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S.J. Parascandolo

The Makings of Croydon Tramlink

Croydon Tramlink is not the first tram system in Croydon - old London trams used to run through the town along the A23 which was London Road, North End and High Street. The threat from buses both electric and diesel came early. The Addiscombe route which branched off the mainline at the Almshouses and up George Street, passing East Croydon station and into Cherry Orchard Road, closed in 1927.

Trams along North End ran until 7th April 1951 and at that time were trunk routes 16/18 (Purley - Embankment) and 42 (Croydon Grayhound - Thornton Heath). They were closed as part of Stage 3 of Operation Tramaway. By then, the trams and infrastructure were life expired. Unlike those on the continent, they were not updated but cleared away to make way for buses and cars.


The Origins of Tramlink

Now, those cars have created huge traffic problems in the Croydon area. A study was carried out by London Transport (LT) and British Rail in 1986 which covered all of London. From 1990 Croydon Council and LT worked to promote Tramlink.

Public consultations took place during 1991 discussing routes and testing public feeling - 80% of those asked felt Tramlink was a good idea. A bill was developed and in November 1991 was put to Parliament. Some amendments were made and the Croydon Tramlink Act received Royal Assent on 21st July 1994 giving London Regional Transport (LRT) the legal power to build and run Tramlink.

Whilst Parliament were considering the bill, Croydon Council, LT and three private companies worked together to start the design process. This group was disbanded in 1995 when Tramlink went out to tender across Europe. As with many new schemes, the contract available was a Design, Build, Finance and Operate Concession. The successful consortium was Tramtrack Croydon Limited (TCL) who now have a 99 year concession to run the system.

Tramtrack Croydon Ltd (TCL)

TCL is made up of: -

CentreWest Buses Ltd - part of the First Group. They have now become the tram operators as Tram Operations Ltd (TOL) and later First Tram Operations.

Bombardier EuroRail. They have designed and built the trams themselves. They also have the contract to maintain and repair the fleet in service. They are now known as Bombardier Transportation.

Royal Bank of Scotland and 3i - These have provided the finance for the project.

Sir Robert McAlpine/Amey Construction Ltd (Construction Joint Venture, CJV) who constructed the system.

The total capital cost was estimated to be 200m of which 125m was provided by Central Government in recognition of the benefit to other road users and the easing of congestion.

Construction of the System

Work started in January 1997. This included the closure of the two National Rail lines. The construction process was scheduled to be complete for an opening in November 1999. Unfortunately, a variety of problems with the contractors and with the mass of legal contracts caused a slight delay.

The first tram was delivered in October 1998 to the new Depot at Therapia Lane and testing on the sections of the Wimbledon line began shortly afterwards. Full details of construction progress can be found in my news archive from April 1999 onwards. The first tram to run under its own power on the streets of Croydon was 2535, early on June 16th 1999.

The Opening

The official opening finally took place on 10th May 2000 at New Addington when Route 3 opened to the public. Route 2 to Beckenham Junction opened on 23rd May 2000 with the Route 1 from Elmers End to Wimbledon opening a week later on 29th May 2000. You can read about these events in my Opening Special section.

The predicted passenger numbers were 20 million passengers a year after 18 months of operation, taking 2 million car journeys a year off the congested roads. Tramlink has already proved an instant success. Passenger figures of 50,000 a day or 18 million a year have already been reached after only 8 months of operation. This is believed to be about 50% up on the predicted growth of passenger numbers.

Trams are back in Croydon and running very successfully. The detailed work that went into achieving this has all been worth it. Other authorities should look to Croydon as the way ahead in local transport.

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