On street running is not uncommon in the UK – in Europe it’s more common

Above: Croydon street running Lebanon Road stop
Above: Street running tram in Croydon between East Croydon station and Sandilands (Paul Abell)

The mileage from East Croydon is  about one mile to Sandilands, that from Reeves Corner about the same.

Contrary to some perceptions all the UK tramway systems have substantial sections of street running allthough the majority is probably off road on old rail alignments. The original Manchester system had only a short city section, but later extensions such as Eccles and Ashton have street running. Most of Sheffield is on-street apart from the Meadowhall line, and Midland Metro has sections of street running at the Birmingham and Wolverhampton ends. Nottingham has street running from the University to close to the station about 1 mile. Croydon has on street running between East Croydon station and Sandilands.  Blackpool had street running at the Fleetwood end, plus of course most of the Promenade line is open to pedestrians if not to road traffic.

(BTW this is a useful study into the benefits of Croydon Tram Link: https://www.witpress.com/Secure/elibrary/papers/UT04/UT04085FU.pdf)

A comon but incorrect perception is that:
a) the tram will get in the way of the traffic and slow it down, ( thus creating a preemptive political backlash against a tram), and
 b) the traffic will slow the tram down thus making it unattractive.
Neither of these is true because with appropriate traffic managment trams and cars can share the same road space.
With Green Wave Traffic Light preemption which for various reasons cannot usually be applied to buses, the tram is not slowed, but instead leads in platoons of cars. See a video of this in Brussels here:
Furthermore the cars are not delayed, either, any more than they would be by previous traffic; any delay to them now occurs waiting for the tram, but its the same amount of time.  This was demonstrated in Southampton in the 80s ( but with buses in fact).

Because a tram is inherently more attractive than a bus ( this has been widely demonstrated)   and attractive to car drivers we are advocating a ‘live and let live’ approach, with trams and cars sharing road space, with suitable traffic management to keep both moving. Trams do not REMOVE cars. Trams can attract trips from cars (UK c 25%) but this is a passenger choice matter.

For the UK we should act as in  in Freiburg when the critical level of car v tram traffic is reached, then additional measures become acceptable.
In TRL studies, one of the main conclusions was that light rail or trams do not, in themselves, reduce road traffic. What they do is to provide a good public transport alternative, which makes it more acceptable to the public to apply the measures which do reduce road traffic, such as parking restraint, pedestrianisation, one way streets, etc.
Noise and pollution
We also concentrate on the environmental benefits, no pollution emitted in streets (zero carbon with renewable generation), can replace buses to further reduce toxic pollution levels AND quiet operation (WHO max urban level 55dB(A), compared to >70dB(A) on most UK urban main roads. Some or all or these benefits are demonstrated by UK tramways
The Sheffield Supertram
The Sheffield Supertram system was only the second modern tramway network to be built in the UK. Opened in 1994, it was the first system to feature extensive on-street running in the city centre and through outlying districts, as well as segregated running on brand-new alignments. More than two decades since the first trams ventured onto the streets, Supertram has become an established part of the city landscape, carrying around 12 million passengers every year.

The Sheffield tram route out to Malin Bridge has street running on a narrow road with Victorian houses on either side and cars cannot overtake trams on this section. However, a new dual carriage way parallel to this route and that to Middlewood was built in the last few years. Even so, there is a fair bit of car traffic along the on street running section.

Extensive details of the planning and design ,  how Parliamentary Powers were obtained and funding secured to build the network, followed by details of the construction process, including a survey of each Supertram route. https://www.platform5.com/Catalogue/Light-Rail-Transit-Trams-Metros/Sheffield-From-Tram-to-Tram-Train-5STTT(edited)

This is Sheffield, at the Hillsborough stop. You can see the line to Malin Bridge branching off to the left while the main line continues ahead to Middlewood through quite a narrow street.
On Street Running in Nottingham:
Chilwell Road Beeston, Nottingham 
Beeston Church, Nottingham 

Those responsible for public transport in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and the whole of the former Comecon bloc all understood the huge benefits of trams and resisted their abandonment (there were notable examples in other countries such as Milan & Turin in Italy; Lille, Marseille & St Etienne in France; Toronto in Canada; Boston, San Francisco & Philadelphia in the US – even Blackpool in the UK!) and they have been proved right. In Fleetwood it’s about a mile from Ash Street to the Ferry terminal loop street running.

Second-generation tramways have either been based on former heavy rail infrastructure (largely what we’ve done in the UK, though in Edinburgh, Nottingham & Sheffield only to a limited extent) or have “taken back the streets” as in France.  There, city region mayors have taken the bold decision to remove traffic in favour of street-running – but generally not in mixed traffic – tramways.

It is interesting that Bristol is quite similar to Strasbourg, where the first new tramline is in tunnel below the main railway station and that’s probably what is needed for Temple Meads.  Only one stop in tunnel, of course, with everything else on-street.  One day we’ll get there…… I hope!!


Street running abroad
Above – street running in Brussels
The point about the Prague videos is that there is hardly any other traffic, just an abundance of trams, showing how the problem of conflicting traffic in streets broad and narrow can be eliminated.
Street running tram vide0 in Prague: Andel – a very busy morning peak

Street running tram video in Brussels: Note the cars following the tram

This is extensive  and works in Melbourne, Vienna, Lisbon, Prague, Helsinki, Brussels, Milan, Paris, Sofia,  etc, etc.
All the 30 new  tramways in France have some on street running with cars.
Most of Melbourne’s lines are on street running often without platforms, boarding from the side pavement across the traffic lane. Trams and their passengers have priority.
There are lots of tram route videos with some going through old city centres with narrow streets if you have time to kill 🙂
Antwerp route 12  street running: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WTctER0_Uc
Above – screen grab from video showing cars following tram due to green wave in Antwerp. At 2.15 you can see a single line track going down a two way narrow street morph into a double track for passing :


In the above at left, in Anrtwerp you can see a single lane tram passing a narrow street with cars, morphing into a two lane at right, when the road widens both carrying car taffic.
Prague – narrow street, tram and cars mixing
Screen grab from above videocassette 
There are lots of tram route videos with some going through old city centres with narrow streets if you look on line.
Article on interlaced rail track – going from 2 tracks to one in very narrow sections