Atkins Bath Trams Report Jan 2018

Bath Trams Report - Jan 2018

The West of England Joint Transport Study has identified a Transport Vision that would transform travel behaviour in the city region. This includes an ambitious programme of measures in Bath and North East Somerset, including proposals for mass transit connecting Bristol with Bath.

Building on this, Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council wishes to consider the feasibility of introducing trams into Bath. Trams in Bath were not explicitly identified in the recommendations from the Joint Transport Study, but the Council requires consultancy support in assessing whether trams could play a role in helping to meet the future transport needs of the city.

This document takes an evidence-based approach to assessing the key issues in Bath regarding public transport accessibility and demand, to provide an initial overview of how a tram system may assist in improving the city’s public transport.

The evidence gathered looks at the need for intervention for a tram in Bath, in relation to travel volumes, demand and purpose for travel into and around Bath. The assessment for a tram in Bath takes into account current car and bus usage in Bath, with a view to complementing walking, cycling and Park & Ride schemes.

A summary of the briefing note from Bath Tram Re-Introduction Group has also been reviewed.

Click image above or link below to read the report: 


A number of major issues have been raised with the report by Emeritus professor of transport Prof Lewis Lesley who writes::

” I hope that the ripples from the Tram Conference  continue to persuade more people. Since the Conference I have had a look at the Atkins Report, which while containing no ‘show stoppers’ there are a number of issues that will if followed make a tramway in Bath difficult or in some places impossible..

Track (Sect. 3.7)I could see no mention of under street utilities, and the need for relocation. Given that Atkins recommend the tram track used in Edinburgh, that is over 800mm  (2ft 6in) deep, this will both physically interfere with utilities, and the proposed track slab make access for maintenance/repair impossible. Relocating the utilities will add at least 25% to the cost of the tramway if space in Bath’s streets can be found. Added to which as a Scottish Railway Engineer observed, a great design for 2000 tonne mineral trains but useless for 20tonne buses. A track design needs to be selected that will minimize/eliminate the need for utility relocation and has a low maintenance record ?

LL 10.2.20 The LR55 track only needs 200m depth of road surface and 400mm width for each rail beam. (see attached)The Utilities are content to leave plant in place, with a Railway Inspector approved access for repairs and maintenance between beams.

Traffic Data.(Sect. 2.1) The Report identified ‘corridor 6’ (Odd Down) as having good potential. I came to a similar conclusion some years ago based only on the resident population within the tram catchment.  Identifying a suitable site for P+R will be a challenge ?
Corridor width (Sect. 3.4)Atkins have chosen a tram that has a very wide wobble when moving, leading to a wide lane needed for each track. Perhaps a tram can be chosen that does not sway so much sideways, and so can squeeze through narrower spaces ?

LL10.2.20 The City Class Tram has in inward body taper, so the ‘wobble’ is confined to a vertical rectangle of width 2650mm. This means that a double track tramway needs a minimum of 6.3m ((21ft) width on straight track. The width is greater on curves, depending on the radius of the track curvature. (see photo attached)

Curves (Para 3.5)
Atkins assumes a minimum curve radius of 25m, this would make the installation in many Bath Streets impossible without the demolition of corner buildings. Again perhaps a tram can be selected that will negotiate smaller radius curves, and so squeeze around corners in Bath without the need for demolition ?

LL 10.2.20 The City Class tram comfortably goes around 15m radius curves. In Blackpool it managed 12m radius in the depot.
Depot (Para. 3.3)This could be a ‘drop dead’ aspect of the project, a point I made when doing the original pre-feasibility study. A suggestion has been made that the depot could be put under the Rugby  (Recreation) Ground on the east side of the River. This might work if it can be guaranteed against flooding, since an underground tram depot flooded would be an expensive problem to over come. The big advantage of a tram depot is that operations are quiet and there is no pollution, so the space over the roof of a tram tram could be used for social housing, or even tram staff housing, so there would be no reason to be late for work ?

Gradients (Para. 3.5 & 4.7) Atkins proposes gradients of 6.5% maximum, without any justification, despite recording that Sheffield has 10% gradients. In practice given that the Bath tram will be a street running system, if the most (financially) viable route is on a road with gradients over 6.5%, then a tram that can climb and descend steeper gradients will be needed. The map in para 4.7 shows that most of the roads on which a tramway could be installed are under 10%, and we know tramways which have steeper gradients that work perfectly well. In Switzerland trains go up hill faster than down hill, partly thanks to the large power available from the Over head line (OHL), and partly because braking distances are shorter up hill.

LL 10.2.20 The City Class tram can climb 10% gradients with a full passenger load of 200 passengers. (see attached)

Power Supply (Para 3.1) Atkins does look at alternative to OHL but observes that they are either very expensive, not a mature technologies or proprietary, and that for OHL “the elements required for the system already exist as off-the-shelf products. This familiarity and pre-existence of products would help drive down the cost of design and construction.”

LL 10.2.20 OHL can be aesthetically installed in Bath, even being used for lights and decorations. It is the most mature and reliable system, as well as the lowest cost to install and maintain. As Andrew Braddock pointed out the so called third rail systems are unreliable and do not work in heavy rain, which of course never happens in Bath, He could have added that 120 years ago 3 different ‘third’ rail systems were used and short lived in UK, viz, Hastings, Lincoln and Wolverhampton.

Tram stops (Para 3.2) This is the critical passenger arrival/departure point. Atkins summaries the DfT Tramway Guidance notes, without any comments on tram stops installed in the UK, or a SWOT analysis. Given the nature of Bath, stop design will be the critical element, with everyone different to reflect the location of each. Here the Feasibility Study will need to give considerable attention, both to serve the tramway safely and efficiently but also the enhance and complement the unique and historic environment of the city.

EGIS  The patronage forecasting method used by EGIS is the same I used 5 years ago to derive financial viability tables. The only difference is that EGIS uses a corridor envelope of 500m, based on French experience, where presumably tramways encourage people to walk further to catch a tram. I used 400m based on UK experience. Using 500m will increase the target population and potential patronage.