Bath Chronicle

Only trams can get drivers out of cars

- Transportation · Industries · Bath and North East Somerset · Bath · Democratic Party (United States) · United Kingdom · London · Croydon · Combe · Radstock · Combe Down

The two let­ters crit­i­cis­ing the B&NES’ plans for traf­fic re­duc­tion and pro­mot­ing cy­cling make some very valid points – for while the present plans are laud­able in them­selves, the clear ev­i­dence from other cities shows they will not re­duce car traf­fic in Bath with­out dam­ag­ing Bath’s econ­omy or in­crease cy­cling un­less an al­ter­na­tive to buses is on of­fer to mo­torists.

It is wish­ful think­ing to think that ev­ery­one can cy­cle, and wish­ful think­ing that pub­lic trans­port (by which Coun­cil­lor Wright pre­sum­ably means bet­ter bus ser­vices) can be en­hanced suf­fi­ciently to at­tract mo­torists and cru­cially the night­mare for par­ents of the school run.

Coun­cil­lor Wright and other Lib Dems have at­tended a num­ber of our con­fer­ences where firm ev­i­dence has been pre­sented which shows that the only way city car traf­fic has been re­duced has been to in­tro­duce steel-wheeled trams, which also en­cour­age cy­cling by re­duc­ing the num­ber of cars. The Croy­don tram sys­tem, like many others in UK, has shown a 30 per cent switch from cars to trams and such a switch has never been demon­strated with buses. A bus’s flex­i­bil­ity is, in fact, a dis­ad­van­tage since buses and routes can be with­drawn at will whereas trams cre­ate long-term cer­tainty in busi­nesses and com­muters alike.

All the eight or so re-trammed cities have ex­pe­ri­enced mas­sive switch to trams and re­gen­er­a­tion largely due to the rein­tro­duc­tion of the steel-wheeled trams – in­deed Lon­don Dock­lands had the light rail specif­i­cally be­cause He­sel­tine re­alised that rail con­nec­tion was needed to en­cour­age re­gen­er­a­tion and make it a com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Sim­ply re­strict­ing the abil­ity to drive, with­out pro­vid­ing a proven, ac­cept­able al­ter­na­tive such as a tram, means Bath’s com­mer­cial for­tunes will fur­ther de­cline as res­i­dents re­sist com­ing into town be­cause of the in­con­ve­nience and cost; they will either shop else­where or buy on­line.

It has been demon­strated all over Bri­tain, that no mat­ter what bus schemes have been tried – Metrobus, busways or bus lanes – buses can­not, for fun­da­men­tal rea­sons, of­fer the qual­ity of ser­vice of trams and which mo­torists de­mand, such as short wait­ing times of six to 10 min­utes, good ser­vice round the day and evening (Johnny can come home safely from school), re­li­a­bil­ity, no crammed-in bench seats, roomy, cheap, com­fort­able, the abil­ity to cut through traf­fic with green wave at traf­fic lights.

For en­gi­neer­ing and eco­nomic rea­sons, buses can­not of­fer th­ese ben­e­fits and, yes, trams are cheaper per seat mile than a bus. The re­li­a­bil­ity and fre­quency means par­ents will trust their chil­dren to even a two-tram jour­ney across town (and back from an af­ter-school club when it’s dark), some­thing un­think­able with an un­re­li­able bus ser­vice – thus cut­ting the mas­sive school run prob­lem caus­ing a third of peak-hour con­ges­tion. Ditto the ma­jor­ity of car jour­neys in Bath are cross-town, be­cause of the time de­lay and un­re­li­a­bil­ity of tak­ing a two-bus trip, e.g. from Combe Down to the RUH, but per­fectly fea­si­ble with a tram sys­tem.

Buses are a great sys­tem but should be in­te­grated and re­served for low-traf­fic ru­ral routes where they ex­cel and feeder routes for the cen­tral tram lines. But a light rail is def­i­nitely needed to con­nect Rad­stock and the Somer Val­ley to Bath also.

Trams which can run with­out over­head wires tick all the en­vi­ron­men­tal boxes – they run di­rectly on re­new­able elec­tric­ity, have one fifth of the en­ergy con­sump­tion of a bus and no road or tyre dust pol­lu­tion.

It is a tragedy that rather than al­lo­cate the £450,000 ob­tained from WECA by Bath Trams’ ef­forts (and the suc­cess­ful Atkins study we ob­tained, which showed at least four likely routes) to study the fea­si­bil­ity of rein­tro­duc­ing trams into Bath, it is be­ing spent on yet an­other trans­port study.

A tram net­work can be used to ferry in goods from lor­ries drop­ping cargo bas­kets at out-of-town stops, re­duc­ing the ingress of HGVS.

Bath Trams is not against buses and pro-trams for any nos­tal­gic or ro­man­tic rea­sons, sim­ply the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence shows that trams are the only way to re­duce car traf­fic, boost cy­cling and walk­ing and to cut car­bon and pol­lu­tion

– have a look at the Bath Trams web­site for the ev­i­dence. Any­thing else is wish­ful think­ing and a re­fusal to face the ev­i­dence. Dave An­drews Chair, Bath Trams

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