Thursday, 20 February 2014

Croydon Tram Routes 1 and 4

Thursday 20 February 2014

Well, trams are baffling.  Linda and I naively imagined that something that has only four routes and runs on 'predestinate grooves' (as the limerick says) would be easy and straightforward.  But the handsome trams of Croydon do not display their numbers, just their destinations; even the information notices on the stops don't talk in route numbers.  And the routes seem to loop round rather madly anyway.

We had got to Elmers End tram stop, which is conveniently next to the railway station if you want to go to, say, Catford. Our intention was to travel the Number 1 route, a circular journey which would loop us round and back to catch the Number 4 Route from Elmers End to Therapia Lane.  (I do hope you're keeping up)

So we climbed onto a tram at 11.10, only to discover that it was actually a 4 not a 1 (or rather that it was going to Therapia Lane, since as I have said, the route number does not appear to have any currency)  Of course the 1 may transmogrify into a 4 at some stage, but we are simply too used to buses which tell you what they are and where they are going all the time.  So this is a brief account of the 1 AND 4 tram routes.

Tram stops are rather bleak on cold, drizzly days like today, but the trams are smooth and comfortable (though ours had an intermittent squeak)  They travel rather too fast for photography, and the start at least of our journey was through the kind of cuttings that we associate with railways.  As Linda said, not like the urban trams of Vienna and such places.

Once we came to Blackhorse Road, the number of passengers increased:  shoppers and half-termers with buggies and shopping trollies.  We are impressed with the accessibility of the trams, with their doors level with the platform and no need to 'mind the gap'.  An adult wheelchair user got on with no trouble at all.  We always enjoy the ramp going down on buses, but this system is much neater.

Residential properties of all kinds sit very close to the tram, including some quite new flats which seemed to be having maintenance work done on them;  and there were always lines of cars waiting when the traffic lights favoured the tram.  A sharp right turn meant that we did not go through a tunnel, which we imagine may be to do with the railway system, not the trams.

Once we had passed Lebanon Road, we were in amongst the tall buildings of central Croydon, and came rapidly to East Croydon Station.  travelling along George Street and Church Street felt very close to the stops and other premises, as well as the shoppers and wanderers.

We noted that the Carers Support Centre is part of the Whitgift Foundation, and we also came past the end of the street where Croydon Market is held.  The colourful stalls were cheering, but the rain and speed meant that we could not get a clear photo.  We passed the Forbidden Planet Shop, where exciting things happen on Friday evenings.

There is now a pleasant little garden at Reeves Corner, a gentle reminder of the devastation of the riots of 2011, and as the tram went under the overpass, we admired the daffodils and yellow crocuses on the embankment. 

The New Life Christian Centre is here, and soon afterwards, the Pitlake Arms.  We could not see if it has recovered from the difficulties which afflicted it this time last year.  The Wandle Arms is also here, as we were coming to Wandle Park, and could see the river and the pond.  The river seemed to flowing quite calmly within its banks, unlike some rivers across the country. There is a stop for walkers and other park users, closely followed by a stop for the Waddon Marsh Retail Park, where we noted Kiddicare, which seems to be a more dashing version of Mothercare.  Next, of course, we came to the high chimneys of Ikea, and reached Therapia Lane, where our tram terminated, at 11.30.

So whether this was a 1 or a 4, we had covered the route of both, once we had got back to East Croydon Station on the other loop, and we baled out there.

A splendid transport system, clean, smooth and not infrequent:  but clearly designed for people who live close and understand its ways, rather than for visitors to the area.


  1. I am sorry to read that your venture onto London Tramlink (as it must now be called) did not go smoothly. Whilst it is certainly true that the insistence in using 4 different shades of green on the route map could be helped by adding route numbers I was somewhat baffled by your report that the trams have no route numbers. When they started operation 14 years ago, and were painted red and white, they had yellow blinds with number and destination in black. Even routes that had not yet been built were included. When TfL bought the franchise 8 years later, and the trams acquired their green and white livery, the blinds changed to dot matrix indicators, but both the original trams and the new Variobahns still had route numbers beside the destinations. Where the route numbers went to today is a mystery.

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