First Operated: 2000 (as Croydon Tramlink)
Length: 17 Miles/ 28 km
No. of Stations: 39
Current Stock: Bombardier Flexity Swift CR-4000/ Stadler Rail Variobahn
Tramlink is a tram system in south London which began operating in May 2000. It is operated by London Trams an arm of Transport for London (TfL) under their London Rail Directorate.
The service runs from Wimbledon in the west to New Addington, Elmers End and Beckenham Junction in the east serving areas such as Mitcham and Croydon. It runs on a street track through Croydon and off-street track in other areas consisting of tracks on new rights of way, former railway lines, public fields and a section of alignment shared with a National Rail Line. There are four routes, Route 1 runs from Elmers End to Croydon, Route 2 from Beckenham Junction to Croydon, Route 3 from New Addington to Wimbledon and Route 4 from Therapia Lane to Elmers End. Routes ending in Croydon do a loop of the Croydon one way system before returning to their other destinations and trams terminated at Therapia Lane use the depot entrance road as a siding. When trams on Route 1 arrive at Elmers End they change to Route 4 and the same happens the other way around. Onboard announcements are done by the BBC news reader Nicholas Owen, the announcement system firstly announces the destination of the tram followed by the next tram stop. Some trams stops later had further information added to them of establishments and bus interchanges in the area announced by a female voice.
In 1990 Croydon Council and London Regional Transport (LRT) developed the project for a tram line through Croydon as Croydon isn’t served by any London Underground lines and put it to parliament, the result was the ‘Croydon Tramlink Act 1994’ which gave LRT the power to build and run the then Croydon Tramlink. Tramtrack Croydon Ltd (TCL) won a 99 year Private Finance Initiative contract to build, operate and maintain the system in 1996. TCL was a partnership between First Group, Bombardier Transportation, Sir Robert McAlpine, Amey Construction Ltd, Royal Bank of Scotland and 3i, TCL kept the revenue from the service and LRT had to pay compensation to TCL for any changes to the fares and ticketing policy introduced later. TCL subcontracted the operation of the service to CentreWest Buses which later become part of First London. A lot of the system was built on former railway lines, the sections between near Sandilands & Elmers End and near Sandilands & near Lloyd Park the line follows the former Woodside and South Croydon Railway including the Park Hill tunnels. Route 2 runs parallel to the Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction line on the Southern network between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction which had been single tracked years earlier leaving space for a single track for tramlink although there are double track sections for tramlink services.
Most of the section between Wimbledon and Reeves Corner follows the former single track British Rail West Croydon to Wimbledon line which closed on 31st May 1997 so that it could be converted for use by Croydon Tramlink, the section from near Phipps Bridge to near Reeves Corner was originally part of the Surrey Iron Railway meaning that tramlink has one of the world’s oldest railway alignments. Due to a partial obstruction near Mitcham the tracks are interlaced using a gauntlet track configuration. A victorian footbridge beside Waddon New Road was dismantled to make way for the flyover taking trams over the West Croydon to Sutton railway line, this footbridge was re-erected at Corfe Castle station on the Swange Railway although some evidence suggest that this was in fact a similar footbridge removed from the site of the former Merton Park Station.
On 23rd July 2006 the Route structure was restructured with Route 1 previously running from Wimbledon to Elmers End cut back to only run from Elmers End to Croydon and Route 3 previously running from New Addington to Croydon extended to run from New Addington to Wimbledon, this was to make sure that the sections with the most demand receive the highest frequency. In March 2008 Transport for London (TfL) announced that it had purchased Croydon Tramlink from TCL for £98m, this was finalised on 28th June 2008. Part of the reason for this was to do with the fact that TfL had to pay compensation to TCL for any changes to the fares and ticketing policy introduced, in 2007 that payment was £4m. TfL renamed the system from Croydon Tramlink to ‘Tramlink’ to reflect the fact that the service does not solely operate in Croydon and the network map was redesigned showing Routes 1 and 2 as one service coloured in lime green (previously Route 1 was coloured yellow and Route 2 red) and Route 3 remained a darker green, Trams on Route 1 changed to Route 2 when approaching West Croydon and the same the other way around. In October 2008 TfL introduced the new livery for the trams using the blue, white and green from the Tramlink roundel to distinguish them from London Buses which are in all over red. On 25th June 2012 new Route 4 was introduced which runs from Therapia Lane to Elmers End and was introduced to ease Routes 1 and 3, as part of the project the section of track between Mitcham and Mitcham Junction was double tracked and the section between Elmers End and the junction near Arena was partially double tracked. 6 new Stadler Rail Varionbahn trams were ordered to increase the fleet of trams to have enough to run this service, these trams run on the entire network.
There are 39 tram stops on the network, most being 32.2m (106 ft) long. All tramlink tram stops have low platforms at 35cm (14 inches) above rail level which means they are virtually level with the tram doors meaning that wheelchairs, prams, pushchairs and the elderly can board the tram easily and without steps. All platforms are all wider than 2m (6 ft 7 inches) and access between platforms is done at track level on a pedestrian or road level crossing and in street sections the pavements are integrated into the tram stops. The tram stops are unstaffed and have automatic ticket machines, CCTV, a Passenger Help Point, a Passenger Information Display (PID), bins, a noticeboard and lamp-posts with lighting, most also have seating and a shelter.Between Wimbledon & Reeves Corner and Elmers End & Coombe Road tramlink uses some former main line stations however the platforms have been demolished and rebuilt to tramlink specifications except at Elmers End and Wimbledon where platforms have been slightly modified and track raised to allow for cross-platform interchange. Tramlink was introduced in phases and Centrale Tram Stop wasn’t until 10th December 2005 increasing journey times slightly, TfL also issued tendered for a new tram prior to the restructure of the routes in 2006 to help tackle the issue of tight turnaround times however nothing resulted from this. The Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) display the the destination and the expected arrival times of the next two trams, they can also display messages from controllers such as information on delays.
Ticketing & Fares
Tramlink accept Bus Passes, Travelcards, Oyster Cards and Cash Fares. Cash Fares are the same as London Buses and are single flat rate fares of £2.30 for one journey on one bus no matter what the journey length, a discounted rate of single fare can be sort using Oyster ‘Pay as you go’. Using Oyster Pay as you go users are charged a single flat rate fare of £1.35 for their journeys although there is a daily price cap of £4.20 which limits the maximum amount that will be deducted from an Oyster Card in one day on tram and buses, tram users have to touch in on readers on the tram stop platforms before boarding a tram. You can also purchase weekly and monthly passes and travelcards on an Oyster Card which can be used for the period specified. Children under the age of 11 travel free on trams, children aged between 11-15 also travel free although require an 11-15 Oyster Zip Photocard without which they are required to pay the full adult cash fare. People aged between 16-18 get free bus and tram travel if they’re in full time education using a 16-18 Oyster Zip Photocard which require an educational establishment to confirm enrollment of a full time course on the application, although the Oyster Card doesn’t expire until the persons 18th Birthday, the free travel expires at the end of the educational year at which point the person would have to apply for a new 16-18 Zip Oyster Card to continue receiving the free bus and tram travel. Those with Freedom Passes can travel free at any time on London’s Buses and trams as well as those with concessionary bus passes issued by English Local Authorities. Those without an Oyster Card or Travelcard are required to buy a ticket from ticket machines located on the platforms at tram stops.
Tramlink has 30 trams, the original 24 are articulated low floor Flexity Swift CR4000 trams built by Bombardier Transportation in Vienna, these are numbered 2530 to 2553 which continues from London’s former tram network which highest numbered tram was 2529. The fleet of CR4000 trams were refurbished and repainted in 2006 to distinguish them from London Buses which are in all over red by TfL who had recently purchased tramlink.
In January 2011 Tramtrack Croydon began tendering for 10 additional new or second hand trams for Tramlink to be supplied from Autumn 2011, this would allow for a new route between Therapia Lane and Elmers End. On 18th August 2011 it was announced that Stadler Rail had won the tender and a £16m contract for six Variobahn tram similar to those used by the Bybanen line in Bergen, Norway. The first three trams were taken from the batch of five ordered for the Bybanen line in Bergen, Norway which were built earlier than the agreed delivery date for the line to make use of free capacity at it’s factory. Three more trams were then built for tramlink and three more for the Bybanen line in Bergen to replace the three taken from the batch for tramlink. The first Variobahn tram was delivered on 24th January 2012, the trams are numbered 2554 to 2559 and the first one went into passenger service on 30th March 2012.
Tramlink’s only depot is at Therapia Lane which houses and maintains all 30 trams which consists of 24 Bombardier Flexity Swift CR4000 vehicles and 6 Stadler Rail Variobahn trams. All trams are stabled in the depot overnight which means that you common see trams on Routes 1 and 2 run in service to Therapia Lane in the evenings and from Therapia Lane in the mornings. When Route 4 was launched in 2012 they started to use the depots track access as a siding for trams on Route 4 to reverse.
Many tramlink extensions have been proposed including extensions from Church Street and Wellesey Road to Purley via South Croydon, from Reeves Corner and West Croydon to Brixton via Streatham and from Wimbledon to Toolting Broadway via Merton, Morden South, Sutton and Mitcham as well as other proposals to Lewisham, Bromley Town Centre and Biggin Hill which are currently being examined and could see more detailed routings in the near future but only one is being formally developed which is an extension from Harrington Road to Crystal Palace. When trams were delivered they included destination displays for Route 4 which included the Sutton extension however these were later removed, Route 5 was also later added for the Crystal Palace extension which still remains.
The proposed route of the Crystal Palace extension is from Harrington Road where it would take over the Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction line to Crystal Palace, trams will terminate at Crystal Palace Parade and three options on how to get there were proposed. The three options were an on-street, off-street and a mixture of both, after consultations the off-street option was favoured where trams will run on the former railway line all the way to Crystal Palace Station and around the western edge of Crystal Palace Park (within the park) and to Crystal Palace Bus Station. This extension would also mean that the single track on the Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction line parallel to Tramlink between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction would become disused meaning that Tramlink could be double tracked on this section allowing for an increased frequency and decreased journey times. Due to lack of funding this extension cannot yet go ahead however TfL say they are committed to including this extension and others as part of a future bid to government.