Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts


Posted in Customer service, Great Britain, London, Metro by Chairman Pip on 25 June 2012

Last Friday, I went out with my mate to see Rock of Ages (as I believe I told you) at Wimbledon. As we were walking back to Wimbledon station, I asked the question thinking out loud “should I get a train back to Waterloo, or a tram to East Croydon?”. Well, my mate gave me something of a funny look and replied “you want to get the tram at THIS time of night?”. However, never let it be said that I run away from danger. I mean, were I to be confronted by danger I probably would run away, but I will insist that it is never said that I do. But that’s beside the point. I did end up getting on a tram, and it was pleasant enough. So much so that, the following day, having taken my coat to be dry-cleaned, and at something of a loose end, I decided “what the hell” and jumped on a train to West Croydon, with the intention of taking a ride on the tram east of East Croydon, which I did, eventually ending up at Elmers End. I got some good pictures, including some of one of the new Variobahn trams, and had a pleasant couple of hours.

It was some time afterwards that it occured to me just how easy the Tramlink system is to use. The system itself is a relatively small, self contained network totalling just 17 miles in length. But, it has four termini at both ends – Wimbledon in the west and Elmers End, Beckenham Junction and New Addington in the east, which might well cause some degree of confusion were the routing system not set out simply, because “line” and “route” are seperate ideas. Tramlink has a total of four routes, all numbered clearly as 1, 2, 3 and 4, but they all run largely on much of the same physical infrastructure (“line”). Were it not to be clearly marked on the front of the tram (as the entire fleet operates over all routes), then it would be quite easy to end up going to the wrong place. This almost happened to me last year during a trip I took to Manchester – staying in Salford Quays, the closest station was the eponymous Metrolink stop, which is on the line to Eccles. After a night out at The Comedy Store, we got on the first Metro that arrived at Deansgate, not paying much attention to what was on the front. It was only because of the awareness I have whenever I’m on public transport (most of the time), that I picked up what the on board display was saying while deep in conversation – that it wasn’t an Eccles service, but instead one to Altrincham. Fortunately, the following stop, Cornbrook, is the last one prior to the Eccles and Altrincham lines splitting, so we were able to jump off and wait. But that incident returned to me over the weekend during my tram ride, because Metrolink’s services are not differentiated in the way that Tramlink’s are, in spite of the fact that the same principle operates – line and route, and vehicles that are largely identical run on them all. How much easier would it be if the current six routes, and the several additional ones to be introduced over the next 2-4 years, were each given an identifier? Similarly, when the NET extensions open, the number of potential routes will double. By making these routes identifible, in the same way as buses are, life is a lot easier when operating on a transit system where, unlike the London Underground, line and route are not mutually exclusive.

Metrolink trams pass each other in Manchester – the expansion of the Metrolink network to encompass ever more new routes suggests that having some kind of route numbering system would perhaps be a good idea


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