Changing Croydon: Transport

By - Friday 22nd March, 2013

Continuing her series on why it wasn’t necessarily better in the old days, Anne Giles gives us an oral history of getting around (and out of) Croydon

In the ’70s, I didn’t own a car. I travelled everywhere by public transport. We lived in Thornton Heath initially and later near Selhurst station. Trains to Victoria ran twice an hour and were slow trains, so I would allow plenty of time to reach my destination. I also used the buses to go into the town centre and also into London whenever there was a train strike, which in the ’70s seemed to be every other week. The No. 50 bus ran from Croydon to Stockwell Station, from where one could take the Underground into the West End. The No. 75 was a very useful one. I used to take it to Catford where I was a member of a folk group.

We used to have more railway stations than we have now – i.e. Selsdon station, which was on the Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Railway and the now-closed Woodside and South Croydon Railway. Selsdon saw its last passenger train on 13th May 1983, with the Woodside and South Croydon line closing three days later. At closure it was the last gas-lit station in London – the gentle glow of gas lamps is sorely missed from stations today!

But what about now? Croydon has excellent transport links. The 75 bus still runs, from Park Lane in Croydon to Lewisham station. The 68 runs from West Norwood to Waterloo Road. The 50 goes from Katharine Street in Croydon to Stockwell Station. The 130 from New Addington to Norwood Junction. The route 354 began in 1986 and provided a Monday to Friday service between Bromley North and Selsdon. It was operated by Metrobus and in 1987 was extended to Croydon (Fairfield Halls). When Tramlink came into service in 2000, a lot of bus routes were revised, but unfortunately the 354 was withdrawn in 2000. We now have the T33, currently contracted to Abellio London. This is a Tramlink feeder service (the T stands for Tram), based on the Croydon half of the Metrobus route 354. The service connects with the trams at Addington Village tram stop and bus station. The current route is from Addington Village Tramlink to West Croydon bus and Tramlink (for West Croydon Station).

West Croydon’s inclusion as part of the London Overground network further integrated Croydon into the rest of London
(Photo by Kake Pugh, image used under Creative Commons license)

The 359 began in 1998 and provided a Monday to Saturday service between Forestdale to Selsdon. In 2000 it was extended to New Addington. It now runs Mondays to Saturdays between 09:50 and 14:30. The 64 runs from New Addington to Thornton Heath and the 412 from Purley to West Croydon.

But what about the trains?  We have the wonderful London Overground, which is a suburban rail network, established in 2007. These are stopping trains which go from West Croydon to Highbury & Islington. I have found these extremely useful. From East Croydon we can travel via London Bridge all the way to Bedford using First Capital Connect (formerly Thameslink). First Capital Connect can also take us to St Pancras International, meaning that, thanks to the Eurostar, Croydon is one change from Paris!

The trams were initially in London Transport Red
(Photo by Kake Pugh, image used under Creative Commons license)

Tramlink opened, as mentioned earlier, in 2000, under the name Croydon Tramlink. Its network consists of three lines, from Elmers End to West Croydon, from Beckenham to West Croydon, and from New Addington to Wimbledon, with all three lines running via a loop in Central Croydon. It is the only tram system in London, and the envy of many urban centres that can’t seem to build one, such as Edinburgh. An extension to Crystal Palace is currently on hold.

So things have changed for the better, from the past with buses and trains to the present with buses, trams, trains via East or West Croydon and the London Overground. The Woodside and South Croydon railway is no more, but much of its route is now covered by the modern, more comfortable and more frequent Tramlink. A fine metaphor for Croydon’s changing transport system, getting better and better all the time.

Now, where do you fancy going?

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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  • Liz Sheppard-Jones

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Anne. Croydon’s transport infrastructure is superb – 15 minutes from Gatwick, 35 from the South Coast, one bus ride from Heathrow, 13 minutes from London Bridge,18 from Victoria and of course we have the wonderfully speedy and universally-accessible Tramlink.

    Ease of transportation is a great incentive to businesses to bring events here, or re-locate here, and an enormous benefit to us all. Even our buses, over-crowded and full of people strangely reluctant to go upstairs as they can sometimes be, are great – and free to under-16s. To learn to appreciate public transport, just spend a week in a provincial town without a car.

    I love ‘The Good Life’ in Croydon and I also live it :-) Keep up the good work changing ill-formed, lazy pre-conceptions of our borough.

    • Anne Giles


  • Kake

    I agree, public transport in Croydon is brilliant. In fact the transport links are one of the main reasons I moved here. That direct train from East Croydon to St Pancras is one that a lot of people overlook, but it’s very useful.

  • George Harfleet

    Good essay on Croydon’s transport infrastructure – and I love the superb photographs.
    How(as they say)ever … I have precious memories of the No.42 tram clanking its way from Thornton Heath pond to Kennards; of standing on one of the railway bridges in Wandle Park waiting for the steam trains thundering below me; of the gentle giant trolley buses, No.630 taking me from West Croydon station to Mitcham Common fair.
    So many more memories of the old Croydon that has changed beyond my recognition in so many ways.
    Aahhh well, it all lives on in my mind. And my mind is not for changing (to paraphrase Maggie T.)

  • david white

    Interesting article. I like the reference to Croydon being one change to Paris!

    Like George Harfleet I have some memories of the days of the old trams and trolley buses running through Croydon. I was nearly 3 when the last old-style trams ran in 1951 and I can remember getting on one near Surrey Street with my father. One route (16/18) was very long, going all the way from Purley to the Embankment, basically along the A23. There were also other routes including the one George mentions (42) which went from the Greyhound in Croydon to Thornton Heath Pond.

    I have clearer memories of the trolley buses, which carried on until 1962. My mother would take my sister and me on the 630 across Mitcham Common. At Mitcham we changed to a bus which took us to Wimbledon to visit an aunt. The 630 trolley bus route was also very long, going all the way from West Croydon via Mitcham to Shepherds Bush and Harrow Road. I remember there was also trolley bus 654 which went from Sutton to Crystal Palace.

    The trolley buses were not as flexible on the roads as conventional buses. When they broke down they tended to hold up other traffic. I recall more than one occasion where the poles came loose and the driver had to reconnect them.

    I agree with Anne and the others who have commented that public transport in Croydon has in general improved over the years and is a strong selling point for Croydon.

    • Anne Giles

      Thanks for that. I was in Buenos Aires, of course, when Croydon had trams and trolley buses!