A long-awaited priority of Sutton and Merton Councils, the Sutton Link, is finally becoming a reality. This extension of the tram network to Sutton has been in the works for over 20 years and is set to significantly address the lack of public transport infrastructure in this part of outer London. The project, which has been in collaboration with Merton, Transport for London (TfL), and the Greater London Authority (GLA) since 2013, will bring a tram extension to Sutton town centre, via Morden, and later, to the London Cancer Hub (LCH) in Belmont.
Progress and Plans
Transport for London (TfL) has recently unveiled three final route options, all aiming to provide a new, direct, and faster transport link between Sutton and Merton, and to improve links into central London. These options would connect Sutton town centre to either Wimbledon, South Wimbledon, or Colliers Wood. Additionally, TfL is considering either tram or bus rapid transit (BRT) as possible modes of transport for this link.
Public consultations in 2014 garnered strong support for the plans, and a recent consultation was opened in late 2023 to collect public opinion on the three proposed routes. The Sutton Link is expected to be operational by 2025, marking a significant milestone in enhancing public transport in the area.
Benefits of Sutton Link
The Sutton Link aims to drastically improve transport links between Sutton and Merton, and the rest of London. It will open up transport options for communities like St Helier, Rosehill, and north Sutton, which are not currently served by high-capacity public transport. Connections to other centres, such as Wimbledon, South Wimbledon, or Colliers Wood, will be created or improved, with links to London Underground and National Rail services.
Furthermore, the Sutton Link will make it much easier to travel by public transport to key locations along the route. These include several schools, the open spaces of Rosehill Park and Morden Hall Park, St Helier Hospital, and potentially the London Cancer Hub being planned for Belmont. It will also make the roads safer and more attractive for people walking, cycling, and using public transport.
The Sutton Link is also expected to support the development of Sutton and Morden town centres. By 2031, Sutton town centre is planned to create up to 5,000 homes and 2,000 new jobs, along with better public spaces and environments for walking and cycling. In Morden town centre, the aim is to make it much more attractive for locals, workers, and visitors to enjoy and to provide up to 1,800 new homes in the centre.
The Three Potential Routes
Over the past five years, TfL has considered more than 180 options, narrowing them down to three routes for consultation. Two of the potential routes would run on-street, with the third mainly replacing an existing rail line. Among these, either option 1 or option 2 are believed to best achieve the project’s aims, while option 3 is seen as least effective at improving public transport in Merton and Sutton. Importantly, the implementation of option 3 would need to be closely coordinated with the proposed Crossrail 2 station in Wimbledon to minimise disruption to Wimbledon town centre. This could potentially delay the delivery of the Sutton Link project by several years.
If the tram line is extended, new trams would be purchased, and additional depot facilities would be built for the new vehicles, ensuring the same standards as the existing network aremaintained. The use of the tram is suitable for all three options under consultation, and the network is already a reliable and fully accessible service through central Croydon to Wimbledon in the west and Beckenham Junction, Elmers End, and New Addington in the east.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option, which is suitable for options 1 and 2 only, can take many different forms, with a range of potential vehicles, passenger facilities, and guidance systems.
The Sutton Link project represents a significant leap forward in improving the public transport infrastructure in Sutton and Merton. It brings together years of planning and collaboration between local councils, TfL, and the GLA, as well as incorporating the input of the communities it will serve. Upon its completion, Sutton Link will not only provide improved connectivity for local residents but also support the development and growth of Sutton and Merton town centres, contributing to a more sustainable, accessible, and vibrant outer London.