Publ. October 29. 12th in sequence of letters in Bath Chronicle. (Andrews, Donovan, Butterworth, needs Sharpe’s letter)

John Eddison ( letters 18th Oct raises some interesting questions about the claims made for and the supposed benefits of trams. First of all Bath Trams is not in anyway opposed to buses. Our position is that trams must form the backbone of any decent transport system on the proven basis that motorists simply do not find buses acceptable for a variety of reasons; low prestige, noisy, jerky, bumpy, cramped and the inability to operate throughout the day reliably and at a high frequency. Buses are ideally placed to service low traffic rural routes and as tram feeders.

Nowhere have buses alone produced a significant swing away from cars, whereas trams regularly get 30% of the passengers from previous car drivers.  This fact alone means the tram can more easily keep on schedule as there is less traffic. All the eight or so UK re-trammings have achieved as a result significant reduction in traffic, congestion, pollution and achieved high economic growth rates and increased prosperity.

If buses are merely offered as an alternative, car drivers will not use them but simply stop visiting Bath and go elsewhere or shop on-line. The documented evidence for all these claims can be found on the Bath Trams website – eg google search “Independent study – What Light Rail Can Do for Cities Bath Trams.

The idea that buses are better because the are more flexible as Mr Eddison states is completely the wrong way round – it is precisely a buses flexibility that makes them unattractive and trams attractive – just look at the continual complaints and campaigns in the Chronical about such and such a bus service being withdrawn or altered – this can’t happen with trams – once you’ve built it and invested all that money you keep it running at all times because the marginal cost is extremely low, unlike the high marginal cost of a bus – one driver shared over many more passengers and low operating costs. Trams can carry up to 430 passengers at two minute intervals – see strapped for cash Budapest – again on the website –  in the UK usually a 6 minute interval.
It is not true that buses can generally  be given the same priority as Mr Eddison asserts – even the World Bank states this – this is because buses carry so few passengers that traffic authorities are unwilling to provide priority to little used bus lanes again see website.
If modern easy to install tracks, and the correct contract and management were put in place in Edinburgh it would not have been so expensive or disruptive – even so it is a great success and being gleefully expanded and is the envy of other Scottish cities who are clamouring for their own system.  The Edinburgh tram is based on a 450mm deep slab and could carry a 2000 tonne mineral train – with modern track systems this depth of excavation is not required meaning less buried services need to be expensively diverted, and the track can be installed very quickly.,
Mr Eddison also questions the low energy usage of trams compared to buses – this arises simply due to the very high rolling resistance of a rubber tyred vehicle compared to a steel wheel trams – this is why horse drawn trams replaced horse buses because they could double the load carried. In addition a long low tram with 430 people on board has a much lower frontal wind resistance than say 4 double decker buses.
There are a variety of overhead wire free trams systems on offer, from ground level pick-up (Bordeaux, battery in Seville, and hybrid mixes of battery, super capacity, hydrogen or zero emission biomethane power ( Stourbridge, UK).
He questions the  value for money argument – the fact is the the seat cost per passenger km, in high density routes is about half that of a bus – primarily due to the high cost of the driver being shared out over up to 400 passengers, and the ability of trams to borrow money at around 1% interest rates over 40 year lifetime compared to a buses high cost of borrowing over a 5 year life with high driver and maintenance costs – again all this information and any other points made in these two letters is on the Bath Trams website.
Your sincerely
Dave Andrews
Dear editor,
As a long-term resident of the city it has become clear that a return to trams as a main method of mass transport within the city outwards to its satellite villages is the only possible solution to the many problems facing this world Heritage site.
It is not simply the congestion which renders it very time-consuming and frustrating to go from one part of the city to the other which is a major concern but also the  pollution which cars and tyred vehicles generate.
 It is becoming increasingly clear that particular matter produced by tyres , road dust and brake dust are  having a significantly negative effect on people’s health. Long-term exposure to high levels of PM 2.5, produced, in the main by tyres vehicles are not only associated with reduced life expectancy from a range of pulmonary conditions but are also becoming increasingly linked to morbidity among patients who contact Covid 19. The effect of this particular matter is especially debilitating and pernicious among young people.
Much of the city was built for tramways which were foolishly torn up in the 1930s and forties to be replaced by the motorcar and busses. We should follow the lead of many other European cities of our size and density and go back to track.
Chris Donovan

Sir

Mr Eddison, letters 20/10/2020, appears to think that advocating trams means writing off buses. The fact is that an integrated transport system involves several modes: buses, trams as well as walking and cycling. Even cars have their part to play for isolated users needing access to park and ride schemes.

The great advantages of trams include: getting drivers out of their cars and onto public transport; a way for part-time/older cyclists to keep using their bikes despite the hills; a predictable route and one that gets infrastructure investment – the permanent way is more than just a metaphor – and, most importantly, a massive reduction in the pollutants of exhaust fumes and rubber-tyre particulates.

The original trams were shut down because of market manipulation by the Bristol Bus company at the time not because of any inherent fault. Much is made of the problem of overhead wires yet not only do they happily exist in many historic cities they can be avoided by using batteries and hybrid energy. Tram power sources is a topic that deserves its own article there are many possibilities to suit the situation.

Yours faithfully

Ian Butterworth

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