A London mayoral hopeful’s press team has been forced to backtrack after claiming the multi-million pound Sutton tram extension project had been “axed”.

Trafalgar Strategy, who are helping lead Shaun Bailey’s campaign to become the city’s mayor in 2020, stated the Sutton Link had effectively been cancelled.

In a now-deleted post, @Bailey2020Press's tweet read: “If you live in and around Sutton and were really excited by the plans for the tram extension, don’t get your hopes up.

“Thanks to TfL’s budget blowout and a result of Sadiq’s mismanagement of Crossrail, the project has been axed”.

The Twitter post was accompanied by a photo of a tram with a caption underneath saying, “Tram extension to Sutton [at risk]”.

READ: South London 'isn't benefiting from transport infrastructure under Sadiq's leadership'

Your Local Guardian:

When Sutton Guardian asked for a further explanation, a spokesman for Mr Bailey said the tweet’s image is “correct” and that the project “is at risk”.

He added: “Despite the mayor saying the project is the 'most advanced it has ever been', it is not yet a reality, and Londoners have seen needed upgrades to tube lines get delayed or fall by the wayside because of rising budget pressures under this mayor.

“The delay to Crossrail is going to ply on even more debt to TfL and the GLA [Greater London Authority], putting all future major infrastructure projects, like the Sutton Tram extension, at risk.

“Sadiq Khan needs to sort the near-billion dollar deficit in TfL's finances.”

The tweet alleged the Sutton Link, which has received at least £70 million in financial backing, is at risk of being derailed amid financial pressures.

TfL's operational deficit has neared £1 billion, and there are concerns over how that will affect other major works - such as the crisis-hit Crossrail 2 project and funding for the Bakerloo Line extension.

But allegations the Sutton Link project had been dropped or postponed have since been refuted.

A mayoral spokesman said, “This is simply untrue”, adding: “A large public consultation on the project has only just closed, asking residents whether a tram extension should be delivered.

“TfL will report on the outcome of the consultation in the spring and they will then make a recommendation on the best option to take forward.

“The Sutton tram extension is mentioned several times in the TfL Business Plan, and TfL are working closely with Sutton and Merton councils on funding options for the scheme.”

READ: Council and TfL explain why Northern Line is not coming to Sutton

Your Local Guardian:

A TfL spokesman stated similar, saying the project had not been postponed or cancelled as the consultation had finished a few weeks ago.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE, chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said: “Shaun Bailey has never in the past shown any interest at all in the Sutton tram, or indeed the borough.

“He is now merely attempting to create a cheap headline.

“TfL is still committed to working towards an extension between Sutton town centre and Merton. What is true is that the finance arrangements for the project are far from agreed, just as they were when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London.

“I will continue to support the tram extension to Sutton.”

Sutton Guardian re-approached Mr Bailey’s press team before a spokesman made a clarification and said “the text should have matched the image”.