The Anonymous Widower

Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Be Used To Increase Services In South London?

I ask this question, as some of the frequencies on suburban lines in South London aren’t up to their equivalent in the North.

Sutton Loop Line

As an example, Sutton Common station on the Sutton Loop Line of Thameslink, has this Off Peak service according to Wikipedia.

The typical off-peak service from the station is 2 trains per hour to Wimbledon (clockwise around the loop) and 2 trains per hour to Sutton (anticlockwise).

Other stations on the loop with this level of service include Haydons RoadMorden SouthSt. Helier, South Merton, TootingWest Sutton and Wimbledon Chase.

On the other side of the loop via Mitcham Junction station, the service is augmented by London Victoria to Epsom services, running at two trains per hour (tph).

People might say, that the solution to the poor service at stations on the Sutton Loop Line is just to run four tph in both directions round the loop.

But that would probably mean the Snow Hill Tunnel with its capacity of 24 tph, will become overloaded.

Thameslink’s Route To Sevenoaks

Crofton Park station on Thameslink’s route to Sevenoaks station has this Off Peak service according to Wikipedia.

Two trains per hour to West Hampstead Thameslink and Sevenoaks.

The passengers moan about it as I wrote in The Natives Are Getting Restless In Crofton Park.

They want four tph now!

But again they can’t have them, as it’s the capacity of the Snow Hill Tunnel.

Transport For London’s Philosophy

Transport for London, have released a report on the Bakerloo Line Extension that they call the Option Selection Summary Report.

It is one of those worthy documents, you get from analysing the data from consultations.

But it is full of several nuggets, which although not directly associated with the Bakerloo Line could be very important for passengers coming from or venturing to South London.

They have also provided this helpful map, which lays out possible actions and improvements.

Rail Improvements South Of The Thames

It seems to me that TfL are following a plan to add more transport hubs to their network South of the Thames.

Currently, the following are important interchanges between Underground, Overground, trains, Tramlink and buses.

  • Bromley South
  • Clapham Junction
  • East Croydon
  • Greenwich
  • Lewisham
  • Wimbledon
  • Woolwich


  1. East Croydon will benefit in a large way from Thameslink, but so will Greenwich and Woolwich in a smaller way.
  2. Clamham Junction and Wimbledon will be stations on from Crossrail 2, if it’s ever built.
  3. Lewisham will become the terminus of the Bakerloo Line.

The map and other sources also show other stations becoming important transport hubs or connections.

  • Brixton, where all the lines in the area are in a single station.
  • Brockley
  • Catford, where the current Catford and Catford Bridge stations become one station.
  • Crystal Palace, which will soon get extra services from Whitechapel and Highbury and Islington stations.
  • Orpington
  • Penge
  • Streatham Common
  • Sutton

London Bridge station shouldn’t be ignored, as after Thameslink is completed, it will be an efficient interchange between the North-South Thameslink services and the Southeastern services between Charing Cross/Cannon Street and the wider South-East.

Put all of these proposals together and could third-rail tram-trains be a useful addition to transport in South London?

I will detail a few possible routes.

Onward From Beckenham Junction To Bromley South or Orpington

In Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?, I detailed how third-rail tram-trains could be used between Harrington Lane tram stop and Beckenham Junction station to create more capacity.

If run by tram-trains, this service could be extended to Bromley South or Orpington.

Orpington station has four bay platforms facing towards London and Beckenham Junction.

This map from shows the track layout at the station.

The tracks reduce from four to two at Orpington station, which probably means that tram-trains should probably not go further than Orpington station.

Bromley South station is another possibility for a terminus for tram-trains and this map from, shows the station layout.

The tram-trains would probably use the two Northern tracks.


At present there are the following services between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction stations.

  • 2 trains per hour between London Bridge and Beckenham Junction
  • 6 trams per hour between East Croydon and Beckenham Junction

Looking at the frequencies, I suspect that if two of the trams per hour, were tram-trains and ran to Bromley South and Orpington, this could be accommodated in the timetable.

I think that this route would have the following advantages.

  • Bromley South and Orpington stations would be valuable interchanges to Southeastern’s and Thameslink’s Kentish destinations.
  • Running tram-trains between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction stations as tram-trains on a double-track line, must improve capacity and reliability.
  • Bromley town centre has been touted as an extension to Tramlink.

Bromley South station, might not be Bromley town centre, but it is only a short walk.

However, if it were needed, I suspect that a single-track spur to serve the town centre could be created to the West of Bromley South station.

This Google Map shows the Southern end of Bromley High Street and Bromley South station.

It could probably use battery power to pull up the short hill to Bromley town centre.

  • The terminal tram stop could be at the South end of the pedestrianised area.
  • The on-street route would be single-track, bi-directional and electrically dead.
  • A second tram stop could be provided by Bromley South station.
  • The maximum frequency to a single platform would probably be two trams per hour.

In some ways, the town centre tram stop is a bay platform for Bromley South station, that can only be used by tram-trains with a battery capability.

Onward From Harrington Road To Crystal Palace

It was always hoped that Tramlink could be extended to Crystal Palace station and this has been developed as Route 5.

The Wikipedia entry for Harrington Road tram-stop says this.

Transport for London once had plans to extend the Tramlink system to Crystal Palace. These plans were known as Extension D or Tramlink route 4, and would have involved a junction to the north of Harrington Road, with the extension joining the existing railway in the opposite direction to the current line 2.

The planned extension to Crystal Palace was formally dropped by Transport for London in 2008.

But using tram-trains could make this a more flexible low-cost option.

  • Battery power could be used to go to the terminus at Crystal Palace Parade.
  • Battery trams would be very easy to install in a park, if required.
  • A charging station, like a Railbaar, could be provided at the terminus, if the battery running looked like needing assistance.
  • Tram-trains could go past Crystal Palace to a station with a suitable bay platform.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note Crystal Palace in the North West corner, by the running track and Birkbeck station in the South East.

New tram stops have been proposed at Penge Road and Anerley Road and as the lroute will be run by tram-trains, I suspect that an innovative island station design could serve both tram-trains and trains.

Crystal Palace station, which in a couple of years will have six tph from the well-connected Whitechapel, would benefit from a Tramlink connection.

Onward From Elmers End To Catford

Elmers End station has six trams per house from East Croydon.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note how it connects to the Hayes Line and I doubt if it would be difficult to allow through running of tram-trains between East Croydon and stations to the North on the Hayes Line.

The logical Northern terminus would probably be in a new Catford Interchange, which Transport for London have talked about to combine Catford and Catford Bridge stations.

This Google Map shows the two stations and Catford town centre.

A tram-train could probably run on batteries to the town centre, perhaps with a terminus at Catford Broadway by Lewisham Town Hall and the Broadway Theatre.

But with the right design of the new interchange, the tram-train could go further North to a station with a handy bay platform, if that was deemed necessary.

Increasing The Frequency On The Sutton Loop Line

As I said earlier stations on the Western side of the loop, generally get about two tph in both directions, but those on the Eastern side get an extra two tph going between Victoria and Epsom.

The trains on the line are typically eight-car trains of a variety of types. Capacity may be a problem, but a line like this needs at least four tph all day.

There could also be a case for an extra station to serve St. George’s Hospital and perhaps another as part of the development at Hackbridge.

There is a Hackbridge Masterplan on Wikipedia. This is the first paragraph.

The London Borough of Sutton is working to make Hackbridge the ‘UK’s first truly sustainable suburb’. There has been a regeneration scheme in Hackbridge which has a number of developments on many sites. These are mentioned as part of the Hackbridge Regeneration. Detailed plans include proposals for new eco-friendly homes, more shops, leisure and community facilities, jobs, sustainable transport and pedestrian/ cycle initiatives, improved networks and open spaces.

It all sounds good to me. This is a Google Map of the area.



Note the rail line going up the map with Hackbridge station about a quarter of the way up.At the top of the map, is an icon indicating the BedZed Pavilion.

If they are truly into green transport, it strikes me, that there needs to be another station between Hackbridge station and Mitcham Junction station, which is the next one to the North. As the Tramlink through Mitcham Junction runs down the eastern side of the site and has a stop at Beddington Lane on the north east corner, I would also feel that there scope for extensions to the through Hackbridge.

So for frequency and environmental reasons, I think there is a strong case to improve the Sutton Loop Line.

The obvious way to increase the service would be to have two tph start and finish in a bay platform, at the proposed Streatham Common transport interchange. Not only would it provide four tph on the whole loop, but if the trains were scheduled correctly, all stations on the loop would have the following services to Blackfriars.

  • 2 tph direct.
  • 2 tph with a change at Streatham Common.
  • 2 tph direct via Sutton
  • 2 tph via Sutton with a change at Streatham Common.

With good design the change at Streatham Common could be a walk across the platform.

I don’t think that the extra services would need to be eight-car trains, but why use tram-trains?

The tram-trains major advantage is that they could go walkabout to perhaps serve some of the new developments or hospitals like St. Helier or the Royal Marsden.

Using The Sutton Loop Line As A Reversing Loop For Trams From Croydon

This Google Map shows Mitcham Junction station.

I don’t think it would be too difficult to add chords to the junction, so that a tram-train coming from Croydon could transfer from Tramlink to the Sutton Loop Line. The tram-train would then go round the loop including passing through Wimbledon station on the opposite face of the Tramlink platform.

After returning to Mitcham Junction, the tram-train would return to Croydon.

It may seem a long way round, but there’s probably only a couple of minutes in it.

But it would need a chord at Streatham Common for the tram-trains to by-pass the station.

This Google Map shows the location of the proposed Streatham Common interchange.

The current Streatham Common station is in the East, The interchange would be built, where the lines cross.

The chord would be built to the South of where the two lines of the Sutton Loop meet, at the bottom of the map.

The track could be adjusted, so that tram-trains could go round the loop both ways.

Will The Victoria-Epsom Service Call At Streatham Common Interchange?

Stops with  modern trains are much quicker than they used to be only a few years ago.

So If the design of Streatham Common station and the timetable could allow a fast interchange, it might improve journey times for those living on the Wimbledon side of the Sutton Loop Line, which don’t get direct services from Victoria.

The Proposed Tramlink Extension To Sutton

The proposed Tramlink route Between  South Wimbledon And Sutton is possibly a worthwhile extra public transport link to throw into the mix. It is described under Extension A in the Wikipedia entry for Tramlink. This is said.

In July 2013, Mayor Boris Johnson affirmed that there is a reasonable business case for Tramlink to cover the Wimbledon – Sutton corridor. A map has been released showing the planned route. It would leave the existing route just to the east of Morden Road and head along the A24 and A297 to Rosehill Roundabout, then the B2230 through Sutton town centre, ending at the station. A loop via St Helier Hospital and a possible extension to Royal Marsden Hospital also are shown.

This is a map of the route.


So how would third-rail tram-trains using the Sutton Loop Line affect the proposed Tranlink Extension to Sutton?

  • There are at least four tph in both directions on the Sutton Loop Line.
  • The trams will reach Sutton, but only running as trains.
  • St. Helier Hospital is not served.
  • Tram-trains could possibly serve the Epsom Downs Branch, in addition to the direct services to Victoria.

I describe how third-rail tram-trains could serve the Epsom Downs Branch and the Royal Marsden Hospital in Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?







April 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Victoria To Bromley South

I took this sequence of pictures to show the route of trains from Victoria down the Chatham Main Line to the first important station of Bromley South.

The route goes past or through these stations.

The Brixton Tunnel proposed by the Centre for London report called Turning South London Orange, would start in the Battersea area and emerge before West Dulwich station.

This journey illustrates one of the benefits of the Brixton Tunnel.

Fast trains from Victoria to Bromley South and on to Kent down the Chatham Main Line, would have their own private express tunnel to keep them clear of all the lines through Battersea, Wandsworth, Clapham, Brixton and Herne Hill.


  • Kent services will probably be a few minutes faster.
  • There will be capacity for more trains between Victoria and Kent.
  • Thameslink and other services that cross the Chatham Main Line will not have to wait for the fast trains to go through.
  • There would appear to be plenty of space for a tunnel portal at Battersea on railway land.
  • After West Dulwich station, the trains will run as now.

It will also have major positive affects on the lines across South London.

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bromley South Station

Bromley South station is one of the stations on a proposed South London Outer Orbital 

These are pictures I took of the station, as I passed through.

It is a typical South London station, that is step-free with reasonable facilities.

It is well-placed for Bromley town centre and offers a fair range of train services.

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment