Tramlink meets National Rail lines at a number of stations, but because it runs in an area relatively under-served by the London Underground (one of the reasons for its creation), its only interchange with the Underground is at Wimbledon. The system, centred on Croydon, began operation in May 2000.
Tramlink consists of a mixture of street track shared with other vehicles, dedicated track within the street, and off-street track. The off-street track includes new rights-of-way, former railway lines, and one section that shares the right-of-way (though not track) with a third-rail electrified Network Rail line.
In 1996, Tramtrack Croydon Limited (TCL) won the concession to design, build, operate and maintain the Tramlink system, under a 99 year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. Under the terms of this contract, Tramtrack Croydon Ltd retains the revenue generated by Tramlink. In addition, LRT were required to make compensation payments to TCL for any changes to the fares and ticketing policy introduced since 1996.
TCL in turn contracted the operation of the tram system to CentreWest Buses Ltd, now a part of First Group. First Group was one of several partners who jointly owned TCL, the others being Bombardier Transportation (the builders of the system's tramcars), Sir Robert McAlpine and Amey Construction Ltd (who built the system), and Royal Bank of Scotland and 3i (who arranged the finances).
Tramlink opened in May 2000.
Route 2 runs parallel to the Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction line of the Southern network between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction, the National Rail track having been made single track some years earlier.
From Elmers End to Woodside, route 1 (combined with route 2 from Arena) follows the former British Rail branch line towards Addiscombe station, 500 metres west of the tram stop of the same name, which has been demolished and the site redeveloped. At Woodside, the old station buildings still stand but are disused, and the original platforms have been demolished to make way for accessible low platforms.
From Woodside to near Sandilands (routes 1 & 2) and from near Sandilands almost to Lloyd Park (route 3) Tramlink follows the former Woodside and South Croydon Railway, including the Park Hill (or Sandilands) tunnels.
The section of Route 3 between Wimbledon and West Croydon follows the old single-track British Rail route for the most part, which was closed in the mid 1990s so that it could be converted for Tramlink. Within this section, from near Phipps Bridge to near Reeves Corner, route 3 follows the Surrey Iron Railway. This gives Tramlink a claim to be, in a sense, one of the world's oldest tramways. beside Mitcham tram stop had its name long before Tramlink. A partial obstruction of the route near this point has necessitated the use of gauntlet track.
A Victorian footbridge beside Waddon New Road had to be demolished to make way for the flyover that takes Tramlink over the West Croydon to Sutton railway line. The footbridge has been re-erected at Corfe Castle station on the Swanage Railway.
The purchase by TfL does not affect the actual operation of the trams. These continue to be operated by First London, but now under contract to TfL rather than TCL. In October 2008 TfL introduced its own colour scheme to the vehicles, using the blue, white and green of the routes' symbol on TfL maps. "Green...distinguishes the Tram from...buses operating in the area" noted a TfL spokesman.
Stops have low platforms 350 mm above rail level. Stops are un-staffed and have automated ticket machines for ticket sales. In general, access between the platforms involves crossing the tracks by pedestrian level crossing. There are 39 tram stops, most being 32.2 m long. They are almost exactly level with the doors and are all wider than 2 m. This allows for wheelchairs, prams, pushchairs and the elderly to board the tram easily with no steps. In street sections, the pavement is integrated with the tram stop.
Tramlink uses some former main-line stations on the Wimbledon - West Croydon and Elmers End - Coombe Road stretches of line that were taken over. The railway platforms have been demolished and rebuilt to Tramlink specifications, except at Elmers End and Wimbledon where the track level was raised to meet the higher platforms, to enable cross-platform interchange.
Thirty eight stops opened as part of the phased introduction of tram services in May 2000. Centrale Stop in Tamworth Road opened on 10 December 2005, increasing journey times slightly. As turnround times are already quite tight this raised the issue of buying an extra tram to maintain punctuality. Partly for this reason, but also to take into account the planned restructuring of services (subsequently introduced in July 2006), Tfl had issued tenders for a new tram. However nothing resulted from this.
All stops have disabled access, raised paving, CCTV, a Passenger Help Point, a Passenger Information Display (PID), litter bins, a ticket machine, a noticeboard and lamp-posts, and most also have seats and a shelter.
The PIDs display the destination and expected arrival times of the next two trams. They can also display any message the controllers want to display, such as information on delays or even direct instructions to vandals to stop placing objects on the track.
The current routes are, from east to west:
Then to East Croydon and back to Elmers End
Then to East Croydon and back to Beckenham Junction
Then back to Wandle Park
Then to East Croydon and back to New Addington
The adult single cash fare is £2.00. Day return fares used to be sold at double the single fare, but since a one day bus pass is now 50p cheaper than the return fare there is no point buying a return. For this reason return fares have not been offered since the January 2008 fare changes. Special fares may apply when using Tramlink feeder buses. Oyster Cards are valid on Tramlink with both pay-as-you-go and travelcards. The adult single Oyster fare is £0.90 and 16-17 or New Deal Photocard holders pay £0.50. When using Oyster, the passenger must touch in on the platform before boarding the tram. The daily cap for using buses and trams only is £3.00 for adults and £1.50 for 16-17 and New Deal Photocard holders. When starting a journey from Wimbledon, the Oyster card must be touched in at the gates and on the Tramlink platform. Similarly, when leaving Wimbledon, passengers must touch out when leaving the station, but must not use the manual gate.
All Bus Passes (1 Day, 7 Days, Monthly and Annual) are valid on Tramlink. Bus Saver Tickets are not valid. Valid Travelcards that include any of zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 are valid on Tramlink network. Free travel is available for:
The trams are six-axle single-articulated double-ended cars with four doors on each side. The low floor stretches between both the outer doors through the articulation (which rests on an unpowered bogie/truck). Between the outer door and each car end is a higher-floor section, accessed up a step and situated over the car's two power bogies. The low-floor section is 400 mm above rail-level, sloping down to 350 mm in the doorways, a height that matches the platforms at tram stops, and each car has two wheelchair positions.
The trams are 30.1 m long and 2.65 m wide, with 70 seats and a total capacity of just over 200 passengers. They operate from an overhead power supply at 750 V DC, and have a maximum speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). Each tram has an integral traction braking controller with deadman's handle. While stationary, the tram is immobilised until the driver's hand is on the controller: if the driver's hand is removed from the controller while moving, an alarm sounds immediately and the driver's hand must return to the controller to disarm it. If a three-second countdown passes and it is not disarmed, the track brakes are applied.
The trams are numbered beginning at 2530, continuing from the highest-numbered tram, number 2529 on Croydon's former network, which closed in 1952.
The trams are currently being refurbished including a repaint into a new livery.
An initial review of potential Tramlink extensions has been prepared and discussed with interested parties. TfL now wishes to carry out initial development and evaluation work on the following routes:
|Sutton Town Centre/Station - Wimbledon||Through St Helier, Morden and Morden Road (including via St. Helier Hospital and direct routes and routing variants within Sutton Town Centre)|
|Sutton – Tooting||Through St Helier and Mitcham (including routing variants via Mitcham Junction and direct)|
|Mitcham Junction – Mitcham town centre||Through Mitcham Common|
|Central Croydon - Coulsdon||Through Purley/Purley Station and could involve a Park and Ride scheme|
|Central Croydon - Streatham||Through Thornton Heath and Norbury as well as past Mayday Hospital|
|Harrington Road/Beckenham Junction – Crystal Palace||Various route options including (below)|
Other extension proposals include Lewisham, Bromley town centre, Biggin Hill Airport/Village and a local spur/loop to penetrate further into Purley Way retail/industrial park.
Starting in the west, there are two corridors that suggest bringing Tramlink to Sutton town centre. The first of these, proposing operations principally between Wimbledon and Sutton, has been in view even before Tramlink opened. Indeed, presumptuously, the trams were delivered with destination displays for this as “line 4” already included on blind sets.
|Route 4 (proposed)|
Then back to Penge Road
Then to East Croydon and back to Beckenham Junction or Crystal Palace
To the north and south of Croydon are some busy bus corridors, which themselves derive from earlier tram routes. These include the Purley – Croydon – Streatham corridor, which is proposed for conversion to tram operation.
To the south of Croydon, the proposal is for the new route to diverge from the existing central Croydon loop and use a highway alignment, probably using South End and Brighton Road, to Purley. Beyond Purley, an extension to Coulsdon will be investigated. As this would be close to the M23 motorway, a possibility would be the construction of a park and ride site. However, finding a good alignment will be more difficult south of Purley, where Brighton Road carries the heavy traffic of the A23 trunk road.
To the north of Croydon, it is again proposed to use a highway alignment based on London Road. To the south of Thornton Heath Pond, the use of a shared carriageway is a possibility. North of this point, the road becomes the A23 again, but there are likely to be some opportunities for trambaan type segregation to Norbury and between Norbury and Streatham, although Norbury itself is a pinch point. The proposal is to terminate the line at Streatham railway station, providing an interchange to the extended East London Line.