What might have been: how Croydon Trams should have grown


After 20 years, the tram network is still waiting its first extension line

Have you ever wondered what the Croydon Tram network might look like if the Crystal Palace extension, or the much-talked-about Sutton line, had ever been built?

Loyal reader Anthony Norris-Watson certainly, and he put together something which Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson could only ever dream about, or bungle.

Norris-Watson has taken every suggested route addition, extension and feasibility study, even the doomed Dingwall loop, and through the magic of software managed to produce a schematic map of the tram network that looks as if it could have come straight out of TfL headquarters.

It’s a piece of work of which Harry Beck would be proud.

The Croydon tram is now 20 years old and has had many proposed extensions to it in its lifetime,” Norris-Watson told Inside Croydon.

“I dug through and put together this map if everything had come up over the years and actually been built.”

The western end of what the tram network could have looked like, including a line from Coulsdon to Brixton, if all the feasibility studies had ever got off TfL’s drawing boards

The mapping shows the tram network linking up with the Tube not only at Wimbledon’s District Line terminus, but also the Northern Line at Colliers Wood.

There’s a link to the Victoria Line, too, as it imagines an extension running all the way from Coulsdon, along the Purley Way and on past Mayday Hospital, Thornton Heath, and through somewhere called “Streatham High Street” (which probably ought to be “High Road“), going as far as Brixton.

On this map, Wimbledon is no longer the end of the line for the tram going westwards, either, as it shows how passengers might have been able to travel as far as the River Thames at Kingston.

There are other proposed extensions, too, heading eastwards from New Addington to Biggin Hill Airport, there’s the four-times-promised Crystal Palace extension, and even a line to Catford and Lewisham, and to Bromley.

The central part of the fantasy trams network, including the doomed, and pointless, Dingwall Loop, proposed but never paid for by Westfield

It’s a veritable version of Fantasy Trams.

It is a considerable piece of research work, as Norris-Watson has also pieced together where the likely stops would have been placed. There might be some variation from versions of proposals: the Sutton link, which was still being considered until TfL ran out of money, had one suggested route that linked to the Northern Line at Morden, rather than Colliers Wood, for example

The Bromley, Lewisham, Biggin Hill and Kingston extensions all went to feasibility studies, but no further.

Perhaps Norris-Watson’s map should be shown to councillors from across south London, Assembly Members, government ministers and officials from Transport for London, to shame them over the missed opportunities for a light-rail network which potentially could take thousands of cars off our roads every day.

As well as the promised extension to Crystal Palace, the tram network might have even linked to an international airport, at Biggin Hill

The Crystal Palace extension had been fully designed and funded while Livingstone was still in charge at City Hall, but hit the buffers in 2008 when it was binned by the incoming Tory Mayor, who instead preferred to “spaff” hundreds of millions of public money on the Dangleway, the badly designed Boris Bus and a Garden Bridge that served neither as a garden, nor a bridge, and was never even built.

Three times in elections, for City Hall and General Elections, Boris Johnson campaigned promising a tram line to Crystal Palace, never once delivering on his promise. With TfL now financially over-committed to Crossrail, the chances of the Sutton link appear remote, at best.

For the Croydon Trams, the 2010s appears very much a wasted decade.

Norris-Watson’s map is so broad-ranging, literally, it is impossible to do it justice laid out on the narrow website page… though the complete version is available below. Click on it to see it in all its glory.

And think what might have been.

Anthony Norris-Watson’s ‘what might have been’ version of the tram network

  • Last month, we ran a competition for Inside Croydon subscribers to win a copy of the definitive history of the Croydon Trams. The correct answers to our questions were (1) 10 May 2000 (the day the network officially opened); (2) Nicholas Owen (the “voice” of Tramlink); and (3) Addington Village (alphabetically, the first stop on the tram network). A copy of Gareth David’s excellent book is now on the bookshelves of our winner, David White.

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Boris Johnson, Commuting, Ken Livingstone, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sutton Link, TfL, Tramlink, Transport and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What might have been: how Croydon Trams should have grown

  1. sebastian tillinger says:

    Wow – that’s fascinating… really interesting to learn the one-time visions to extend the network. Now knowing this I look less favourably on the existing tram network because it confirms the thoughts I’ve always had: “is that it? …there must be more to it?”

    Imagine how that might have reduced local road traffic. Clearly the work of great engineers but it also demonstrates why we need great politicians to share the vision and action it. I don’t see any great politicians from where I’m sitting in Croydon.

  2. Pingback: All Time XIs – The London Transport Clash – aspiblog

  3. Thomas says:

    Excellent post. I have just published my own post giving it a most enthusiastic mention: aspi.blog/2020/06/16/all-time-xis-the-london-transport-clash/ – please also check my much older post: https://londontu.be/2015/12/05/bits-and-bobs/

  4. Tim Weller says:

    Why is it that only electric “bus on rails” trams can “take thousands of cars off our roads every day” but never electric buses linked into reinstated trains and stations?
    “Bus on rails” trams was the description that Andrew Broddick of UK Trams Ltd gave on the ‘Today’ programme to help explain 62 injuries and 7 deaths on Croydon Tramlink in November 2016.
    Why can only trams “relieve overcrowded existing routes” and not by making use of existing but wasted railway lines with commuter trains that would have avoided the tragedy in 2016?
    Why only trams to “serve corridors where there is a high or rising demand” but when electric buses, linked into trains returned to existing railway lines, would reduce the need for multiple changes?
    Why is it always trams to “stimulate development in areas that suffer deprivation” like the four Black Country boroughs when its neighbour, Birmingham Grand Central station, remains “one of the worst railway congestion bottlenecks in the UK” – Peter Plisner,  BBC ‘Midlands Today’.
    Why is it always trams chosen to “duplicate existing public transport links”?
    When “Funds will be tight in a post-Covid, post-Brexit environment”, why only tram schemes when they are the second most expensive mode to construct after HS2 and have a higher accident rate than either bus or train?
    When tram extensions are up to ten times more expensive per Km to construct than putting diesel/electric trains back on even rebuilt railway lines (cf Borders Railway), why are they always chosen to duplicate, replace and make for even more multiple changes between bus, train and tram?
    Why are “bus on rails” trams chosen over commuter, regional and intercity trains on two short sections of a half-finished, 120 Kms principal, mainline railway “of national strategic significance”?
    There are proposals and, active plans now being implemented, for three different kinds of trams over four short sections of this nationally important, partly finished railway!!  Pre Metro tram, Very Light Rail tram and Light Rail tram.
    Why complicate public transport travel in this way?
    Why cannibalise unused railway lines for tram lines?  And, leave many miles of unused railway lines wasted for more decades or forever!
    Has no one thought of trains for train lines that have not yet been used for homes, offices and roads?

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