Bath Area Trams Association
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Letter to the Edito
The two letters criticising the BANES plans for traffic reduction and promoting cycling make some very valid points – for the present plans whilst laudable in themselves the clear evidence from other cities shows they will not reduce car traffic in Bath without damaging Bath’s economy or increase cycling unless an alternative to buses is on offer to motorists.
It is wishful thinking to think that everyone can cycle, and wishful thinking that public transport (by which Councillor Wright presumably means better bus services) can be enhanced sufficiently to attract motorists and crucially the nightmare for parents of the school run.
Councillor Wright and other Lib Dems have attended a number of our conferences where firm evidence has been presented which shows that the only way city car traffic has been reduced has been to introduce steel wheeled trams, which also encourage cycling by reducing the number of cars. The Croydon tram system like many others in UK has shown a 30% switch from cars to trams and such a switch has never been demonstrated with buses. A bus’s flexibility is in fact a disadvantage since buses and routes can be withdrawn at will whereas trams create long term certainty in businesses and commuters alike.
All the 8 or so re-trammed cities have experienced massive switch to trams and re-generation largely due to the reintroduction of the steel wheeled trams, and indeed London Docklands had the light rail specifically because Heseltine realised that rail connection was needed to encourage regeneration and make it a commercial success.
Simply restricting the ability to drive, without providing a proven acceptable alternative such as a tram means Bath’s commercial fortunes will further decline as residents resist coming into town because of the inconvenience and cost; they will either shop elsewhere or buy on line.
It has been demonstrated all over Britain, that no matter what Bus schemes have been tried – Metro Bus, Busways or Bus lanes – buses cannot, for fundamental reasons, offer the quality of service of trams and which motorists demand such as short waiting times of 6 – 10 minutes, good service round the day and evening, (Johnny can come home safely from school), reliability, not being crammed-in bench seats, roomy, cheap, comfort, the ability to cut through traffic with Green Wave.
For engineering and economic reasons, buses cannot offer these benefits, and yes trams are cheaper per seat mile than a bus. The reliability and frequency means parents will trust their children to even a two tram journey across town (and back from an after school club when it’s dark), something unthinkable with an unreliable bus service – thus cutting the massive school run problem causing a third of peak hour congestion. Ditto the majority of car journeys in Bath are cross town, because of the time delay and unreliability of taking a two-bus trip e.g. from say Combe Down to the RUH, but perfectly feasible with a tram system.
Buses are a great system but should be integrated and reserved for low traffic rural routes where they excel and feeder routes for the central tram lines. But a light rail is definitely needed to connecxt Radstock and the Somer Valley to Bath also.
Trams which can run without overhead wires tick all the environmental boxes – run directly on renewable electricity, have 1/5 the energy consumption of a bus and no road or tyre dust pollution.
It is a tragedy that rather than allocate the £450k obtained from WECA by Bath Trams’ efforts (and the successful Atkins study we obtained which showed at least 4 likely routes) to study the feasibility of reintroducing trams into Bath, it is being spent on yet another transport study.
A tram network can be used to ferry in goods from lorries dropping cargo baskets at out of town stops reducing the ingress of HGVs.
Bath Trams is not against buses and pro-trams for any nostalgic or romantic reasons, simply the overwhelming evidence shows that trams are the only way to reduce car traffic, boost cycling and walking and to cut carbon and pollution – have a look at the Bath Trams Web site for the evidence. Anything else is wishful thinking and a refusal to face the evidence.
Chair, Bath Trams