Last year TfL tendered for six new trams for the Croydon Tramlink. These are primarily intended to allow services on the Elmers End branch to be increased by 4tph.

The £16.3m contract was won by Stadler, who committed to produce, test and deliver 6 Variobahns in sufficient time for them to enter service by June.

As a result, several of these trams have been gracing the streets of (and Stadlers’ testing track in) Chemnitz. The first unit has also now been delivered to Therapia Lane Depot, arriving on Monday. The new tram will be inserted into the normal timetable over the next two months, although it will not pick up passengers. It is currently expected to enter passenger service at the end of February. The other new units will shortly begin to arrive as well and will undergo a similar testing regime.

Undergoing Testing, courtesy and copyright of Volker Dornheim

Undergoing Testing, courtesy and copyright of Volker Dornheim

Undergoing Testing, courtesy and copyright of Volker Dornheim

Undergoing Testing, courtesy and copyright of Volker Dornheim

Following a Chemnitz Tram, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Following a Chemnitz Tram, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Alongside a Chemnitz Tram, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Alongside a Chemnitz Tram, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Not Picking Up Passengers, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Not Picking Up Passengers, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Awaiting Transportation, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Awaiting Transportation, courtesy Volker Dornheim

The 1st Unit Begins its 3 Day Journey, courtesy Volker Dornheim

The First Unit Heads Off, courtesy Volker Dornheim

The journey begins, courtesy Volker Dornheim

The Journey Begins, courtesy Volker Dornheim

Arriving at Therapia Lane

Arriving at Therapia Lane

Unloading the Tram

Unloading the Tram

Being Taken off the Transporter

Being Taken off the Transporter

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

On The Track
jump to the end
There are 37 comments on this article
  1. Daddysgadgets says:

    The penultimate word in your second sentence should be ‘by’ and not ‘to’. There are currently 6tph in the peak and 5tph off peak to Elmers End and the same to Beckenham Junction. There isn’t a requirement for an additional service to Elmers End, but it is impractical to reverse at the real traffic objective of Arena (the stop before). The crossovers at Arena can cope with the occasional short turn, but not with the frequency to be provided. The new service will permit an evening out of the timetable between Arena and Sandilands. It should also lay the way for slotting in the Crystal Palace service as and when it finally arrives.

  2. John Bull says:

    Thanks – corrected.

  3. Greg Tingey says:

    They appear to be bigger than the current Croydon uniots.
    Is that the case, or am I seeing things?

  4. john b says:

    Delivery by truck? That seems like a shame. Are the clearances etc not enough to barrier-wagon and send through the tunnel?

  5. John Bull says:

    They are indeed longer – by about two metres I think.

  6. bz2 says:

    @john b:

    Short answer: they’re not trains. Unless you build them specifically to meet mainline rail requirements ­­- and the Germans have been known to do that, just not on these Variobahn units – trams don’t meet (m)any of the requirements (wheel flanges, curve radius, fire retardation, crash norms, braking systems etc etc) that European rail regulators impose on mainline rail vehicles. Trams are virtually always moved by road vehicles, and why not? They fit easily and road haulage is dirt cheap compared to freight trains; freight trains only become worth it when you’re moving bulk goods.

  7. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The timetabled service is 5 tph to Elmers End all day though it would not surprise me if they increased this to 6 tph in the peaks if a spare tram was available.

    I was a bit surprised to read that they were proposing to increase this by 4 tph. I had assumed that the Elmers End and Beckenham Junction service would both be increased by the same amount so as to maintain an even headway over the shared section of the route.

    The original plan was stated to be to extend the Elmers End service to Therapia Lane in order to serve Valley Park Retail Centre which is served by the Ampere Way stop. However the current New Addington-Wimbledon service on this line is 8 tph so, if this is still the plan, maybe they are proposing to increase that to 9 tph (which was what the original service was to New Addington before it was extended to Wimbledon) in order to provide an even headway provided by the two services over the core route. In that case the Beckenham Junction service would have to just fit in as best it could. More problematic, if this is the plan, is the single track viaduct over the railway lines just south-west of West Croydon railway station. 36 trams per hour over the viaduct would be quite challenging.

  8. swirlythingy says:

    Weren’t they planning at one stage to acquire second-hand vehicles of the same model as their current stock, rather than the completely different vehicles shown here? Also, what happened to hijacking the Edinburgh tram order?

    @Pedantic: 36tph? Are you sure you don’t mean 26tph? They’re only ordering six extra!

  9. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Currently the only services over the Wandle viaduct are Wimbledon – New Addington.

    This is currently 8 tph in each direction so the viaduct currently handles 16 tph over the single track. If the Wimbledon service is increased by 1 tph then that will be 9 tph so 18 tph over the single track.

    If the proposal to extend Elmers End services four stops to Therapia Lane goes ahead then this will also use the viaduct.
    So instead of having 1 service at 8 tph in both directions over the viaduct you would have 2 services at 9 tph.

    2 x 2 x 9 = 36.

    This is probably quite doable with 6 extra trams though I haven’t done the detailed calculations. And they could also quietly reduce the service to Beckenham Junction to 4.5 tph from the current five so that if fits in with the other services and that would probably increase tram availability. But I emphasise this is speculation based on the assumption that the earlier proposal to extend the Elmers End service is still going ahead and the increase of 4 tph in the article is also correct.

  10. Pedantic of Purley says:


    In answer to your other questions:

    – They did search a few years back but there were no suitable trams available and certainly not at a price that they were prepared to pay at the time. It did all feel to me like a cynical exercise to show that the they were trying to do something without actually committing any money unless they got lucky and found some cheap second-hand trams (in which case I think they would have been happy to snap up a bargain). This is why I have adopted a “I believe it when I see it” approach to these new trams.

    – The Edinburgh trams were way too long and would have had to be shortened. I think the work involved would have made it uncompetitive. It will be interesting to see what difference the two metres extra length of the new trams makes. I suspect not a lot as at the time of construction the rules were that platforms must be long enough to accommodate the full length of the tram. The rules then changed and the platform only has to be long enough to accommodate all the passenger entrances and exits.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what Stephen Parascandolo would have said about this.


  12. Anonymous says:

    I thought the original trams were built with the proviso to increase the length of the central section?

    Disappointed to read the Beckenham Junction service might be reduced. This doesn’t feel like progress.

  13. Andrew Bowden says:

    Although the hunt was for second hand trams I got the impression that we got a good deal on these because they were actually built for Bergen. They were built ahead of schedule because the manufacturers had some free capacity in their plant. So we got the Bergen trams, and bergen will get some new ones.

    The other reason for the second hand request was so that Tramlink could replace all their fleet in one go. Whether that will happen in the future is now another question, but then there maywell be a second hand market for these trams at that point.

  14. Malcolm says:

    “Trams are virtually always moved by road vehicles, and why not? They fit easily …”. Hmm. I don’t call a 38 metre monster an easy fit, that’s nearly 3 times the normal max length for a road vehicle. I agree that road movement is probably the logical way, but I think they should be carried in bits. I don’t know how detachable they are at the joint (probably not very), but I think that carrying them fully assembled (as in the pictures) must mean that they have an “interesting” effect on the traffic at any road junctions, bends etc. (Hopefully it’s dead of night).

  15. Roy says:

    Still don’t like the new livery. Bring back red and white I ssy!

  16. Mwmbwls says:

    Anonymous at 17.03 asked “I wonder what Stephen Parascandolo would have said about this. R.I.P.”

    For those who do not know who Stephen was. He was a pioneer blogger who documented each twist and turn of the construction and operation of the Croydon Tramlink System as it was built by and then struggled with a PPP financing arrangement. At first regarded as an irritant by the operators of the system over time they began to realise that the publicity and exposure he gave to their system was a positive and not a negative. Following his premature death in an accident he was commerated by the naming of a tram car after him. Still sadly missed by his friends and family, I am sure that his response would have been a mixture of of effervescent enthusiasm tinged with impatience that it has taken so long to get to this stage. He was a great lad and counts as one of the precursor models for this blog.

  17. Greg Tingey says:

    To which I may add that he was a signalling engineer, and one of my (still-below-retirement-age) railway acquaintances used to work with him.
    As you say, he is still missed.

  18. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @ Anonymous 08.42

    I thought the original trams were built with the proviso to increase the length of the central section?

    You are correct. I understand it is not an easy job to do this. There was talk of having to send the whole tram back to the manufacturer. I suspect that the reality is it is too-little gain for a fleet that is already 12 years old. The money is probably better spent putting it towards a new tram.

    Disappointed to read the Beckenham Junction service might be reduced. This doesn’t feel like progress.

    I tend to agree with you but I must emphasise that what I wrote was speculation. But I am a little disappointed that there seems to be no plans for improvements based on the absence of anything being positively promoted. I wonder if this is because of “operating difficulties”. After all the line from Harrington Road to Beckenham Junction is basically single track with passing places. There seems to be a complete lack of suggestions as to how to sort this section out other than the possibility in the future of not only going to Crystal Palace but also taking over the heavy rail section from Bromley Junction (where the Crystal Palace – Beckenham Junction line crosses the main line from London Bridge to East Croydon) to Beckenham Junction*. There is a sort of ironic justice here. When Tramlink was proposed the London Borough of Bromley vetoed any street running in its borough which is why you have this long single track section with passing places. Had they had been more co-operative then their residents would have had a better service.

    * This is really confusing. Beckenham Junction is located in Beckenham and is the name of a station. Bromley Junction is the junction for Bromley and its name dates from before the direct line via Penge East was built. It is located in Norwood.

  19. Ed B says:

    Would be good to have some indication if the tramlink will ever reach Purley as was originally thought. Nothing much seems to have been said since the plans for rerouting the A22 died a death a couple of years back.

  20. Rational Plan says:

    I understand current priorities for TFL is to have the Wimbledon route dual tracked throughout. When that might happen I don’t know, but I imagine they want to run more trams to Wimbledon. Then the crystal palace extension looks like its going to be after that.

    Long term they would like extensions to Tooting, Sutton and Bromley. (currently in Mayors long term strategy drft doc.)

  21. timbeau says:

    Will these new longer trams operate on any particular route or just mix in with the rest of the fleet? Are there any stops that are not long enoughb to take them?

    Nice to see the numbering continues the tradition of a continuous number series following on from the pre1952 trams.

  22. Ricky Hammer says:

    Stephen’s still is still live, it makes poignant reading.

    There’s an item about the tram named after him here:


  23. Ricky Hammer says:

    Sorry, that should have read “Stephen’s site is still live”

  24. Geoff Smith says:

    “I understand current priorities for TFL is to have the Wimbledon route dual tracked throughout.”

    That will never happen –
    The single lines over the Wandle Flyover, the Mitcham Jc flyover and below Carshalton Road at Mitcham Jc, would all be far too expensive to double.
    Add to that the furore which would ensue if the water meadows at Morden Hall Park (NT) were interfered with.
    Doubling from just west of Carshalton Road to Mitcham would be ‘easy’.
    Converting the interlacing from Mitcham to the Baron Walk foot-crossing to double track would be a challenge.
    At Wimbledon the tramstop (single platform at present) needs moving out to the “cripple siding”, where there is room for a second platform, accessed via a covered walk-way from the end of platform 10, and from the path leading to the footbridge over the South Western main line.

  25. Isabelle Plasschaert says:

    Hi all,

    Nice to see my pictures on here ! I took the pictures for TFL and they supplied them to press and bloggers.
    Mine are the ones at the Croydon End.
    It was a very delicate operation !

    Isabelle Plasschaert

  26. Rational Plan says:

    @ Geoff Smith.

    I was just summarizing what was said by Howard Smith in an interview in Decembers Modern Rail on London Rail Projects.

    I quote

    ‘Tramlink feels like the DLR ten years ago’ he goes on ‘There is a great sense of potential’

    ‘doubling the Wimbledon line is precursor to almost anything’

    It has just issued a tender for doubling track around mitcham junction.

    Then it plans to tackle the stretch near Morden road.

    Once they have double tracked the route they need to look at Wimbledon, options include; a staggered platform face or stepping up of drivers.

    After this the extension to Crystal Palace is most likely; with extensions to Bromley from Crystal Palace, Sutton via Morden and possible Tooting.

  27. Tom says:

    I think they look loveley but they should have yellow not green bars.

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  29. Fandroid says:

    How did that Russian ad for Minecraft get in here? JB, your 24hr anti-spam missile system is not functioning. Either that or your aircraft carriers are wandering around waiting for aircraft.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    I like the new livery!
    I’m sure the Wimbledon Branch is being double tracked between Mitcham and Mitcham Junction hence the frequent Weekend works on the Tramlink between these two stops. However when the line will be double tracked between Wandle Park and Reeves Corner is a mystery?
    I do hope Tramlink is Extended to Crystal Palace soon, before it gets shelved again because of Crossrail 2 Construction. #Transport

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  34. Woodvale says:

    Tramlink Route 4 is now live, running between Elmers End and Therapia Lane from 0700-1900 Mondays to Saturdays. I saw one of the Stadler trams running on Route 4 towards Elmers End at Reeves Corner last night, unfortunately too far away to see the fleet number.

    The Tramlink route map on the TfL website has been updated to show Route 4, but the timetables and user guide do not yet appear to have been updated with the new route’s details.

    When the Stadlers were first doing trial runs in public service on New Addington-Therapia Lane extras, I asked serveral of the drivers and trainers when they expected Route 4 to start operation, and the common response was that they didn’t know for certain whether it would, but September at the earliest, so presumably the Stadler trams are now performing reliably.

  35. timbeau says:

    Maybe I missed it before, but I note that the “future engineering work” TfL site is now showing a three month shutdown of Tramlink from Wimbledon to Dundonald Road, starting on July 13th (the day after the tennis ends). From what little is visible behind the hoardings, they seem to be making considerable progress on the new platform.

  36. ngh says:

    Re timbeau,

    I don’t think you missed it, I only noticed it about a week ago, it looks like they had a closure today to do some pre-works inspections.

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