supertram, proposed by Tram Power in 2012 and again in 2019, would run from the southern foot of London Bridge, past Guy’s Hospital, Great Dover Street, Borough Road, Newington Causeway, Elephant and Castle, Wansey Street, Cadiz Street, Westmoreland Road, Bowyer Place, Camberwell Green, and would end in Denmark Hill.