The first of a new fleet of Croydon Wimbledon trams hit the tracks today.

The six Variobahn vehicles were put through their paces in Chemnitz, Germany and are now ready for the streets of Croydon.

Delivered in the early hours of Monday January 9, the gleaming new carriages were unloaded at Tramlink’s Therapia Lane depot.

The air-conditioned trams, purchased in a £16.3m contract are 2.5m longer than Tramlink’s existing fleet of 24 Bombardier vehicles, and are lower making it easier to get on and off.

Speaking when the contract was announced in August last year, the leader of Croydon Council, who contributed £3m to the cost, Coun Mike Fisher, said: “'Perception is important, and the perception today is that things are really beginning to move again in Croydon.

“By spending heavily on extra trams we're backing what we're saying with hard cash. The tram network has proved to be a huge hit with the many thousands who use it on a daily basis.

“It's fair to say that, at peak times during the day, the network has become a victim of its success. These new trams will ease that burden.”

The new tram can seat 72, two more than the Bombardier vehciles, with standing room for 134 passengers, and can reach maximum speeds of 50mph.

As of spring 2012, all six vehicles will be available for service on the Croydon tram network.