Nov 12th publ, 14th in sequence letters in Chronical. Dave Andrews, Beverley Neilson

BATH CHRONICLE
OPINION

We have analysed cost of tram routes

Peter Fox’s thoughtful letter (“Give us full picture of likely tram costs” November 5) raises some interesting and valid points that deserve answering. All the questions that Peter rightly raises have been raised before and we have answers from experts documented on the Bath Trams website. If he looks there he will see that we have highly experienced technical advisors, we are not a bunch of wishful thinking amateurs.

He will also find a detailed series of possible routes and an initial indicative cost benefit analysis for two of these routes – these costs are in fact based on an innovative low-cost and easy-to-install track system which offers the promise of not having to divert services and does not require road closure (however, we are not necessarily wedded to that system).

Edinburgh is a bad example as, to be frank, it was executed by incompetent people with incompetent advisors, who did not carry out the necessary utility surveys or have a workable contract and there was very poor planning and liaison with utility companies among other errors. Nevertheless, Edinburgh is a fantastic and popular success and is being extended as a result. This happens in all re-trammed cities, by the way.

A better example is the equally historic city of Nottingham, which had trams reinstalled and again there was a clamour once built for it to be extended, which it has been and is being again. Due to its success. Nottingham is the only city not to have to produce a clean air plan because it has reduced car use and congestion due to the
tram.

We know what the total cost of this system was and it would amount to £25 to £30 million/km for Bath today. Over its 50-year life it translates into lower-cost fares than a bus because the money can be borrowed over the long-term at very low utility rates, unlike buses which have to be amortised over much shorter periods and have the very high cost of the bus driver spread over fewer passengers.

We know that Tim Bowles of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) and Marvin Rees, the Bristol Mayor, have visited so why are they dragging their feet on reintroducing trams, which are the only proven system, integrated
with buses, to cut congestion and revitalise cities?

David Andrews

Light touch needed when talking trams

Regarding Peter Fox’s letter questioning the cost of trams (Letters, November 5), ultra light rail (ULR) is the modernised version of the current “lightweight tram” that has been developed through private initiatives over the last 20 years.

Instead of using overhead wires these new public transport vehicles Gate will be powered by biomethane made from organic waste. This will burn up methane that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere, causing 34 times more damage than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The biomethane fuel also helps to avoid over-dependence on electricity that will for many years still be generated substantially from fossil fuels. Heavy trams, such as those installed at such huge expense in Edinburgh and Nottingham, are more like trains than trams. They require overhead catenary systems to supply them with high voltage electricity that is earthed through the rail, creating the risk of stray currents. This means that a massive infrastructure is required, including the relocation of services under the road.

Lightweight ULR trams can be  quickly deployed at low cost as they use new forms of rail track that can be laid quickly, with minimum disruption of traffic. This light track is laid in sections and can quickly be removed to provide access to the services when required, while the trams can be diverted along temporary track laid on the road surface.

ULR trams have all the same advantages as heavy trams in terms of durability, popularity and the elimination of the lethal particulate pollution that is generated by rubber tyres and brake dust. They can also operate safely in the pedestrianised areas that are increasingly taking over town centres. Old-fashioned lightweight trams used to be
the principal form of public transport in over 200 towns in the UK until the 1950s. ULR trams are designed to bring back this popular form of public transport at low cost.

Following the successful trials of the UK’s first-of-a-kind biomethane railcar in July 2020 we are working to deliver new lightweight railcars for on-street and on-track use.
Beverley Nielsen
Chairman, Ultra Light Rail Partners Ltd

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