TfL needs to find £50m to replace Croydon’s oldest trams

Transport for London needs to replace two-thirds of its fleet of trams – but still has to secure the funding to pay for them.

All change: the original Bombardier-built trams have reached the end of the line

The original 24 Bombardier-built trams have been trundling from Beckenham Junction and New Addington through Croydon and on to Mitcham and Wimbledon for almost a quarter of a century and have reached the end of their useful lifespan.

The German-built Stadler Variobahn trams, which TfL acquired between 2013 and 2015 to augment its fleet, cost around £2million each – putting the total needed to replace the old Bomardiers at an estimated £50million.

A City Hall report sources suggest a number of manufacturers have been approached in replacement negotiations.

The fleet replacement has been an element of TfL’s long-term business plan for at least four years.

But the covid pandemic three years ago emptied the London transport authority’s coffers, and all major capital expenditure is now being carefully scrutinised by the government.

The Croydon Tramlink network opened in 2000, the first tram system to operate in the London area for nearly half a century. Before the covid pandemic in 2020, the tram network was delivering 27.2million passenger journeys per year.

Of the original 24 Bombardier CR4000 trams that came into service 23 years ago, two are not in operation. This includes 2251, the tram involved in the Sandilands derailment in 2016 when seven passengers died.

TfL’s latest investment programme report ahead of a meeting on March 1 says that the Bombardiers “are experiencing declining reliability and have one of the lowest states of good repair categorisations across our fleets”.

Refurbishment and repair of the older trams has been discounted as an option. Changes to the tram network’s infrastructure – length and height of platforms, for example, as well as track upgrades – may also have to be factored into the project costs.

Tram fan: London Mayor Sadiq Khan

TfL recently conducted engineering works on a relatively short stretch of track near Mitcham Junction to improve the service’s reliability. The service from Therapia Lane to Wimbledon was closed for 11 days as a consequence.

At Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall this week, Sadiq Khan said that he is continuing to lobby the government for financial support for an extension of the network into Sutton and the Royal Marsden’s “cancer hub” at Belmont.

Extending the network to Crystal Palace, as costed and planned by Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor and then promised by Boris Johnson on three occasions, has long since been forgotten as an option.

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3 Responses to TfL needs to find £50m to replace Croydon’s oldest trams

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    Probably closer to £65m not including other upgrades/replacements- realistically it needs about £90 – £100m to make it ready.
    There are opportunities around to develop stops as multi use and also terminus/interchange areas which will help defray costs and help defray ongoing operational costs. I would have more confidence in TfL /Tramlink doing that kind of project as it has a lot of experienced planning/development/project people to call on that have proven delivery experience and competence and in delivering in the interests of its customers.

    Unlike this Council.

  2. Lewis White says:

    I wonder how much fares would be if they covered the cost of tram replacement (based on whole fleet x average life of a tram set)?

    It would also be interesting to see how much air pollution has been avoided as a result of the trams. It would presumably be possible to compute the distance travelled by every ticket holder and then make a notional “car mileage” avoided.

    The air between New Addington and Wimbledon must be less polluted as a result.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      A lot more than £2 or less if oyster.

      It was expected that Tram journeys would increase from circa 30m to about 60m by 2031. Covid hit that. So if we hit the 30m this year and Croydon was developing that target would still be achievable.

      With respects to Air pollution there are too many factors to isolate or even extrapolate a benefit ratio or even an impact of any kind.
      But 30m car/bus journeys less is a good thing. The benefit is decreased if other transport methods that are not effectively integrated aligned or efficient. bus/car/lorry Journey times on the London Road is just one example of that deficiency.
      However the benefit of mass transportation is mobility. Moving a large workforce in the quickest most efficient way possible. Second is to create links and move people to leisure areas or for social purposes. Ask anyone in the areas the tram serves of the benefit it made to them in their lives.

      Between New Addington and Croydon Central the air would be expected to be cleaner but not from West Croydon to Wimbledon as the old Winkle line was there. The road developments, Incinerator traffic ”required works” LTNs wind direction etc all can have detrimental impacts on overall air pollution even if producing beneficial on site better air quality. Very few of those measures change vehicle usage or the need for that vehicles journey.

      One thing is certain is that the Tram is a valuable asset for Croydon. If this Debt situaiton is dealt with sooner by this Government then its revenue will grow and so will the Borough and it will be cleaner as opposed to other internal combustion transportation methods.

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