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The incredible story behind why South London’s tram network was built

The incredible story behind why South London’s tram network was built
Feb 04, 2020 Shaking Hands 0 comments

This post was first published by My London on 25/01/2020.

London is known for its extensive Tube network and big red buses – not so much for its trams.

However, the capital’s tram network London Trams – formerly known as Croydon Tramlink – serves around 30 million people every year, connecting Zone 5’s Croydon town centre to locations like Wimbledon, Merton, and Beckenham.

Work on the network began after a study in the mid-1980s, by TfL’s predecessor London Regional Transport, found that the reintroduction of trams could reduce the volume of traffic in the city, and provide better links for the New Addington area.

Trams operated extensively in London during the first half of the twentieth century, but were phased out in the early 1950s to make way for cars and buses.

The last tram journey in London for three decades took place on July 6, 1952, between Woolwich and New Cross.

London trams had been phased out in the 1950s

A 99-year concession to build and run a new tram network was awarded to Tramtrack Croydon Limited (TLC) in 1996, after the Croydon Tramlink Bill passed through Parliament in 1994.

The network officially opened in 2000.

Transport for London bought out TCL in 2008, changing the colour of the trams from red and white to green.

Four years later, they introduced six new trams, increasing the number of services from central Croydon from eight trams an hour to 12.

And in 2016, services between Wimbledon and Croydon increased from eight to 12 trams an hour, after an additional tram platform was built at Wimbledon station.

Now, 30 trams run nearly 24 hours a day on four lines.

Historic routes

Part of the line between Wimbledon and Croydon follows the route of the historic Surrey Iron Railway, which opened in 1803 with horse-drawn trains.

In November 2016, a tram on the network derailed near Sandilands station, resulting in seven fatalities.

After an investigation into the incident by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), a number of changes were made to trams on the network, including a system that automatically applies the brakes if a tram is exceeding the speed limit at certain locations.

Tram drivers are now also alerted if they show signs of fatigue or distraction.

On the Croydon tram network, experienced drivers can earn around £40,000 per year.

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