Since Friday 30th March when the first of the Stadler built Variotrams – 2554 – entered passenger service the new London Tramlink trams have only been used as “service extras” as drivers become familiarised with the different vehicles. That was until Tuesday 29th May when 2555 was allocated to duty 38 on line 3 as an experiment to see whether it would result in any delays in running the service.
Leaving Depot at 0510 there were, unfortunately, a number of delays throughout the day with some journeys being turned short rather than reforming the service. Not all drivers have yet been trained on the Variotrams so it was essential 2555 was in the right place at the right time when it came to crew changes. The tram was back at Therapia Lane on time at 2059. After this it remained out on the network for further driver training.
The following day duty was once again used to trial a Variotram in normal service with 2556 making its normal service debut. Again delays were a major factor of the day but this time rather than short running the service was reformed and 2556 ended up on duty 40 which arrives back at Therapia Lane at 2114.
Thursday 31st May saw 2554 used in service and in doing so it became the first Variotram to be vandalised. Three youths managed to break one of the large saloon windows at the New Addington terminus but as the trams are fitted with cameras as rear view mirrors they were caught on camera so are unlikely to be getting away with it!
It is expected that the coming days will see duty 38 used to test out the Variotrams on a regular basis so any performance issues can be solved before a full service introduction. Just what will happen if the performance can’t be improved remains to be seen!
Of the five Variotrams now in Croydon it is believed that four of them have now been used in service (either as extras or in normal service) with 2558 being the odd one out. The final Variotram remains to be delivered to Therapia Lane.