Review of the Year - 2000
The year started with false rumours that six new trams were on order. Sadly, all that materialised were card kits in the Tramlink shop. However, it is clear now that new trams are still very much needed. Surely, the question now is when, not if.
the date of opening slipped and slipped, CJV were busy insulating every
drain in the town centre to prevent earth leakage currents as well as
rebuilding stops several times to get the heights correct.
Sad news on 7th January when 2534 took part in the funeral procession of a 3 year old from New Addington.
CJV continued to produce dates for opening on a regular basis.
January 15th saw the application of the Addington Palace advert to 2531.
Mid January and the ticket machine in the Tramlink shop was switched on, enabling enthusiasts to purchase tickets to Phipps Lane and Addiscombe Road.
The end of January and enthusiasts were making up possible tram names - a year later and still no names as yet.
The morning of 31st January saw a report of an Arriva bus in service, wrongly being driven up the wrong side of George Street!
On the night of 31st January, 10 trams were used in a saturation test of the Croydon Loop. I observed a 32 tram per hour service operating through East Croydon between 2216 and 2246.
Signalling changes were made at the beginning of February including the removal of the starter signal at Wimbledon and the introduction of "dispatcher" signals at East Croydon.
Major repairs began at Therapia Lane on 2536 (damaged in the Therapia Lane derailment) and 2552 (major vandalism damaged that occurred near Waddon Marsh).
On Thursday 3rd February, 2542 (Amey), had a serious RTA at Reeves Corner which put it out of service for some weeks. Off duty police saw the van pass through a red light.
Tuesday 8th February and TCL announced the system would be open in February - doubt was expressed on my page and we all know it never materialised.
2536 returned to service.
There was also an extraordinary RTA at Lebanon Road when a motorist managed to hit 2535 and 2549 at the same time!
Regular, Chris Cook suggested that Routes 1 and 2 should switch to 12 minute to improve reliability and within weeks, Tramlink did just that.
A tram struck a person for the first time in Croydon on February 11th. A drunk was staggering along the central reservation of Wellesley Road at 0700! The man was later released from Mayday Hospital with no serious injuries.
TCL announce a March Opening.
2552 returned to service on 15th February.
The signalling system was fully approved and signed on 18th February.
CJV produce a timetable requiring 25 trams! Doh!
20th February and the Croydon Advertiser reports that the local NHS trust is to fund a full barrier level crossing at Geoffrey Harris House. No progress on that one to date (and no accidents either).
On a negative note, there are reports of a number of air gun attacks on trams. By the end of February, it is reported that staggered opening is a possibility.
Wednesday 1st March and a serious lack of concentration sees 2534 smashing through the buffers at New Addington. The press have a field day and the driver no longer works for TOL. Enthusiasts walk off with bits of fibreglass from the front.
Two minor RTAs on 10th March both with Ford Fiestas. One at Bingham Road (Addiscombe), one at Beddington Lane. Trams are now getting very bad press with continued delays to the opening.
The Tramlink egroup was launched on 10th March - 1000s of emails later and it is still going strong. Opening dates slip again on 18th March - this time to 13th April. Amey finally returned to service on 22nd March with a huge whole in the yellow advert - It looks terrible!
Good news on 30th March when HMRI approve Route 3 but it is some 6 weeks before passengers are carried.
An excellent report is published on 1st April of a Weatherspoons tram with a bar on board. Numerous people fall for it (including TCL managers).
It is reported that HMRI did not actually give permission to open Route 3 - they simply said they wouldn't object if an application was made!
First Group corporate uniform is worn by all staff from 3rd April.
2535 hit a Car at Wellesley Road/George Street on the night of 4th April. The usual story of the car passing a red light although the car ended up demolishing the traffic light!
Another Accident with 2548 in Addiscombe Road on 5th April hits the headlines as it comes the day before John Prescott MP visits the system. TCL has to cope with yet another piece of bad luck and with no confirmed opening date, they have little to come back on. This accident is the tram's fault too. John Prescott arrived at East Croydon on 2543 on 6th April. The excellent opportunity to get some much needed positive publicity is wrecked when Mrs Lorna Clare of Addiscombe Road launched an attack on John Prescott at East Croydon in front of all the cameras. The press love it as Tramlink's marketing team and enthusiasts look on in disbelief. Thankfully, the BBC choose to edit her out of the report completely. More importantly John Prescott was impressed and has since done a complete U-Turn on Light Rail which is excellent news for everyone.
The Opening slips another week to April 18th.
10th April and regular tests are severely disrupted for the week while CJV try and blitz poor track.
Testing resumes but on 13th April, a severe storm strikes and a lightening bolt manages to cripple 2535 at Beckenham Junction, another tram at Beckenham Road as well as the OHL and the signalling.
Sunday 16th April and to everyone's surprise, 2550 and not 2530 is fitted with First Group Colours.
A new low is reached when testing comes almost to a stand as everything is ready except the paperwork. Lawyers argue, trams stop and progress stops.
All the Mayors of the London Boroughs took a ride to New Addington on 19th April.
Friday 21st April and new London Mayor, Ken Livingstone gives his support to Light Rail and expresses a wish for Tramlink to be extended.
Tuesday 25th April and I'm famous. I get a ride to New Addington as a Channel 5 TV Show films me all day. Friday 28th and this website and myself get 10 minutes on National TV. Positive Publicity at last!
29th April and the Railway Development Society are lucky. At their AGM, someone suggests to the speaker, TOL Chairman Peter Hendy, that they have a tram ride. He agrees and stops a tram at Church Street for a return trip to New Addington.
The week's Croydon Advertiser is a good one the front page story, "Tram Opening Grinds to a Halt in Red Tape Row" is accurate, balanced, well written and puts pressure on everyone to sort the mess out. Then in Letters, the infamous Mr Howes writes an extraordinarily stupid letter comparing trams pollution with the methane output of Ugandan cows!
May and Opening speculation runs wild. On 5th May, it is revealed that a meeting that afternoon will decide the date. 10th May is reported as the earliest practical date. The date leaks out that night on the Internet and my site confirms the details at 2330. TCL issue a press release on the Monday morning confirming free travel from noon on Wednesday 10th May.
At 1045, ex Tram Driver Fred Roberts cuts the ribbon at New Addington. 2 VIP trams run from New Addington to Croydon and Back. A 3rd carries enthusiasts from Sandilands. 2550 leaves East Croydon in service a short time later. Croydon is packed with enthusiasts and others. The 6-7 minute frequency just is not enough and more trams are put onto route 3. All trams are packed for the rest of the day.
At 1500, the first enthusiasts meeting is held at The Cricketers, Addiscombe Road. There is a good turnout.
Thursday 11th May and the dedicated few wait in the dark and rain at West Croydon to become the first fare paying passengers. The tram arrives on time at 0429 and after pictures, the doors are opened. We are greeted with 10 Revenue Staff - "Tickets Please".
Amongst the excitement, the Official Tramlink website is launched.
Side adverts begin to be fitted to trams.
"TRAM-TASTIC" is the Croydon Guardian headline that week - it says it all. The trams prove a big hit and the critics fall very silent.
Sadly, 2550 fails at Larcoombe Close at 1045 on 17th May - the first in service failure.
Figures are released showing that over 70,000 people were carried in the first 4 days. The Whitgift Centre reports a 12% increase in trade and a reduction in car parking. These are statistics that transport planners dream of.
20th May and Beckenham is confirmed as opening on Tuesday 23rd May.
2550 fails again at Gravel Hill on a late night service. The Chepstow Road Lights also fail and it is a free-for-all at the junction.
Tuesday 23rd and the ribbon is cut once again - this time at Beckenham Junction. Route 2 carries passengers after 2548 returns from a round trip VIP special. Publicity is criticised as few local residents realised it was open.
The next day Route 1 is confirmed as opening on 27th May. Despite many reports of a ceremony at Merton Park, the opening ceremony is held in secret at Therapia Lane Staff Halt. Management deny a deliberate switch to keep enthusiasts out but we remain unconvinced. Helpful contacts ensure pictures are still obtained for the site.
Passenger numbers rocket but minor niggles remain. Ticket machines are hard to read in sunlight. The tickets don't work barriers at Wimbledon and you can't buy Tram and Bus Passes in the machines. The last 2 faults remain to this day. PIDs are also criticised.
Payphones are fitted to each stop and on 3rd June the Whitgift Reports a 23% increase in trade due to the trams and a 12% reduction in car parking! The Wimbledon route in particular is a surprise success.
7th June and "WOW!" is everyone's opinion on passenger numbers. Timetable improvements are already suggested.
The trend of removing tramstop letters sets in across the system and all stops are rapidly renamed by local youths.
13th June and a high level meeting takes place on passenger numbers. There are simply too many passengers! Numbers are reported to be 50% up on predictions.
Sunday 18th June and bad news returns. Its a Sunday lunchtime and 2539 hits a person who jumps in front of the tram approaching Fieldway. The man is killed, becoming Tramlink's first fatality. Evidence points towards suicide but is not conclusive enough and an inquest jury later recorded an open verdict.
Monday 19th and another fault is revealed. The trams are getting too hot in hot weather. Air conditioning is called for. Tramlink promotes travel to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships by tram. School children cause chaos at Gravel Hill on Wednesday 22nd by pulling the Emergency Door Release. Unfortunately, they wouldn't reset and the busy Route 3 was brought to a standstill.
A new timetable is introduced from 25th June. It gets the frequencies up to specified levels but is unworkable when the system is busy. After some time, it does settle down. Tram stopping signs are renewed to meet requirements of the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations.
2534, damaged at New Addington, enters passenger service on 29th June.
2534 fails but is repaired by 1st July when it is realised that it has new destination blinds also for accessibility requirements. The odd destinations go in return for "Tram Towing" and "Tram on Tow". These are quickly fitted to the rest of the fleet.
The Croydon Carnival attracts 1000s of visitors to Lloyd Park - many trying the tram.
Tramlink gets additional advertising across London thanks to Eurostar. A new Advert featuring a Brussels Tram has the slogan "Swap the jams for ze trams" - just what Tramlink had been saying!
9th July and 2530 fails under Jubilee Bridge at 0030. The Pantograph had failed due to a design fault and twisted right round.
Hot weather causes the track to distort. Worst hit is Sandilands and severe speed restrictions are imposed in places.
Early on 12th July, 2541 hit a stolen car in Wellesley Road. The joy-riders all ran from the scene afterwards.
That afternoon, gang warfare struck when rival schools joined a Beckenham tram with one gang in one half, one in the other. Insults were traded as each group claimed the route was theirs! Normal passengers were shocked as one produced a knife and they fled the tram at Woodside.
Another timetable was introduced from 16th July which ran until 3rd December.
There was a near disaster at Mitcham Junction on 19th July when 2550 departed without authority. An oncoming tram stopped as the SPAS lights flashed.
26th July and the new timetable is much criticised for being unworkable.
Waddon Marsh is now "Wad on Mars" and Addiscombe the now famous "disco"!
The Real Ale guide to Tramlink was launched on 27th July in the Tramlink shop. Passenger figures of 40,000 a day, rising to 60,000 were released.
Friday 28th July and a council workman manages to reverse a van into the side of 2548 in Tamworth Road at 1645. This causes rush hour chaos.
4th August and it is reported that the depot is under siege from travellers. They are removed eventually after weeks of mess and aggravation of staff.
It is revealed that Tramlink is carrying more passengers each day than the widely praised Manchester Metrolink that has been open for 8 years!
15th August and a new ticket machine appears at Wimbledon. This is on the platform and of a new design.
Members of our Tramlink egroup enjoyed a visit to the depot on 19th August. Whilst some of the group were in the Control Room, two trams ended up in East Croydon's centre platform - we assure you it wasn't our fault!
Tuesday 29th August and the first serious disruption to the Tramlink service. 2548 came to a stand at Love Lane (near Birkbeck) with the Pantagraph and OHL in a mess. Passengers were detrammed and services suspended beyond Harrington Road. I was quickly on the scene to watch 2545 couple up and push to Beckenham Junction. The line was closed for some 4 hours with passengers advised to catch the 54 bus from Elmers End. The tram (with removed pantograph inside) was towed back that night.
This, we thought was the matter, BUT.. 1030 on Thursday 31st August, the same driver, the same place, this time with 2544 - an exact repeat. This time 2530 did the rescue and it ran direct to Therapia Lane. However, the OHL needed to be fixed this time and services did not resume until the next morning. Tramlink responded brilliantly with management from First CentreWest in Paddington coming to Croydon to assist. Before the evening peak, a replacement bus was organised and running, signs put up at each stop and plenty of staff on hand to help passengers. The cause was eventually found to be a design error in the overhead combined with track quality and the heat.
That morning, the Addington line was disrupted with an RTA at Larcombe Close.
More vandalism and violence on the trams was reported on 9th September with youths at Arena and Gravel Hill being blamed. BTP's response was reported on 14th September. They increased patrols and made several arrests.
There was a serious RTA at Gravel Hill on 18th September when a lorry skidded into 2532. There were no serious injuries to tram passengers but the lorry driver and passenger were rushed to hospital. 2532 was badly damaged and remains out of service at Therapia Lane.
Dumb drivers reached new limits on 21st September when a motorist cut along the tram line at the NLA tower in front of BTP! They had words, after which he drove off down a bus lane!
25th September and passenger numbers reach 45,000 a day. 55,000 are predicted by March. TfL announces extension possibilities and the revenue team change tactics and blockade Wimbledon in the morning peak.
Yobs at Arena ambushed a tram at Arena on 26th September and hurled stones at it, damaging the windscreen.
BTP and Tramlink Revenue Protection staff launched a crackdown on Addington line schoolchildren on 2nd October following trouble. A riot broke out on 2533 at Lebanon Road and BTP detained a number of youths. CCTV evidence was also collected and shown to Headteachers the following week. A number of TSRs were introduced due to drainage problems on the New Addington line.
The LRTA ran a successful Tramlink Tour on Sunday 8th October including crossovers and a depot visit. Highlight of the trip was a run with passengers through the washer and stabling yard.
The Official Tramlink Video was released on 13th October in the Tramlink shop. 2542 (Amey) finally returned to service on 20th October after a long absence due to a broken centre car.
Sunday 22nd October and one of the largest fires in London took hold in a foam factory opposite the depot at Therapia Lane. The Wimbledon line was closed and the depot and control room evacuated at very short notice. Firefighters sprayed across the tracks to keep oxygen tanks cool.
Police imposed 30mph speed limits in Addington on 23rd October. This results from a legal error for the track alongside Lodge Lane. It has since been resolved.
A severe storm hit the country in the early hours of Monday 30th October. Trams had started running when trees started to fall. The Beckenham line was blocked at Addiscombe, the Wimbledon line partially blocked at Merton Park and the Addington lines in the Sandilands Tunnels. One tree struck 2549 inside the tunnels! Trams ran as best as possible with single line working in places and shuttle services in others. This was in sharp contrast to Railtrack that suspended all services. By lunchtime, things were getting back to normal except Addington which continued to only operate Addington Village - New Addington until 2549 was removed to the depot around midnight.
A new PID update on 1st November improved their reliability. On Sunday 5th November, rats severed a cable, resulting in signalling problems at Beckenham. Pilotman working was introduced between Avenue Road and Beckenham Junction which lasted a couple of weeks until the fault was repaired.
2551 derailed in the Depot on 15th November damaging the bogie. The cause was unclear.
There was an RTA at King Henry's Drive on 21st November after a youth tried to beat 2548 to the Give Way crossing and failed.
2549 returned to service on 23rd November after its accident with the tree.
2542 became the first tram to derail in service on the evening of 27th November. The tram split the points entering the loop at Beckenham Road. As it was in service and close to Railtrack lines, it took some 5 hours to recover as HMRI had to inspect the scene first.
A fallen tree on near line at Therapia Lane forced single line working between Therapia Lane and Reeves Corner on 30th November.
A new timetable was introduced from 3rd December. This improved the Wimbledon line service off-peak to 15 minute by extending Route 2. The daytime service was also revised to every 11 minutes to improve reliability.
Tuesday 5th December was a big day for Tramlink. Firstly, a fire in Surrey Street caused the power to be switched off in the Town Centre in the morning. However, controllers stranded 2543 near West Croydon, causing traffic chaos. Luckily, the service was restored just in time for the arrival of HRH Prince Charles at East Croydon in the afternoon. The Prince met the crowds before traveling on 2549 to New Addington. Luckily this went well and the Prince enjoyed his trip.
Tramlink launched a big publicity campaign just before Christmas to get people to travel to Croydon by tram. Judging by the number of passengers, it worked rather well. Tramlink released figures saying that 60,000 passengers a day were traveling the week before Christmas!
Trams were further modified for the Accessibility Regulations on 10th December with the fitting of external door beepers and internal PIDs.
Friday 22nd December and Santa is spotted taking pictures of trams at East Croydon!
Vandalism also makes a come back, particularly around the Purley Way Bridge near Waddon Marsh and on 29th a Tram Surfer is injured falling off the back of a tram here.
Snow fall in the early hours of 28th December insured more good pictures but the icy conditions caused a 198 bus to slide into the back of 2542 (Amey) in Addiscombe Road - the tram was back in service later that day.
More bad news at the end of the year - At about 1830 on Saturday 30th December, 2530 scraped passed a bus in Station Road, West Croydon causing serious body damage and many shattered windows on both cars of the tram. It is likely to be out of service for sometime. Six extra trams were running on new years eve to cope with crowds traveling to and from a large firework display at Lloyd Park. Trams operated successfully while local roads were grid locked.
|2001 - What Next|
So Tramlink is finally open! It is doing a superb job. Passenger figures of 60,000 a day the week before Christmas prove that trams are popular. Action must be taken soon to ensure that capacity exists to meet the vastly increased demand - I would be surprised if there were no moves during 2001 to meet this. Tramlink has clearly proved itself and extensions are already being talked about. TfL will spend 2001 consulting on possible extensions and hopefully we will have some serious ideas on the table by the end of the year.
So, Congratulations to everyone involved in getting Tramlink open and making it such a success. The challenge ahead will be to manage the growth of the system and to expand the capacity of the existing network as well as extending into new areas.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
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