Tramlink platforms to be extended for too-long trams

Tram services in central Croydon will be shut down from tomorrow for a whole week, to allow “upgrade work” to be conducted on the network.

The first of the new Stadler trams for Croydon. One of six, rather than 10. And maybe not in licensed operation until the spring

The works, we are told, are essential, and include laying 200 metres of new track to help provide “a more reliable service” and “a smoother ride”. The works, according to a Transport for London spokesman, are part of the regular annual maintenance that is usually conducted in the February half-term or in August.

“There will be more of this over the next three years,” Allan Ramsay, a spokesman for TfL, told Inside Croydon.

TfL was less forthcoming, however, about whether any of the work includes extending the tram stop platforms to accommodate the new vehicles ordered by London Mayor Boris Johnson, because the trams turn out to be about 7 feet longer than the existing stock of Bombardier trams.

Nor would TfL share with us the additional costs of this platform extension work and alterations to the depot at Therapia Lane to accommodate the new, longer trams.

Back in March last year, Boris trumpeted, “We want to boost tram services in South London by putting up to another 10 trams on the busiest part of the network.”

Croydon Council is putting up £3 million towards the leasing of the second-hand or new trams “to increase the frequency of services on the busiest London Tramlink route which runs between central Croydon and Elmers End”.

Last year, TfL noted that it was looking for vehicles “that can be modified at reasonable cost to run on the London Tramlink infrastructure”.

FACT: Fast forward just 11 months, and the reality is that TfL has ordered six new trams, rather than the 10 promised by Boris.

Last month, TfL’s chief rail operating officer, Howard Smith, said, “The first new tram should be in service by the end of February.”

The first new tram? Just one? Not 10? Not even six?

When we spoke to TfL this week, they confirmed that one – just the one – of the swanky new, air-conditioned, longer trams is being tested on the tracks. The £16.3 million contract had been won by Swiss firm Stadler, who committed to produce, test and deliver six Variobahns.

The first Variobahn, TfL confirms, is yet to enter passenger service. We will probably know when it is almost ready because Croydon will get another photocall visit from Boris (if he can tell the difference between East Croydon and East Dulwich in his AtoZ).

But when Boris took the credit for the extra trams in March 2011, the press release stated: “If acceptable bids are received, the extra trams could be in service in just under a year’s time.”

Note the use of the plural: “trams”. Suggesting more than one.

Also note the use of “in just under a year’s time”. In a release dated March 1, 2011.

FACT: Most of the promised 10, now six, extra trams for the network which were so warmly promised by Boris last year will not actually enter service, we are being told, until “early summer”. That is, after the Mayoral elections in May.

Indeed, even the first tram may not be licensed to operate before the end of February. And an expected second tram delivery has yet to take place.

Ahhh. Timing is everything.

At the most recent TfL board meeting, held at City Hall on February 2, it was minuted that Tramlink reliability, measured by scheduled service kilometres, “was marginally lower than in the previous period”. This was not because of any problems with the network itself, nor the tracks.

It was due to “a number of days of severe road traffic congestion in Croydon Town Centre”, causing some trams to be diverted. Nothing a week’s worth of track replacement work can do about that.

Upgrades and maintenance

Since buying the Tramlink system for £2 million in 2008, TfL has spent £5 million on upgarde work which, it claims, had not been undertaken by the cash-strapped former operators.

The main site where next week’s upgrade will take place is at Crown Hill. George Street West will also be closed to vehicles during the same dates, reopening on 17 February. Pedestrian access will not be affected.

Two other worksites – at the junction of Wellesley Road and George Street and near West Croydon bus station – will not affect access to local businesses or residences.

TfL says that valid tram tickets will be accepted on local bus services between Reeves Corner and East Croydon. Tickets will also be accepted on bus routes 289 and 356 when Elmers End tram stop is closed. Oyster pay as you go customers will receive an automatic refund if they touch in correctly when boarding each mode.

“Tramlink and the London Borough of Croydon will take this opportunity to carry out a number of other improvement works in the area,” a TfL statement suggested, somewhat coyly. TfL was unable to clarify whether this includes platform extending.

“This is necessary maintenance and upgrade work which needs to be done as it means a more reliable service for passengers as well as less wear and tear on our trams,” Sharon Thompson, Tramlink’s interim director, was quoted in the latest official statement.

“We will keep inconvenience to passengers and businesses along the route to a minimum and complete the works as quickly as possible.”

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Tramlink platforms to be extended for too-long trams

  1. Arfur Towcrate says:

    “And maybe not in licensed operation until the spring” – granting Boris (and his breast pocket voodoo doll, Steve O’Connell) a last-minute photo-opportunity before the GLA elections on 3 May 2012.

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