MASSIVE economic benefits, increased job opportunities and improved links with central London are all being predicted if Tramlink is extended to Sutton.
The boost to the borough of the £200million-plus scheme was outlined by Sutton Council last week at a meeting attended by around 100 businesspeople.
The proposals involve a two-phase construction, with the first phase of just under 8km of track linking Sutton town centre with Morden and Wimbledon via Angel Hill, the St Helier estate and Rosehill.
The council also favours a direct link with St Helier Hospital.
The second, longer term, phase would provide a 2km-long link between the town centre and Royal Marsden Hospital.
Both lines would run largely along the existing road network.
Estimates presented to the meeting envisaged that construction of a tram system would eventually provide £500million of added value to Sutton's economy.
This would include attracting new residential, commercial, retail and leisure developments.
The council believes a further £50million of benefits could come as Tramlink's improved transport links boosted retail trade and increased customer spending.
It would also give Sutton residents access to a wider job market, particularly to higher-paid jobs in central London, driven by the fact that journey times to the centre of the capital, via Wimbledon, would be cut by 20 minutes, with the system providing four trams an hour between Sutton and Wimbledon.
Funding for the scheme is likely to come through a mixture of money from Transport for London (TfL) and Sutton and Merton Councils, plus tax increment financing, which involves the reinvestment of a proportion of business rates into major infrastructure projects.
TfL financial support would be crucial and, behind the scenes, it is understood Sutton Council is hopeful that the job and economic opportunities resulting from Tramlink will persuade London Mayor Boris Johnson to support the project over other schemes such as providing a new link between Croydon and Crystal Palace.
Councillor Colin Hall, deputy leader of Sutton Council, told the Advertiser: "The Crystal Palace extension has a head start on us, but we believe the way the numbers and the route works here is a better option for the whole of London."
"The evidence shows us that bringing the tram to Sutton would mean more customers for local traders, a wider pool of potential employers, greater prosperity for the area and increased local employment.
"It would literally put Sutton on the London travel map."