Oral Update on the Mayor's Report (Supplementary) [4]

Session date: 
September 17, 2014
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Mr Mayor, I heard your earlier comments.  You and TfL did ask for evidence of Sutton’s appetite for the tram.  You now have it with 85% of the response being very positive across both boroughs [the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton].  You did ask - and TfL did ask - for a business plan with details of significant development in the town centre, significant regeneration and income uplift, and I suggest you and TfL now have that also.  Would you therefore not agree that the case for the Sutton tram extension is in fact now irresistible?


Answer for Oral Update on the Mayor's Report (Supplementary) [4]

Answer for Oral Update on the Mayor's Report (Supplementary) [4]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I certainly think there is a strong case for further tram links in south London.  I am interested in the details of the business case that you describe and obviously how much the uplift in property will help the boroughs concerned - Sutton and Merton - to help us to deliver.  We should join forces.  If there is serious dosh available from the councils and if there is a real scheme to make this thing work, then of course we will want to progress it.

What we cannot just do is have a project like the West London Tram, on which the previous administration spent £34 million.  Then, as soon as people discovered what it would do to their streets and their neighbourhoods, they became violently hostile to it and it all had to be cancelled.  I look at the survey that you have.  Just be careful because light rail going through suburban neighbourhoods can sound very popular at first, but when people dig into it and they look at what is actually going to happen to the area, suddenly all that popularity and support can melt away.  We need to work on that and we need to work on the funding as well.

Steve O’Connell AM:  I understand that.  The councils’ information was very detailed around the roads it went through.  Clearly, any council of any stripe would be conscious of upsetting or not upsetting its residents.  That is a point well made.

However, frankly, Mr Mayor, Sutton is almost uniquely a borough neglected by transport infrastructure investment over the last few years and we have looked jealously at our neighbours with Tube upgrades, Underground investment, Crossrail 2, new Routemasters and, perhaps not so jealously, cable cars and the Garden Bridge.  Now is really the time for investment for Sutton and I would ask you, Mr Mayor, to seriously consider that.  In essence, this will be a legacy from you for south London.  I am a great champion of south London and I feel outside zones 1 and 2 we still do not get our fair share and this is your opportunity.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Do not forget what Crossrail 2 will bring.  Crossrail 2 will be immense for southwest London, absolutely immense.  Admittedly, the details of the route have yet to be finalised, but that will do a huge amount of good.  We are looking at the scheme, Steve.  What I cannot do is now sit here and promise that we are going to write out a cheque for £16 billion that we do not have.  It has to stack up.

Steve O’Connell AM:  Lastly, Mr Mayor, I have been going around telling colleagues in Sutton that mayors do not come along and write big cheques anymore and that is accepted.  I have been an advocate of that and I have demanded, along with others, that the council and the partners come up to speed and make the offering.  I believe that they have to the best part done that and now, largely, the ball is back in TfL’s court.  I would ask you on behalf of Sutton and my residents to instruct TfL to look at this very seriously.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All right.  I certainly shall, Steve.  I am conscious of the longstanding representations you have made on this and you have done a terrific job, in my view, of getting TfL to focus on this part of south London.  It does have huge economic prospects.  We have talked about the life sciences sector that will be benefit immensely from the Tramlink extension.  We are thinking about it.  We do want to help if we possibly can.  It is a question of cash.  Also, I am just conscious of the disaster with the West London Tram project.  I want to be absolutely sure that this thing has strong local support and there will not suddenly be a backlash.