THE COST of the West London Tram could run into billions if it is approved, according to an anti-tram pressure group.

Save Ealing's Streets believes the projected cost of £648 million for the proposed tram from Shepherds Bush to Uxbridge via Ealing, is only the start up cost, with the running costs set to spiral in its billions.

Tracy Evans, of Save Ealing's Streets, said: "Running costs will amount to £76 million a year. Transport for London (TfL) estimates that only £28 million of this £76 million will be covered by fares.

"The balance of £48 million will have to come from somewhere else. Where is this money going to come from? This is one of many questions that remains unanswered by TfL."

The pressure group say the cost of £648 million will only cover the trams and the installation of tracks and services needed to run it.

Annual running costs, projected for 30 years, will include the cost of operating and maintaining the tram scheme (£19 million) and renewing trams (£2 million). But more than half the money needed (£39.6 million a year) will be spent on paying back the money borrowed to finance the scheme.

Mrs Evans added: "This is a ludicrous way to spend public money. The cost is inflated by extortionate rates of interest and it's difficult to see how the people of West London will benefit."

A spokesman for TfL denied the costs of the tram will run into billions. She said: "One of the biggest concerns of people in London is poor public transport. TfL has looked at a variety of options over a number of years to solve the problem and feels a tram is the right solution for the future.

Major transport improvements are costly but they are outweighed by the benefits, particularly to public transport users, the environment and for regeneration. A structured funding between TfL and the private sector is one funding option for the tram being explored but ultimately TfL is looking for the most cost-effective way to pay for the tram."

Mayor Ken was also questioned this week on the growing local opposition to the scheme by newly-elected assembly member Peter Helm-Cross, of the UK Independence Party, who also claimed that the current consultation process is flawed and recommended restarting it completely.

The TfL spokesman added: "Transport for London will begin the public consultation on West London Tram on June 29. The consultation will give everyone interested the opportunity to have their say on the tram proposals."