Dear Mayor Norris,

You may recall that we had a fruitful meeting last year and you were very receptive to our ideas about trams/light rail for Bath and Bristol. (Press release appended below)

We’ve noticed that on the Mass Transit page of WECA’s website page WECA Mass Transit, there is no mention of trams or light rail but the word bus is mentioned over 50 times.

Trams constitute a form of mass transit, which has been shown to be highly successful and popular in both British and European cities, much more so than bus-based solutions that as far as we can see have never actually delivered mass transit, and are best suited to rural and low traffic routes.

It is easy to find research that shows that a tram line carries about 5 times as many people per hour as a comparable bus line: Car, Bus, and Tram: relative capacity. This is because of the much higher service frequency, speed, comfort, and reliability. This is why large numbers of car drivers switch from their cars to trams, but not from cars to buses – its the quality of service.


Unlike buses, trams do not get stuck even if intermingled with traffic, (that is without lane segregation), because trams are amenable to traffic prioritization, Green Wave Priority, to which buses are generally not, and thus trams attract many motorists which removes the congestion (which is holding up buses) whereas buses on congested city roads do not attract motorists.


Many UK tram networks have unsegregated on-street running, though some have segregated sections; thus there is no need as appears to be often thought, for lane segregation to create a high-capacity, frequent, tram-based mass transit service. Nevertheless, Bath and Bristol can utilize the segregated routes that are available.

In fact, detailed calculations show that counterintuitively adding a tram line on the road, say through Saltford,  actually reduces congestion, see adding a tram thru Saltford replaces 1.6 km of queueing cars due to the large number of previous car journeys diverted to the tram which creates more road space than the tram itself takes up. This also means that the apparently common belief that trams in Bristol would require many demolitions to make room for trams is simply not true.


Furthermore contrary to an apparently common belief, trams can indeed negotiate narrow roads and we have shown with careful professional analysis that trams can easily negotiate the full length of Gloucester Road.

We also note that one reason suggested by research for the continued lag in productivity in the UK compared to Europe is that investors are reluctant to invest in cities that have only bus-based transport networks due to the sheer difficulty of accessing a large labour pool.

Can we respectfully suggest then that the WECA website be amended to include the words tram or light rail which presently get no mention and can provide genuine mass transit; perhaps it could also include some of the referenced facts we have delineated here?


We hope you interpret this request in a positive light and we assure you of our continued support for your efforts and welcome your success thus far in obtaining much-needed cash for buses.

Keep up the good work!


On behalf of BBATA


Best regards


David Andrews

Chair, Bath  And Bristol Area Trams Association


30th August 2022



BRISTOL’S WEST OF ENGLAND COMBINED AUTHORITY MAYOR (WECA) SUPPORTS THE IDEA OF TRAMS AND BATH AND BRISTOL AREA TRAMS ASSOCIATION ( BABATA ) AND URGES BABATA TO  SET UP A MEETING UNDER “THE BIG CHOICE” INITIATIVE     (Details  can be found on the WECA website – Big choices on buses – west of England combined authority (westofengland-ca.gov.uk) <https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/bus/big-choices-on-buses/> )

(WECA has overall control and funding for transport in Bristol and surrounding areas with notable conflict with some councils)

During a friendly and business-like meeting, amongst other things ( see notes below) BABATA emphasized they wanted a tram line between Radstock,  Bath and Bristol and were not solely interested in trams for Bath. BABATA fully supported buses as feeders and on low-density e.g. rural routes unsuitable for trams.

He also mentioned one of his main challenges was in moving the debate to include schemes that provided the best value for money and minimized infrastructure costs and associated building costs often associated with transport that required tunnelling.

BABATA noted that the money spent on an underground scheme would apply to a limited central area whereas a surface running tram system for the same money would cover far more of the city.

Mayor Norris indicated that he was in favour of trams and that he was following a stepwise approach in first obtaining money for the necessary studies – he noted he had already obtained two-thirds of a £Billion govt money for the WECA area.

Both agreed on the need to reduce parking in Bristol in parallel with improving public transport and this could not be withdrawn overnight as this would interfere with Bristolians’ plans such as car purchases already committed to.

BABATA expressed its thanks for the meeting and its desire to continue working with him.

Technical and economic reasons why trams plus buses work to cut congestion, pollution and carbon buses on their own do not:






  1.      BABATA made it clear they were very much in favour of buses but
    thought all high-density routes should have trams. BABATA is proposing both
    Bath and Bristol as well as other intervening (Keynsham) or heavily
    trafficked (Radstock) routes.
    2.      Mayor Norris was asked if he thought trams were “a good thing” and
    if so what concrete steps were planned?
    The Mayor stated he was in favour and saw the advantages but stated that he
    had to get money and move incrementally.  He advised that he had already
    obtained substantial funding from the government of approx. £ TWO THIRDS billion some of which
    would go to studies.  BABATA noted that yes considerable funds would be
    needed to assess the best routes, and then to provide funds for the detailed
    feasibility study prior to applying for a Transport Works Act Order. TWAO,
    and they realized that a step-wise approach was needed.
    3.      A brief discussion ensued about Bath Trams and Mayor Norris noted
    that he thought some of the newer lightweight designs coming on the market
    would probably be better for Bath due to the vaults. BABATA agreed but
    opined that in fact, even the traditional heavy tram would be better for
    Bath’s cellars as the weight was spread by the reinforced concrete base over
    a greater area, spanning cellars, and in fact, the main damage to Baths
    roads and cellars was the heavy rear axle loading of buses, 10 Tonne point
    4.      Mayor Norris reminded us that he represented all people ACROSS ALL THE WEST OF ENGLAND COMBINED AUTHORITY AREA  and this immediately created a potential TENSION
    between those in country areas with few buses who wanted more buses, which
    were expensive per passenger vs buses in city areas which helped many more
    people to move around and which were consequently much cheaper per
    5.      He also mentioned one of his MAIN CHALLENGES was in moving the debate

    a.      Bath Trams felt that underground systems  were much more expensive than a tram
    system and confined to the city centre with reduced stops and more difficult
    access than a tram could provide.
    b.      With the same budget, a far greater number of people and areas could
    be served with trams.

    6.      BABATA asked about his views on park and rides.

    a.      BABATA pointed out that a problem with p and rs was that they
    encouraged previous bus users to drive in which then damaged the economics
    of existing bus services making them more expensive and liable to removal
    which seriously harmed those who did not have access to cars.
    b.      BABATA suggested that a long-term plan would be to remove parking
    spaces and institute a workplace parking levy as for the successful
    Nottingham scheme in Bristol as this would lower car ingress, make buses run
    more smoothly, and be cheaper in a virtuous circle.
    c.      Mayor Norris replied that it was a good idea in principle but West of England CA
    has to carry everyone with it and could not afford to alienate one large
    section of the public, so these things had to be done gradually – this sort
    of step could not be sprung on the public suddenly as people might have, for
    example, invested in a new car and then find they cannot use it/ afford to get to
    d.      BABATA pointed out that with on-street running, the space taken up
    by the tram, was far less than the space taken up by previous drivers’
    cars, based on the historical rate of transfer of car drivers to a tram
    route – about 20% – this means that those drivers who must still drive, find
    the roads less congested*

    7.      BABATA mentioned that it is important not to just ask people what
    they wanted as they would be liable to ask for unrealistic options such as
    flying cars, flying taxis etc.
    Mayor Norris responded with he had recently attended a meeting at Yate where
    80 people turned up, and he said you don’t know what kind of people come to
    these and how representative they are but in general they were very
    8.      Mayor Norris concluded by saying that he was trying to get over to
    people that decisions and choices have effects – more buses in Bristol/Bath equal
    fewer buses for other places.

    a.      He recommends that Bath Trams set up a meeting under “The Big
    Choice” initiative which can be found on the WECA website. (Big Choices on
    Buses – West of England Combined Authority (westofengland-ca.gov.uk)
    > )
    b.      BABATA has now had a chance to look at the initiative and think we
    are limited by time (and season) on what we can do to inform and collect
    views given a cut-off date of 31/08/2022. Nevertheless, we would still like
    to contribute to the information available and help make the step-by-step
    approach go in the direction of highly effective transport with low
    environmental impact. 31/08/2022 LIKELY TO BE EXTENDED – BUT IN ANY EVENT STILL WORTH DOING

    9.      The mayor also noted he was not in favour of phrases like “modal
    shift” or “active travel” or “mass transit” as many people did not know
    what they meant and were trying to get people to use everyday language.
    10.     He also encouraged BABATA to write to the local papers and was happy
    for us to mention this meeting.
    11.     Additional points not raised at the meeting:

    a.      * but this means applying traffic constraints ( e.g. limiting parking, reducing traffic lanes etc.), otherwise traffic soon builds up again to pre-tram levels because of induced demand.
    b.      BABATA asked if would be possible for us to speak to the WECA
    consultants – it is well established that schemes go better with the early
    involvement of local experts.
    c.      We have an excellent tram route that avoids long periods of clogging
    up the main road into Bristol on congested routes from Bath that would otherwise occur during tram construction, and has much off-street running on vacant roadside space – see attached diagram.

    12.     Further suggested actions for BABATA:

    a.      BABATA organise its own Big Choices meeting.
    b.      Calculate outline costs for our proposed Bristol, Keynsham, Bath
    c.      Continue to provide information and support where possible and

    Meeting ended at 1400.

Technical and economic reasons why trams plus buses work to cut congestion, pollution and carbon buses on their own do not: