Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON reports on an end to direct tram services from New Addington to Wimbledon
The operators of the Croydon tram system are to introduce drastic changes in the service next month – without consulting their passengers, or even Croydon Council first.
The changes appear to be a direct consequence of speed restrictions imposed at various points on the tram network since the Sandilands derailment last November, when seven people were killed and 58 injured after a tram travelling from New Addington derailed and overturned on a tight bend.
The changes, which have been formally communicated to transport groups inly today, are to be implemented from November 5. While Transport for London and Tram Operations Limited have in no way accepted responsibility regarding any incidents on the network, it is clear from the changes they are introducing that they have decided that reduction in speed in certain areas will now be permanent, to assuage any public concerns about safety.
- Beckenham Junction departures will now go to Wimbledon, via East Croydon and Church Street. The service will run every 10 minutes at peak times and every 15 minutes off-peak. Passengers on these trams will not be able to get to West Croydon without changing.
- Elmers End departures will run to Wimbledon during day time, but only at six an hour. Off-peak these trams will go round the Croydon loop (East Croydon-George Street-Church Street-Centrale-West Croydon-East Croydon) only.
- Trams from New Addington will now only run round the Croydon loop, with a seven to eight-minute peak time service. Tram passengers from New Addington will not be able to get to Wimbledon without changing. This represents a return to the service which was available when the trams first began operations in 2000.
In a letter sent today, and seen by Inside Croydon, the tram operators state, “This new pattern incorporates changes to make the service more reliable and less crowded with more even intervals between trams. This should significantly reduce ‘bunching’ – when a number of trams run closely together, followed by a large gap – which can currently be a problem on many parts of the network.
“Overall, the changes should result in a reduction in typical waiting times for more than three-quarters of our customers. In addition, there will be more early morning services from Croydon towards Wimbledon to meet both current and expected future demand.”
In their letter, the tram operators admit, “There will be slightly fewer services than today at Elmers End (trams every 10 minutes rather than every 7-8 minutes) but passengers at that stop will benefit from more even-interval services, and trams will be extended to Wimbledon throughout most of the day.”
As if it is some sort of reassurance for those tram passengers from Elmers End, they add: “This change affects only four per cent of tram journeys.”
The operators say, “We are confident that they will make tram services more efficient and reliable, as well as responding to changes in demand.” They fail to mention last year’s tram disaster as having anything to do with the changes.
Among other changes, they say, “Tram line numbers will be removed from the front of trams, enabling us to increase the size of the destination text to assist passengers with a visual difficulties…” and “The introduction of even intervals will make the tram departure information at Wimbledon much clearer.”
Inside Croydon understands that none of these service changes were ever discussed with Croydon Council before today’s (not very prominent) announcement. Certainly, there has been no passenger consultation.
The introduction, by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, of the “hopper” transport ticket, at least means that tram passengers who in future are forced to change trams to make an onward journey through central Croydon will avoid any additional charges. But the withdrawal of direct services from New Addington and Elmers End through to Wimbledon is unlikely to be regarded by many tram users as anything other than an inconvenience and a retrograde step.
And then there’s the small, £28million matter of the proposed Dingwall Road loop, which TfL is planning to build for no other reason other than it will make it easier for cars to access the Westfield car parks from Wellesley Road, when – or if – the supermall is ever built.
One transport analyst told Inside Croydon today, “This means even less need for the Dingwall Road loop, as we’d be even closer to the new maximum of 19 trams per hour down Wellesley Road, so there would be no need of trams looping around Dingwall Rd instead of via West Croydon.”
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