Bath Tram Meeting – 18th Oct 2017   At the Rising Sun Pub Notes on the meeting

No wires in Seville at left

Draft 5 Notes of the first open meeting:

Date: 18th Oct 2017.   Venue: The Rising Sun Pub, Grove Street Bath.

19 People attended the meeting.

Note the views herein, are those of the speakers and not necessarily those of Bath Trams

Dave Andrews C.Eng. Organised & chaired the meeting.

DA opened the meeting and gave a brief background on his experience, & the motives & aims behind the tram group (Dave’s Bios is on the website).

For the benefit of the group there was an initial roving discussion on the issues & challenges of re-introducing a modern tram system to Bath. Not least, the narrow streets & the size of the tram cars, the power infra-

-structure, alternatives to unsightly overhead cables & catenaries, battery technology, advances in track & quick track laying techniques, “the Edinburgh experience” versus the light rail solutions proposed elsewhere in the UK. Taken collectively, it is believed that the cost & viability of trams is now a viable alternative to other rapid transit solutions for Bath. However, the capital costs of the tram infrastructure is the largest stumbling block.

DH addressed that key point in stating “the Bath Trams Re-Introduction Group was offering to promote, design, fund and operate, and take the risk for a new tram network in Bath at no cost to B&NES Council or the tax payers”.

There are several ways that a tram system could be built & operated as was evidenced by those successful services running in Manchester, London Docklands light rail, Birmingham etc. However, funding is always the principal stumbling block, particularly Government funding. DA is a chartered engineer in the power generation land small ultra low emission waste to energy industry & works with companies to raise £100m for waste to energy plants, and with a number of international companies who have expressed an interest in supporting and funding a new tram network for Bath

James Hammett, MD, UKTram – (UK Tram is the industry body for light rail in the UK) quoted some interesting stats on the extent of LR tram systems in the UK:

268 million passengers a year use trams / light rail systems in UK [DfT figures].

 There are tram systems in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle/Tyneside, Dublin, Edinburgh, London (Docklands light rail), Croydon, – (which has the highest capacity). With others under various stages of design/consent & construction.

Manchester has the biggest & most successful tram system in the UK, and it is still being extended. This has lead to large areas of moribund areas of Manchester being re-developed and a continuous clamour for extensions.

Birmingham is investing £1.1 Billion in a new tram system.

The Tyne and Wear metro was also mentioned and pre-dates these other systems.

Edinburgh’s tram system was based upon a heavy rail system which was extremely expensive to construct. The initial route (airport to city) was not a recognised commuter route, so did not address the congestion issues facing the city. Additional routes have since been added and the system is more effective with passenger numbers & its popularity on the rise. Part of the expense was that  a bespoke non-standard, conflictual contract was used, rather than the traditional off the shelf contracts such as JCT, I Chem E, FIDIC etc which are well understood and promote co-operation between client and contractor.  It was also ran by an arms length company, chaired not by an engineer but the Ex-Head of Edinburgh Social Services. The track method used required extensive excavations of cellars which may not be necessary with some other track systems proposed for Bath.

Dublin’s two tram systems recently re-installed, – the Luas –  were recently linked-up across the city centre. – They are very popular and expanding. The extension was complex to construct having to traverse many under the highway cellars, & other challenges, such as those which some of the Bath tram routes will encounter.

1st Speaker – Nick Mallinson,  Warwick Manufacturing Group – A department of the University of Warwick.

Nick is Programme Manager & represents Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) which is part of the HVM (High Value Manufacturing) Catapult.  WMG have expertise & R&D facilities on the University of Warwick campus with some focus on Very Light Rail / Ultra-Light Rail.  His aim is to build a UK based ‘tram’ manufacturing industry based in the West Midlands area.

WMG is currently working on a Very Light Rail VLR scheme for Coventry (catchment Pop 300k).  Previously proposed schemes had lots of problems. However, with cross party support & funds from the West Midlands Combined Authority, the project is moving forward.

Nick briefed the group about the obstacles to accessing Government funds for transport schemes – Department for Transport (DfT) employs “Green Book Appraisal” as a key part of the Cost Benefit Analysis used to assess whether projects qualify for aid. The benchmarks employed are conservative & rigorous – DfT / Webtag appraisal procedures seek to identify a Benefit to Cost ratio of 2:1 or better over 30 years.  The Coventry VLR project is fortunate in that funds to create a demonstrator vehicle and low-cost track solution were redirected from an earlier sprint bus initiative supported by the DfT.

Tram Infrastructure costs are by far the most expensive part of any tram scheme; rolling stock costs far less. Nick described a light tram they had designed, called an “e-shuttle”. Its a single car unit 9 metres long, weighs 11.6 tonnes & carries 50-70 passengers. Two or more run together in busy periods. The car is powered by battery technology [1tonne] with no overhead cables. Batteries have a 5 minutes recharge at the end of the loop.

Initially requiring a driver but in the future, will be autonomous like the Paris metro land the DLR Docklands Light Railway. The plan is that e-shuttle services come at such frequency, like a London tube, that people don’t need to use a timetable – “Turn up and go”

The main advantages are the lightweight rolling stock and cheaper infrastructure & running costs.

WMG have also developed new track technology with specialised computer programs that can accurately predict the load spread under rails. Particularly important where utilities remain in place, and trams traverse over basements or over weak/poor load bearing substrata.

VLR schemes means low track costs. Most significant is that tracks can be removed locally to get access to utilities under the route.  Providing such access removes the need to move or divert utilities before construction of track, which is historically one of the major cost & time impacts on any tram project.

The LR55 track system ( see below) , is another lightweight track laid in shallow channels cut into roads. – This modular system allows track to be laid at a rate of 100 meters / night without road closure.

LR 55 – an example of easy install track not requiring road closure or extensive excavation reportedly:




The P-CAT system  another low cost easy install option:

The above type of slabs can be installed without extensive excavation using the type of machine shown in Bath, without road closure:

Nick said that Colin Knight, director of transport at Coventry authority is keen to share  his/their hard won knowledge & experience on promoting a tram project.

2nd Speaker: John Parry – Parry People Movers

“2nd Speaker:  John Parry MBE – Parry People Movers Ltd.
Parry (PPM) build specialised rolling stock for Light Rail schemes.  Most notable was the operation of the Stourbridge Junction railway station to Stourbridge Town branch line utilising the old heavy British Rail track to run Light Rail single car Parry People Mover units.
John showed a clip of a short BBC film “All The Stations” that showed their Class 139 railcar running on the Stourbridge Branch Line.  The service has carried 4 million passengers since 2009, which far exceeded forecast and was a big increase since before the line ran with conventional BR Class 153 heavy rolling stock.
It has proved over 99% reliability in service over each of the last 8 years in service.  PPM units use regenerative (flywheel) energy technology with propane fuel as the prime energy source, so removing the need for costly electricity infrastructure.
It was confirmed that there is an international market for these types of innovative transport solutions.
Associate Professor Beverley Nielsen of Birmingham City University has joined forces with Parry specialists to form a new consultancy Light Rail partners Ltd to advise promoters of new Light Rail systems in the UK and overseas.”

3rd Speaker: Jim Harkins – Light Rail Transit Association, Secretary of the cross-party Parliamentary Light Rail Group

 Jim was a former Scots Guard & has various business interests, alongside some success in Parliament including getting UK Trams set up

 Jim Spoke of the rising awareness of the ‘Oslo Effect’ – A phenomenon where very small particulate pollution PM2.5 & PM10, caused by friction wear & degradation of tyres and components in all road going vehicles are emitted to atmosphere where they are ingested & embed in the human lung & brain. PM2.5 particles are smaller than 2.5 microns, PM 2.5 is smaller than 10 microns in size (a micron is a millionth of a metre, a human hair is about 70 microns thick). This PM2.5 hazard is now recognised as more hazardous than coarser PM10 diesel particulate emissions which don’t access the brain. These particulates come from wear of tyres, road surfaces, brake linings, pot holes. Tyre rubber makes up the highest percentage generated by lorries, buses, vans, cars, even bicycles, produce it. Note that electric vehicles are heavier than internal combustion vehicles so have greater tyre wear. His slides showed that there are roughly equal amounts of the lighter more dangerous particles as those coming from the exhaust.

On a road with 25,000 vehicles a day 9 kilos of tyre dust are produced per kilometre.

The indirect health cost associated with this is very high, but is not included in transport  cost benefit  assessments.

Some cities around the world are starting to ban rubber wheeled vehicles, ie Ghent as a result.

Trams / Light Rail transportation use regenerative braking, and steel on steel wheel to rail results in very little pollution. All new trams by law have to have regenerative braking.

The hardest part in promoting a new tram system is getting the first line built & running.

Typically, it takes 2-3 years of preparation and approvals, followed by  2-3 years to build.

Costs typically range from £7m/Km upwards. Warrington costs circa £7 million per kilometre, Whereas Edinburgh cost circa £14m + . Estimates from other consultants are as high as £35m. ( they may well be right, only time will tell – Ed)

Warrington is a new proposal he is working on.  It compares to the  £196 million relief road proposal

(£14m per km is believed the lowest in use currently existing. Mott McDonald’s little black book on tram costs is a good guide – Ed)

Warrington proposal uses proven technology & demand led routes – Edinburgh utilised a heavy rail design (arguably over-engineered for light rail trams) & the first route was not a recognised commuter route. Subsequent route additions have since compensated & the ETS is now very popular

See website for more info

Light Rail UK is putting together a team of experts who can offer experienced advice on how to do light rail (trams).

4th Speaker James Hammett – M.D. UK Trams

Represents all areas of the industry, large and small.

James wants to see the best transport solution for each city’s congestion & transportation issues. – If after preliminary scoping & assessment, trams are not the correct solution he will will say so. Both he & his organisation have considerable knowledge & experience, in tram design & installation. Very happy to share knowledge, liaise with EU countries and around the world, has a centre of excellence.

Received £3 million to research track form and energy ie optimum use of power for driver

Example Dublin has lots of cellars with trams, happy to put in contact.

To get funding need to investigate all areas – environment, congestion, economy etc  which will see benefits.

TWAO Transport Work Act Order  can take 1-2 years and quoted cost can go up in this time.

Heavy rail is quite different to trams, so build for what it has to do, heavy rail experts are not experts in trams. The overly expensive Edinburgh tram system effectively had a main line heavy rail infrastructure which was one of the key reasons it was so expensive and behind schedule in delivery and  operation.

His advice was:

Make sure you engage all stakeholders by marketing the benefits to residents and manage the expectations.

Make an integrated transport system that works for everyone.

Trams have high environmental benefits.

Trams can be used for freight deliveries into city centres, roll on/off.

Bob Chard – LCT Ltd. Expert in looking at best routes for rail

Bob worked on the development of the London Docklands light railway (DLR) – effectively an unmanned overhead tram system, and the HS1 route planning phases.

His advice was to keep an open mind on the planning & development of routes, as those that appear at first hand to be the best aren’t always !! – It requires the group to engage & listen to all parties, as in his experience local knowledge has highlighted issues in particular historic underground obstacles that were not evident on more recent maps & data. – when Identified at an early stages helped reduce costs / cost overruns or increases viability, by allowing the alteration of routes prior to construction. So, take time to get develop the optimum routes. Stay open to looking at ‘all’ the different suggestions, and engage as widely as possible, it gets people onside.

He subsequently mentioned that two of the Cross Rail stations that the DFT  would not fund, were entirely funded by private capital.

Bob Chard  subsequently advised caution on timescales, as about half of projects which get to the stage Bath is now at ended in not proceeding we need to understand that, for example West London Tram project spent more than £5m over many years before it was abandoned; and they were not alone. He remains  optimistic that in future we can do better if we are clever and use experience gained so far.

Questions and comments from the evening.

Martin Veal – Councillor: Trams certainly seem part of the solution. Ultimately this kind of initiative must be driven by the public and public attitudes can change, particularly if there is a financial consequence, such as a congestion charge, if the cost of using the tram is compared with cost of congestion charge.

Jay Rusbridger – Is it possible for Bath? James Hammett – Yes, see example of Nottingham & the 140 tram systems in other small European cities. (There are  140 tram systems the same size or smaller than one proposed for Bath – Ed)

Mark Shelford – Councillor: The tram initiative seems to carry cross party support.

In closing, DA expressed the group’s thanks & gratitude to the speakers who had travelled some distance to attend & share their knowledge & experience, alongside the local residents and off-duty councillors who attended the meeting on a purely personal basis.


Catenary Free Tram in Seville