Trams were a prominent feature of life in London until the 50s, when much damage from [World War 2]? was deemed too expensive to repair and the internal combustion engine was seen as the way forward. Gradually all trams were replaced by trolleybuses and then diesel buses such as the venerable Routemaster, until the last tram arrived at New Cross on 7 July 1952.
However, trams have experienced a revival across the UK in recent years, with Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield getting their own tram systems and many others under construction (Nottingham) or development (Bristol, South Hampshire, Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle).
In London, one of the first new tram systems to be opened is the Croydon Tramlink, with the first tram running on 16 June 1999 after 30 months' work . The 28km system consists of three routes running on mostly segregated track between Wimbledon, a loop around Croydon centre, [New Addington]?, [Elmers End]? and Beckenham.
The tram route took over an underused rail route from Railtrack which used to run at relatively low frequency between Wimbledon and West Croydon station. The central loop serving both central Croydon stations and the main shopping areas is on-street, as is the eastern section out to Sandilands. After this, two branches take advantage of another disused/underused Railtrack route, with the final sections to Elmers End and New Addington generally being of new construction. The single track section between [Birkbeck]? and [Beckenham Junction]? took over one track of the low-frequency line from here into Victoria.
Croydon Tramlink has been immensely successful, now carrying over 20m passengers per annum - far above original estimates. It has also surpassed environmental targets, removing 4 million car journeys per annum from Croydon's roads.
Note that a travelcard including any of zones 3, 4, 5 or 6 is valid on the entire Tramlink network.
Croydon Tramlink has had such success that two new tram schemes are under development. Cross River Transit is a new north-south scheme for Central London. It will run from termini at Camden Town and King's Cross in the north (serving the old King's Cross railway lands which are under redevelopment), joining at Woburn Place before running down to [Russell Square]?, Holborn, Aldwych, Waterloo Bridge, Waterloo and the Elephant & Castle. After this it will split into two southern branches, one serving [Walworth]? and [Peckham]? to the southeast (terminating at [Peckham Rye]?), and the other serving [Kennington]?, [Stockwell]? and possibly Brixton to the southwest.
Peak frequency is envisaged to be 40 trams per hour (approximately one every 90 seconds) through the central section, with 70 million passengers per annum forecast to use the service. Construction is predicted to cost £268 million.
West London Transit
The second tram scheme envisaged for London is the West London Transit scheme. This will run along the Uxbridge Road between Uxbridge and Shepherd's Bush, serving areas such as [Hayes]?, [Southall]? and Ealing on the way. This route is a heavily-used bus corridor and is therefore considered ideal for a tram scheme. However, this scheme will impact on local traffic more adversely than either Croydon Tramlink or Cross River Transit.
Croydon Tramlink Extensions
The success of Tramlink has lead to the consideration of a number of extension possibilities, including routes to Sutton, Tooting, Purley, Crystal Palace, Bromley and Lewisham.