After World War Two there a number of suggestions were put forward for improving travel conditions in London south of the Thames. One of these was to use the deep shelters built during the war at Clapham and Stockwell to enable express tube trains on the Northern Line to bypass the stations at these points. Shortage of funds meant that it never came to fruition, however.
In 1950 the Tramway Development Council revealed an equally radical plan, arguably more revolutionary than those planned Northern Line improvements or the Croydon Tramlink scheme opened 50 years later.
Laid before the public was a plan for a rapid transit tramway running at surface level and below ground along a corridor from Purley and Croydon to a major new transport interchange at Kennington Oval. Here the ‘rail coaches’ would interconnect with Northern Line tube trains to the City and West End, also with a future extension of the rapid transit line to Victoria, Marble Arch and Paddington.
The 1950 scheme anticipated Tramlink in almost every respect. The line would create reserved tracks for street running, with tunnels and flyovers to avoid traffic pinch points. Stopping places would be spaced further apart than with other modes of street transport, provided with small platforms and shelters for use in adverse weather. More elaborate stations would be provided at rail interchange points, including a substantial underground tram station in central Brixton where Acre Lane and Coldharbour Lane cross Brixton Road and Brixton Hill. An interchange station in cutting below street level was to give interchange at Oval tube station
Twin-coach trains would be made up of long single-deck carriages (rail coaches) with a high power-to-weight ratio and rapid acceleration. Plenty of space would be provided for standing passengers, whilst resilient rubber wheels would reduce noise. Grass and flower borders would help make the reserved track sections more attractive and neat fencing would ensure pedestrians did not stray into the path of high-speed trams. A more elaborate development of this scheme covering more of south London appeared in The Modern Tramway for July 1950.
Regrettably none of this came to pass. In this era of austerity there was simply no money for major new capital investment, whilst the scheme also suffered the handicap of not emanating from London Transport itself. Nonetheless its technical conception was first class, as proved by the subsequent Croydon Tramlink, and to this day the Brighton Road corridor in south London still desperately needs transport improvement.