THE OPENING of Croydon's £200M tram system has been hit by new delays following adispute between construction consortium members over responsibilities during the planned phased opening.
Tramlink Croydon members First CentreWest, Bombardier, the Royal Bank of Scotland, 3i and a Sir Robert McAlpine/Amey joint venture have started 'high level discussions' to renegotiate responsibilities after it was decided to open the project in three stages.
The consortium had hoped to open all three branches ofthe tram network at once in November but a catalogue of problems including electricity seeping into the ground, tram crashes, signal software glitches and land disputes led to severe delays.
But with a predicted 25M passengers every year at a typical adult fare of 90p, the six month delay could potentially have already cost the consortium millions of pounds in lost earnings.
To start bringing in revenue from the completed sections, TCL decided to open the branches in three phases. The Croydon to New Addington branch was due to open last month.
But the plan has stalled as a number of new issues emerged including passenger confusion over routes and uncertainty over responsibilities.
TCL chairman Bob Dorey said: 'We are hammering out the details of practical and commercial issues surrounding running revenue services on one branch while there is still work going on elsewhere. Remember there are areas of the system such as depots that are common toall three branches.'
The New Addington branch has been granted safety approval by HM Railways Inspectorate, freeing up the branchto be the first section of the project to open. But TCL has yet to accept handover from the Amey/McAlpine construction part of the consortium.
A TCL spokesman said: 'We have to ensure the financiers can put the requisite tick in the box.' He added that TCL hoped to open the New Addington branch soon, with the second section to Beckenham opening three weeks later and the final branch toWimbledon two weeks after that.