Like many modern tram systems, most of the length of Tramlink route 1 on the Tramlink is built on disused railway alignments. British Rail, and their successors Connex South Central and Connex South Eastern, had run two un-profitable shuttle services along branch lines, one being a remnant of the Mid-Kent Line between Elmers End and Addiscombe, calling at Woodside operated by Connex South Eastern and the other being a service between West Croydon and Wimbledon on the former Surrey Iron Railway alignment, operated by Connex South Central. Both services ceased in the summer 1997 timetable to allow Tramlink construction to take place, and in the event were re-opened after almost exactly three years, with a much more frequent tram service. In 1839 the London and Croydon Railway was opened, running to what is now West Croydon, and branching off from the London and Greenwich Railway near Bermondsey. In 1841 the London and Brighton Railway, constructed a line branching off in Croydon, and becoming the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1846. Branching off this in turn, at Redhill, was the Redhill to Tonbridge Line, from 1844.
Mid Kent Railway
The North Kent Railway, was built in 1849. This was originally planned as an extension of the L&G, but this would have meant tunnelling under the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and worries about vibrations from passing trains affecting observations led to it being diverted in a generous curve via Lewisham and Blackheath, to rejoin the intended route from Charlton and Woolwich onwards (although the original route via Maze Hill was subsequently built). To complement it, the Mid Kent Railway was conceived, branching off at Lewisham by a sharp curve and initially heading southwards, intended then to curve gradually east to the middle of Kent. However, construction was overtaken by events, namely the more direct South Eastern Main Line via Grove Park, Orpington and Sevenoaks, which later became the South Eastern Railway. Thus construction of the MKR in its original form was abandoned at New Beckenham, and a sharp kink to the west was introduced to take trains to a revised terminus at Addiscombe, near Croydon. This opened in 1864, and branches at Elmers End (to Hayes) and Woodside (to connect with the Oxted Line at Sanderstead, opening in 1885) were added. The branch from Woodside to Sanderstead was relatively unsuccessful and was finally closed by British Rail on 13 May 1983. The branch to Hayes became the main route, with the service between Elmers End and Addiscombe reduced to a shuttle service (although with some through services at peak hours).
Conversion to tram operation
The route between Elmers End and Woodside has been converted to tram operation, although the section from Woodside to Addiscombe had been abandoned. The track had to be lowered at this point to fit the overhead wires safely under the bridge at Woodside; elsewhere, former Railtrack lines have been kept where possible, and the superior ride quality of the older track is noticeable. Instead of running into the old Addiscombe station — which has been demolished, with housing being built on the former station site — trams follow the Sanderstead branch alignment as far as Addiscombe Road. While the old branch skirted around Croydon, the obvious major traffic objective in the area, Tramlink was able to make good use of this alignment by running trams up onto the Addiscombe Road in order to serve Croydon town centre. This provides the only section of Line 1 that is not on former railway lines. In addition, extra stops were added at Arena and Blackhorse Lane. Addiscombe tram stop replaces Bingham Road Halt original station is was across Bingham Road from where Addiscombe tram stop is now. The tram stop is at road level, Bingham Road Halt Station was on an embankment and crossed the roads over bridges. It is still on the route of the Woodside and South Croydon Railway (locally known as the Sanderstead branch).
West Croydon to Wimbledon
The other half of the route took over the former West Croydon to Wimbledon shuttle. Parts of the alignment between Waddon Marsh and Mitcham follow the Surrey Iron Railway which opened in 1803 between Wandsworth and Croydon. In more recent times this was a public service between West Croydon and Wimbledon, diverting off the original route at the ends, and latterly the service had run with a single train, giving an interval of approximately 45 minute between services. The line was closed by Railtrack on 31 May 1997, and, since there were no parallel bus services, temporary route TL1 was introduced, running half hourly and serving all the former stations. Initially operated by Cowie South London and later transferred to Metrobus, the route was never a success, carrying an average load of about 3. Since Tramlink has taken over, a 10 minute service is provided during the day on Mondays to Saturdays and has proved unexpectedly popular. It provides a better public transport link to the previously under-served Purley Way retail area. Previously there was just the rail service, calling just at Waddon Marsh, or bus route 289, running into Croydon via a circuitous route via Thornton Road. Coincidentally, it is also the 289 that parallels Line 1 between central Croydon and Elmers End, so it is surprising that it was unaffected by London Transport's drastic bus cutbacks. In 2006 Route 1 was cut back to serve the loop rather than Wimbledon and Route 3 took over services to Wimbledon.
Route 1 runs from the West Croydon to Elmer's End, although Route 3 services used to run to West Croydon and Route 1 to Wimbledon. The Line runs parallel to Route 2 for the entire way apart from between Arena and Elmer's End. For the entire route, bus 289 runs totally next to it. A long term plan is to build a proper twin track terminus at Elmers End, which would allow a more robust timetable to be introduced. Nevertheless there has been some fine tuning of the timetable to minimise disruption, including services to Wimbledon being switched over to Route 3.
Change in Route Colours
Since Transport for London took over operation and ownership, a new network map was put inplace, changing routes 1 and 2 to lime and showing them as one route, but trams still show on route displays three routes, as trams from Elmers End change numbers in central Croydon to route 2 - Beckenham Junction and do the same when coming from Beckenham Junction.Route is listed from west to east. The following stops are served by all trams:
|Elmers End||4||Bromley||1 April 1864||National Rail Services|
|Woodside||4/5||Croydon||23 May 2000|
|Addiscombe||5||Croydon||23 May 2000|
|Sandilands||5||Croydon||10 May 2000|
|Lebanon Road||5||Croydon||10 May 2000|
|East Croydon||5||Croydon||14 May 2000||National Rail Services|
|Centrale||5||Croydon||10 December 2005|
|West Croydon||5||Croydon||5 June 1839||London Overground, National Rail Services|
|Wellesley Road||5||Croydon||10 May 2000|
|continues to East Croydon and, as route 2, to Beckenham Junction|
- http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/1566.aspx Transport for London -London Tramlink