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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 14:14 GMT
Do trams beat the jams?
A Tramlink tram in Wellesley Road, Croydon
Trams have given Croydon a European atmosphere
Cardiff is the latest British city to consider trams as a way to beat the traffic jams. BBC News Online's Tom Geoghegan finds out how the continental approach has fared in Croydon, Surrey, and elsewhere in the UK.

Croydon's trams are not just credited with reducing car travel and boosting high street sales in south London suburbia.

They are also central to revamping the town's image from a maligned, concrete suburb to cosmopolitan city-to-be.

Supermodel Kate Moss may have started this transformation, but the trams have provided more visible evidence since their introduction in May 2000.

Getting out at East Croydon station, they give the town a European feel which people would have laughed at ten years ago

Tony Newman
Croydon Council

Roger Harding, general manager of Tramtrack Croydon, said 18 million passengers last year had reduced motor vehicles by nearly a third on some routes.

And the knock-on effects include increased local investment, improved air quality and higher property prices near the lines, which connect three neighbouring London boroughs.

He added: "The sight of trams running around the town has done more to provide a positive image of the town than anything else in recent years.

"It has helped to focus the attention of the outside community on Croydon and what it has to offer."

Worldwide interest has been shown most recently by Japan, Israel and Finland.
Croydon Trams
18m passengers last year
20-30% less cars on some routes
Town centre car parks 20% down
Whitgift Centre 10% increased trade

Figures from Croydon Council and Tramlink

Croydon Council deputy leader Tony Newman said the trams provide a powerful image of a modern town, which could help it gain city status.

He said: "Getting out at East Croydon station, they give the town a European feel which people would have laughed at ten years ago.

"There is a pavement culture which is enhanced by the visual impact of the trams running past."

Safety fears

The 200m cost of Croydon's system was helped by 75m of private money, making it a financial model which the rail and Tube may follow.

But Peter Morgan, of Croydon Council's South Divisional Road Safety Committee, said there are major concerns about the trams' impact, despite its success.

He said: "Bus services have been cut and diverted, and it is much harder to get into the town centre by car."

He said there were also safety concerns for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and called for a proper financial appraisal.
A Manchester tram
Manchester Metrolink began in 1992

In the West Midlands, there are plans to extend the 145m tram system which has run from Wolverhampton to Birmingham Snow Hill since 1999.

Kevin Rawlings, of Centro, which owns the network, said: "It's been received very well. There were certain operating difficulties but about five to six million passengers use it a year.

"What's very pleasing is that 15% of those could have used their cars instead and it's visibly reduced congestion on the Birmingham-Wolverhampton corridor."

300m Thames tram

In Sheffield, after a slow start in 1995 partly due to construction disruption, the Supertram carries an estimated 13.5m passengers a year.

In London, there are plans to build a 300m tram network from Camden to Brixton, crossing the River Thames.

Nottingham's tram system has been under construction for about a year and will start operating in November 2003.

Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds and Portsmouth are also considering following in Croydon's footsteps and introducing trams.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | Wales
Supertram test to ease traffic
06 Nov 01 | England
Streetcars desired by Manchester
24 Oct 01 | England
Tram crash man gets 'more than 1m'
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