Trams Cons

One Study reports that trams increase congestion

From Steve the Baker, a commenter on a Bath Chronicle article:
“Have just found a study about the effects of trams on traffic flow in Melbourne, Australia. It concludes that trams increase congestion and slow average traffic speed
“Modelling the Direct Impact of Tram Operations on Traffic ”
So trams are not necessarily the answer.”  He says.
However this is the only paper he could find, and in fact I can’t find any similar papers either, whereas there are numerous papers, and well known examples from around the world which show that trams do indeed cut congestion.  And this study does not seem to consider that the effect of any increased car congestion is that car drivers will switch to trams as overall the journey is generally going to be quicker – that’s after all the whole point of trams, not to simply make it easier for cars.

A similar study seems to contradict it with Chris De Gruyter in both articles: and

Modelling the Net Traffic Congestion Impact
of Street Car Networks – A Melbourne,
Australia Case Study
Quy Duy Nguyen Phuoc1
, Graham Currie1
, Chris De Gruyter1
, William Young1
1Public Transport Research Group, Institute of Transport Studies,
Monash University Victoria, Australia 3800
Email for correspondence:
Streetcars (trams) operating with other public transport modes such as train and bus has contributed to reduce urban traffic congestion in many cities around the world, particularly in inner cities. However, there has been no attempt to examine the net network-wide impacts of streetcar networks on vehicular traffic and congestion. This paper presents a new method for assessing the net traffic congestion effects associated with tram operations in Melbourne, Australia. These impacts are determined by comparing congestion measures in two scenarios: “with tram” and “without tram”. To investigate the positive impact of trams, it is assumed that there is a mode shift to car from trams when tram operations are removed.
The congestion level increase caused by this mode shift is interpreted as the positive effect
of trams. In contrast, the negative impacts of trams are explored by considering the curbside
tram stop impact and the effect of reallocation of priority tram lanes on traffic flow. Findings
show that the tram network in inner Melbourne results in a net 3.4% decrease in vehicle time travelled and total delay on the road network in these areas. It also contributes to reduce the number of moderately congested links by 16%.

However, the impact of trams in the middle metropolitan areas is not significant due to the low density of tram routes in these areas.



Rural buses

Trams are not economic on rural routes – but by freeing up city roads, they cut the time and cost of rural buses thereby encouraging drivers to use them

In-City buses

Trams cannot compete on many minor routes, but buses can, and these smaller buses are aided by the tram removing traffic from the main roads that even the small buses want to use. Small buses can be used as feeders to tram stops particularly for the elderly and disabled.

Overhead wires

There is no difficulty in aesthetically integrating trams into Bath in the city centre without overhead wires; the vehicles can run on batteries, or other means  for this short stretch. It is worth noting that there are 26 World Heritage sites which have trams, including Vienna where the wires are attached to the Grand Opera House, and in fact on the continent tram and overhead wires are often viewed as part of the charm.

tours1  tours2

The two images here are from the tram system in Tours where trams run both with and without overhead wires for sections of the route.

Tram wires can hardly be seen outside the Guildhall. Note the cyclist – lower centre right


Proposed A46 – A36 Link Road

The A46 – A36 Link Road will not alone solve the congestion problems of Bath without comprehensive traffic management as per the continent. Whilst this much needed link road will remove much of the through traffic,  hitherto suppressed car demand will rapidly fill the newly created road space unless countervailing traffic management measures are installed, leaving us pretty much where we were in terms of congestion.  It is here that trams combined with traffic management can prevent the gains from the link road being rapidly lost.


Trams are not appropriate for a World Heritage City like Bath

We would turn this statement on its head and say;

“the extreme traffic congestion and air pollution in Bath is not acceptable or appropriate for a World Heritage City”

– so we should adopt solutions such as trams that have been proven in other Heritage Cities – such as Bath until 1939, and our twin town Braunsweig, to substantially reduce the level of the traffic and the pollution caused by it.

Here is a list of 26 World Heritage Sites that have trams:

Angers, France
Bergen, Norway
Bern, Switzerland
Budapest, Hungary
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Florence, Italy
Graz, Austria
Istanbul, Turkey
Kraków, Poland
L'viv, Ukraine
Lyon, France
Moscow, Russian Federation
Nancy, France

Naples, Italy
Paris, France
Potsdam, Germany
Prague, Czech Republic
Riga, Latvia
Rome, Italy
Sintra, Portugal
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Stockholm, Sweden
Strasbourg, France
Tallinn, Estonia
Vienna, Austria
Warsaw, Poland


What about Edinburgh?

There have been a number of successful tram introductions in UK but the Edinburgh fiasco is well known. To summarise this was in large part brought about by placing persons with no engineering or transport experience in charge of the project (i.e. the ex-Head of Edinburgh  Social Services), not following previously expert identified economic routes, and the use of unnecessarily complex contracts* and which are designed to be readily adaptable to this sort of project; apparently teams of expensive London Lawyers were paid to create a bespoke contract that filled several ring binders and was consequently impossible to understand or administer which reportedly permitted the contractor to run rings round the City. A proper utility survey was not carried out before hand, and agreements therefore not made with the utilities about necessary diversions, and the subsequent delays meant the council paying for contractor downtime, whilst the utilities geared up for action. Astonishingly in UK most of the recent tram networks have had higher legal costs than the entire engineering works

Also Edinburgh built a standard sleepered railway network (again against expert advice) requiring deep foundations and service diversions rather than modern alternatives.

These mistakes need not be repeated in Bath as there are wholly independent groups who are prepared to take on the entire design and risk.  (Groups not connected in any way with the Bath Trams Group).

Notwithstanding the undoubted difficulties with Edinburgh, the Council in 2019 voted to extend to the network as it has been so popular.

*(Instead of purchasing for £200 one of the several standard ¼ inch thick, engineering contracts such as FIDIC, I Chem E, JCT, IMechE, IEE MF/1-4, NEC etc all well known to engineers )

See also: