Trackless trams 9th in sequence of tram letters in Bath Chronicle. Chinese tram bus – why rubber tyred tram buses don’t work

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Dear Chronicle,

Colin Starkey suggests the optically guided tram bus system as used in the Chinese city Zhuzhou instead of trams

This is not a new idea and was installed in France in since 2001 in Rouen and Nimes.

It has a number of disadvantages compared to steel wheeled trams.  As is becoming increasingly realised that rubber tyre and road dust are potentially worse than diesel fumes, as they comprise minute carcinogenic particles.

Having rubber wheels the road friction and hence energy consumption is at least twice that of a steel wheeled vehicle.

There are issues with the guidance system when it is foggy, snow or very heavy rain.

Rubber wheeled buses inflict great damage on existing roads ( more so than does a tram ) and in particularly because the tram bus always takes the same route rutting and potholing soon become a problem making the ride uncomfortable compared to a steel while tram.

Perhaps this is why over 25 new tram systems have been installed in France, and only two of these optically guided bus systems. I travel with my family frequently in France and can assure your readers that the new trams are very popular, well used and have made their cities thriving and pleasant. You can’t say that for our buses!

Tram bus is a cheap alternative which does not have the allure and glamour of a tram, which has the overwhelming advantage of being able to attract car drivers, who have never found a bus to be acceptable.  Croydon tram system for example has 25% of its passengers leaving a car at home, and has thus significantly cut congestion and made the centre a pleasant place.

It is worth noting that none of the existing UK guided busways have been a success, many being called white elephants for a variety of reasons.  However wherever a tram has been installed, not only has the city actually cut congestion, but there is always a clamour for extension – note Edinburgh is being extended despite initial difficulties, and likewise Nottingham.

Andy Dolman

Dear Chronicle

“Trackless trams” as described by Colin Starkey (Chronicle – 29 March) don’t work.

In France, the system in Caen is being replaced by a conventional steel-wheel tramway and the one in Nancy will follow suit in 2021.  A different type of rubber-tyred tramway in Clermont-Ferrand has faced a variety of problems with accidents and the need to constantly resurface the roadway.  In another French city, Rouen, attempts at guidance of buses by cameras following painted lines on the road surface have been limited to “docking” at stops, while other means of electronic or magnetic guidance have failed to achieve safety certification in both France and The Netherlands.

The operation in Zuzhou (China) has yet to prove sustainable and has been introduced to an environment markedly different to Europe.  It is unlikely that the proposals for an “autonomous metro” in Cambridge would achieve compliance with UK legislation and the huge costs of the tunnel section proposed for this system are unlikely to be funded.

Conventional electric tramways are fully proven and have the considerable advantage of creating zero emissions at the point of use whereas the alternatives described above all involve the most dangerous “Oslo Effect” pollution through wear of tyres, road surfaces and braking equipment.

For both Bath and Cambridge the best form of public transport for the cities’ busiest corridors is a modern tramway.

Andrew Braddock


J Daglish

Sat, 13 Apr, 15:36 (2 days ago)
to BobmebathtramreintroductionexpertsfortramsBoardBathTramGroup

The Paris ones are not optical. They T5  & T6 ( Translohr  “trams” now owned by Alstom ) and the one in Caen being replaced run on pneumatic tyres with a central sloted guide rail.

The ones in Paris seem to be performing better than the one in Caen (early model).

But the cited reason for their use,  the slope at 8,5 % à 9,5 %, is not problem for réseau de Ténérife, with a Citadis tram (Alstom].

It was a little cheaper in capital cost but not much and the running cost is more, the reasonfor their use is probably political.


John Daglish
Paris, France

Andrew Braddock 

Sun, 14 Apr, 19:10 (1 day ago)
to JBobmebathtramreintroductionexpertsfortramsBoardBathTramGroup

You’re right, John

Alstom has now ceased “Translohr” production so the future for that system looks bleak.  In principle, Translohr’s technology was superior to Bombardier’s (GLT/TVR as in Caen & Nancy) but both are substantially inferior to a conventional tramway, and have proven more costly!  Both were “political” – including the takeover of Translohr by Alstom and the clear government “persuasion” of RATP to install the system on T5 and T6.