2021 Travels – Nottingham Express Transit

On Monday 13th September 2021, I had a ride on some of the Nottingham Express Transit tram network, which stretches from Toton Lane in the south west of Nottingham, up to Hucknall in the north, and also down to Clifton in the south.

Like many towns and cities in the United Kingdom, Nottingham had its own tram network from the Victorian era until the mid-20th century, when buses replaced the tram service. As towns and cities grew in size, it was obviously easier to run buses to new areas than it was to construct tram lines to serve them.

However, in the late 20th/early 21st century, many cities and urban areas have revived their old trams, for example in Manchester, Birmingham and the West Midlands and Sheffield. In the late 1980s, the council in Nottingham explored the idea of reintroducing trams. In 1998, approval and funding was given for the first phase of the Nottingham Express Transit (NET) network, which opened in 2004 from Hucknall to Nottingham railway station, with another terminus at Phoenix Park. The new trams were such a roaring success that a second phase was planned and constructed, opening in August 2015 from Toton to Nottingham, via Beeston. At the same time, a line from Clifton South to Nottingham was constructed.

My journey began with a train ride from Burton on Trent to Beeston railway station. The tram stop at Beeston Centre is around a 10-15 minute walk from the railway station. For fans of the 1980s ITV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, there is a filming location from Series 2 in Beeston, the Star Inn. This is where Barry took Wayne and his hitch-hiking girl friends, where they were later joined by Dennis, Neville and Bomber.

I had bought a day ticket on the NET’s NETGO mobile app, which cost just £4.40. My first trip took me east to Cator Lane. I hopped off the tram and had a walk around the local recreation ground, before returning to the stop to catch the next eastbound tram to Toton Lane. This is one of the four termini of the NET, and it has a huge Park and Ride car park.

After a short and uninteresting walk around Toton Lane, I went back on the tram towards Eskdale Drive tram stop. I left there and walked down to Bramcote Lane tram stop. My plan when I was putting this trip together was to visit as many stops as I could. It is possible to visit them all in a day, but it would probably take all day. The YouTube travel vlogger Geoff Marshall did it recently, and you can see his video by clicking here.

At Bramcote Lane, I caught another tram towards University Boulevard, just outside Highfields Park. Regular blog readers will remember that I visited the park in October of last year as part of a day out in Beeston and Nottingham. I had a stroll through the park on my way to the next stop at University of Nottingham, on the other side of the park.

At the next stop, University of Nottingham, a spanner was thrown in the works. A broken down tram meant that services between The Forest and Old Market Square stops were suspended. This didn’t have a direct impact on my plans, though, as I was headed to Nottingham station to switch lines and head south towards Clifton South. I boarded the tram at University of Nottingham and rode it all the way to Nottingham station. I carefully crossed the tram tracks to get to the other platform, where my next tram was already waiting. By this time, it was lunch time, so the trams were getting busier.

University of Nottingham tram stop

I rode the tram two stops to Meadows Embankment. From there, the tram crosses the historic Wilford Toll Bridge to Wilford Village tram stop, but I chose to make the crossing on foot. Nearby, there is a red telephone box and also the former toll booth, which is now a sandwich bar. Wilford Toll Bridge was originally built in 1870 and closed to traffic in 1974. The centre span of the bridge was demolished and replaced with a narrower steel footbridge. In 2014-15, the centre section was once again replaced and the bridge strengthened to accommodate the NET trams.

By this time, the delays caused by the earlier broken down tram were starting to cause problems. Ordinarily, trams run every ten minutes during the day in both directions, but I faced a longer delay at Wilford. The tram eventually arrived and took me two stops down the line. I got straight out at Compton Acres and walked to the next stop at Ruddington Lane.

I caught the next tram and exited at Summerwood Lane, from where I walked to the terminus at Clifton South. Like Toton, Clifton South is home to a huge car park. Beyond that, there is literally nothing but fields.

By this time, it was around 1:20pm, and I didn’t think I would be able to visit all the stops I had planned to before rush-hour started in Nottingham, and I didn’t fancy travelling on packed trams until the early evening. I decided to press on for another hour or so and decide what to do then. The tram from Clifton South took ages to arrive, and I boarded it and rode up to The Forest, beyond Nottingham city centre. I visited a local supermarket to buy lunch, and then walked up the stairs to the stop at Noel Street, where I waited for a northbound tram up to Wilkinson Street.

Noel Street tram stop.

There are two types of tram used on the NET; the Bombardier Incentro AT6/5 model was the first to run on the network from 2004. The newer trams are the Alstom Citadis 302. In total, there are 37 trams in service, 15 of the former and 22 of the latter. They are all stored and maintained at the Wilkinson Street Depot, just a short distance from the Wilkinson Street tram stop. Near to the tram stop, the tram tracks meet the railway tracks, and the trains and trams run side-by-side up to Hucknall.

I caught the next tram from Wilkinson Street up to Highbury Vale, which is actually two tram stops, one of which is on the line up to Hucknall, and the other is on the branch to Phoenix Park. A walkway through a park connects the two stops.

With time ticking towards two o’clock, I took the decision to call it a day and headed back on the tram to Beeston, where I would catch the next available train back to Burton on Trent. I can always come back some other time and do the northern part of the tram network then.

Thanks very much for reading. If you would like to follow the blog on social media, all the links are at linktr.ee/martynsblog.

The Week off Work (WOW) Tour resumes tomorrow when I will be visiting Barton under Needwood in a postponed trip that was supposed to be happening today (it’s raining heavily in Burton today).

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