Croydon is served by East Croydon and West Croydon stations. East Croydon is served by Govia Thameslink Railway, operating under the Southern and Thameslink brands via the Brighton Main Line. West Croydon is served by London Overground and Southern services.[
The Tramlink tram system opened in 2000; Croydon is its hub. Its network consists of two main lines, from Elmers End or Beckenham to Wimbledon, and from New Addington to West Croydon, with all trams running via a loop in central Croydon. It is the only tram system in Greater London. It serves Mitcham, Woodside, Addiscombe and the Purley Way retail and industrial area.
The system was previously known as the “Croydon Tramlink”, having been established under the Croydon Tramlink Act 1994.
A few miles to the south of Croydon is a small gap in the North Downs, a route for transport from London to the south coast. The London to Brighton road used to pass through the town on North End before the A23 Purley Way was built to the west. Transport for London operates many bus routes in and around Croydon. Most buses serve West Croydon bus station, next to the railway station and tram stop.
Croydon’s early transport links
The horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway was the world’s first public railway. It was opened in 1803, had double track, was some 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long and ran from Wandsworth to Croydon, at what is now Reeves Corner. In 1805 it was extended to Merstham as the Croydon, Merstham, and Godstone Railway. The railway boom of the 1840s brought superior and faster steam lines and it closed in 1846. The route is followed in part by the modern Tramlink. The last remaining sections of rail can be seen behind railings in a corner of Rotary Field in Purley.
With the opening of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway line to London Victoria in 1860 extra platforms were provided at East Croydon, which the LBSCR treated as a separate station named New Croydon. The South Eastern Railway (SER) was excluded from this station, which ran exclusively LBSCR services to London at fares cheaper than those the SER offered from the original station. In 1864, the LBSCR obtained authorisation to construct a ½-mile long branch line into the heart of the town centre near Katharine Street, where Croydon Central station was built. The line opened in 1868 but enjoyed little success and closed in 1871, only to reopen in 1886 under pressure from the Town Council before finally closing in 1890. The station was subsequently demolished and replaced by the Town Hall. In 1897–98, East Croydon and New Croydon were merged into a single station with three island platforms, which remain today, but the two stations kept separate booking accounts until 1924.[
The Croydon Canal ran for 9.5 miles (15.3 km) from what is now West Croydon station. It travelled north largely along the course of the present railway line to New Cross Gate, where it joined the Grand Surrey Canal and went on into the River Thames. It opened in 1809 and had 28 locks. It had a strong competitor in the Surrey Iron Railway and was never a financial success. It sold out to the London & Croydon Railway in 1836. The lake at South Norwood is the former reservoir for the canal.
Croydon Airport on Purley Way was the main airport for London until it was superseded by Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport. It opened on 29 March 1920 by combining two smaller airfields used for defence in World War I. It developed into one of the great airports of the world during the 1920s and 1930s. It welcomed the world’s pioneer aviators in its heyday. As aviation technology progressed and aircraft became larger and more numerous, it was recognised in 1952 that the airport would be too small to cope with increasing air traffic and its role was decreased.. The last scheduled flight departed on 30 September 1959. The air terminal, now known as Airport House adjoining Purley Way to the west of the town, has been restored and has a museum open one day a month. The name “Croydon Airport” is still used as a landmark and as a bus stop designation.