Tram service ‘significantly disrupted’ due to damaged wheels

The tram network, one of the rare things in and around Croydon that still worked properly, is close to breakdown, according to an urgent message put out yesterday by Transport for London.

End of the line: the original Bombardier trams are ‘experiencing declining reliability’ according to TfL

According to Mark Davis, TfL’s general manager for the service, “London Tram services will be significantly disrupted this week due to wheel damage being found on inspection on some of our trams.”

Davis explained: “This has resulted in a number of trams being removed from service for repair.”

Transport for London did not respond to Inside Croydon enquiries regarding the actual number of trams removed from service, or to explain how the wheels had become damaged.

The announcement comes less than two months after the tram network through central Croydon was closed to replace a 120-metre stretch of track on Church Street.

“This work is essential to ensure tram reliability is maintained and services can run smoothly,” Davis said of those works in April.

Out of service: TfL’s trams manager Mark Davis

The fleet operating on the network, which runs services from Beckenham through Croydon and Sutton to Wimbledon, comprises 35 twin carriage trams. Of these, 24 CR4000 trams built by Bombardier have been in service since the network opened in 2000 and are getting close to the point where TfL will need to replace them.

Of the Bombardier trams, at least two, including 2551, the vehicle involved in the 2016 tram crash at Sandilands in which seven people died, have been reported to be out of commission.

In an official TfL report drafted earlier this year, London transport officials noted that the Bombardier trams “are experiencing declining reliability and have one of the lowest states of good repair categorisations across our fleets”.

Regular tram users have since the end of last year become accustomed to service messages which have apologised for delays due to a lack of available rolling stock – presumed due to repairs to the fleet.

But yesterday’s notification represents a significant ramping up on the TfL formal apology register.

“We are working hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible so normal services can resume,” Davis said, advising, “Please check before you travel and allow more time for your journey.”

“We are sorry for any disruption this will cause.”

TfL’s service updates on its official website this morning showed “Good service” on the tram network.

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

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5 Responses to Tram service ‘significantly disrupted’ due to damaged wheels

  1. derekthrower says:

    Declining investment in capital stock always has an effect in the long run. The wheels on these trams have been in use for over 20 years and so the resulting metal fatigue must have been anticipated, but as with any organisation run with no financial buffer it will result in haphazard patch and mend as problems emerge. Unsurprisingly metal fatigue appears to be turning up all at one period of time.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Could wear and tear on tram wheels in Croydon be higher than in flat areas, due to the extra stresses put on the wheels as a result of hurtling up and down the Shirley hills on the way to New Addington, down the brink of Church Street, and up the slope to West Croydon?

    Are the trams in very hilly Oporto , and San Francisco, smaller and lighter than ours, and suffer less wheel wear ?

    It would be interesting to talk to tram engineers worldwide, to get their views on whether ours are any worse than theirs when it comes to wheel steel, waer and tear, and metal fatigue.

    Croydon once had its own bell foundry, where bells were cast and melted down and recast.

    If wheels can be similarly melted down and recast, why not have a tram wheel foundry, to support the London tram network of the future ?

  3. David Wickens says:

    One of the modes of failure of wheels are flat spots. These are caused by skidding much the same as for road tyres. They can be re profiled several times but may have reached their limit.

  4. Joan Brashier says:

    They need to get new rolling stock – The trams in Croydon are of the best thing that has ever happen to Croydon

  5. Ian Kierans says:

    Lewis has some good points. A lot of wheel damage is caused by braking and can case ”flats” on the wheels over time. There are a number of areas that even today people, cars etc are just not attuned to life with trams.

    Take West Croyon and trams coming across the london road from Centrale. Regulary they have to brake and edge forward as drivers have passed the white line. Failing to understand that the tram will side swipe the car at the curve.
    The Tram drivers are quite patient as they edge forward to be met with quite a bit of abuse from the car driver until said car owner realises their wrong and then the reverse shuffle begins.

    20 years of having to overuse brakes is not helpful.

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