Note: The John Carson anti-tram and anti-Edinburgh Tram letter :
Vic McKinlay who lives in Edinburgh pointed out in picture above that despite its initial problems, a) The Edinburgh tram has massively increased the patronage of an adjacent park and ride and b) is now very popular with growth continuing to expand.
Plain text version of the letter:
Having followed the correspondence resulting from the recent Trams for Bath conference, which I was unable to attend, may I add a small contribution to the debate?
The tram project in Edinburgh gave rise to strong feelings around its launch, because it swallowed up a very large proportion of the limited fixed finances available to Scotland’s budget. The size of the expenditure gave rise to severe jealousy outwith the capital (London Crossrail, anyone?). Finance was therefore not available at the time for the much-needed dualling of the main road north, the A9. There were also those who felt Edinburgh had a good bus service, so did not need trams.
Predicted population and financial services growth suggested there was a
strong need for increased public transport, however. But at the next elections the project caused the near disappearance of the LibDems from Edinburgh political life, and gave rise to the unlikely good co-operation between Labour and SNP, resulting in a somewhat curtailed, but still useful route.
Like Bath, Edinburgh suffers from air pollution and congestion problems, and the trams’ introduction contributed greatly to countering these. So despite the initial setbacks the tram is now a great success and there is clamour to extend it.
The P&R facilities at Ingliston, near Edinburgh Airport, were little used when introduced as a car park for commuters to take a bus into the city and its office areas. There were always plenty of spaces. However, after introduction of the trams, they are now used well beyond capacity,
probably 120% most days. Parking takes place on the pavements, over double yellow lines, and anywhere a car can be squeezed. Parking is free all day, and the buses on different routes still stop there, for a miniscule number of passengers. The number of tram passengers using the P&R is huge.
The cars left there during the day do not contribute to Edinburgh congestion or pollution, fall into the numerous potholes, or add to wear and tear of the roads. There is a drastic need to extend the P&R facilities, and also to run shuttle buses to it from outer residential areas of the city.
The experience with Ingliston demonstrates two points which the Bath conference has iscussed, Firstly that car drivers will abandon their cars for a reliable fast tram service in preference to bus services, no matter how varied the routes are for the buses. Secondly the environmental and health impact of trams is so much more acceptable, with fewer needs for
road repairs and health service costs. Have a look and check out the road condition near stops where buses apply the thrust through their rear wheels when setting off.
These points are all covered in detail in the conference and the papers, including one discussing Edinburgh. These can can be found on the website here
As in most cities where trams have been introduced, expect a demand for more tram routes once people get used to them.
The next week by this letter, above, Jan 17th, made a number of spurious points about the original letter – which did not hold up Edinburgh as a ” glowing example of a successful tram system ” he implies, but merely stated that the Edinburgh trams are very popular and they attract motorists to use park and rides more than buses did. It is certainly not a disaster as he states.
It is also noteworthy that Mr Carson is a heavy rail engineer, and one of the reasons that the Edinburgh tram was so expensive was that it is in fact a heavy railway – designed by heavy rail engineers like Mr Carson – and not at all what is proposed for Bath.
It is widely accepted amongst many tram engineers that it is the fact that heavy rail engineers have been involved with many of the re-introduction of trams into the UK and who have essentially built main line railway infrastructure with sleepers which is quite unnecessary in Britain and which create huge problems in terms of service diversion and sheer cost. This can be avoided using modern light rail trams and track beams which impose far less loads on the road and any underlying vaults, do not generally require buried service diversions, and can be installed without closing roads.
The cost of service diversions, may not be necessary, and in any case can be mitigated with proper preparation and liaison:
The next week Jan 24th 2019 carried the above letter from Konrad Forbes which was supportive of Trams.
The above full page of letters comprehensively demolishes Mr Carson’s points.
Thank you Bath Chronicle.
Letter in plain taxt:
Prior to Mr Carson’s letter:
After Mr Carson’s letter:
As an Edinburgh resident, it seems to me that Mr John Carson’s clock, and
calendar, have frozen around 2010, judging by his comments on the Edinburgh tram system.
There was indeed unjustified optimism during the preproject stages, and the cost and system extent plans were seriously unrealistic. The contracts were badly drawn up. And when such a large part of the Scottish budget was taken by the capital city infrastructure projects in other parts of the country could not be embarked on. So from its early days the project
became a political football.
With rising costs due to difficulties encountered with utilities not being where they were drawn to be, cellars and tunnels being found, and a mediaval kirkyard in Leith having to undergo an enquiry, contingency delay and legal costs mounted.
Disagreements arose because procedures had not been defined for problem resolution, and work on the Gogar roundabout lay still for many months. At the time the Edinburgh Tram project was indeed a laughing stock. But thiswas a management, not a tram problem.
However, after council elections, when Lesley Hinds took on the job as Transport Committee convenor, and Sue Bruce was appointed chief executive, things changed. The SNP/Labour coalition council worked well, and took very much a “Can Do” attitude, with Sue Bruce providing much of the drive behind this. Admittedly, only half the route was built, as a starter.
Unfortunately as a result of the depression, finance promises had also been reneged on by Forth Ports, who originally pushed hard for the trams to serve their Ocean Terminal and new Leith housing developments. So this money was not available. The half line was therefore an achievement resulting from political co-operation, and managing with what finance was
available, and could be arranged by skilful negotiations from the chief executive.
Diversion of heavy goods traffic was from Princes Street (a major tourist
thoroughfare restricted to cycles and buses) to other roads such as
Queen’s street. Elsewhere in Edinburgh the tram runs on reserved track.
This diversion was only during the construction phase. Why would they not
use the City By-pass, designed for that purpose?
The trams are making an operating profit a year ahead of schedule, and patronage is well above predictions. Passenger satisfaction levels are also recorded as very high by Passenger Focus. The concessionary fares were set up as a national facility to keep unprofitable bus routes operating for people to use outwith rush hours. There had been discussion to provide the same for the trams, but that would have required the same facility for the Glasgow Underground, and that would have been unaffordable. It was therefore decided by the City of Edinburgh Council to provide the concessionary fares system for the trams for Edinburgh
It would be more satisfying if system costs for tram and bus could be measured on an equal basis. The trams build and maintain their own permanent way, and the sections of roadway immediately around the tracks. Has a bus company ever built and maintained a road before it started to run a bus route? Roads are surely all paid out of council tax, and bus
routes can change, or disappear at a fortnight’s notice. The suggestion that Edinburgh Trams only serve airport passengers belongs on another planet.
I use the tram frequently, and like many passengers park at Ingliston P&R to travel into town. There may be a dozen or so passengers on board from the airport, depending on what flights have come in. But the office and retail complexes and hotels alongside the line attract large numbers of passengers, as well as the four railway stations, not to mention Murrayfield on a match day.
We are looking forward to extension of the line to its complete initially planned terminus.
Building trams in Bath will ultimately be worth the construction disruption, as was found in Edinburgh, Strasbourg, and a very large number of cities around the world.
I read with interest the letter penned by John Carson regarding his negative comments on the case for trams in Bath and in particular his comment about Nottingham’s tram extensions.
The Nottingham 3-line tram network illustrates how tram networks can be designed to blend into the city environment, increase the attractiveness of cities, encourage inward investment and remove large numbers of car users from our congested roads. Nottingham has demonstrated that a combination of environmentally friendly measures, including electric buses and non-polluting trams, will reduce pollution to acceptable standards and satisfy the government’s targets.
Nottingham’s tram network has become one of the great symbols of the city and is always included at the start of the East Midlands daily news bulletins as one of the regional symbols. Beautiful medieval cities in Europe like Lyon also show that trams can be designed to blend harmoniously into the narrow city streets, at the same time as providing environmentally friendly public transport and the ability to attract former car users by guaranteeing journey times and 99%+ reliability.
Light rail systems will also operate without subsidy once built, with average ticket prices similar to buses. The two 17.5km new lines were built and commissioned in 3 years and 8 months, which compares favourably with many other networks. The ticket revenues cover the cost of both operation and maintenance once built and once passenger demand exceeds about 10m per year – less with some lower cost systems. This compares very favourably indeed with the large subsidies needed by most main line operations and the massive delays and overruns that are common to most Network Rail projects.
It is true that during the construction phase, there will be some disruption to traffic and in
Nottingham’s case the cost of diverting utilities underground did exceed the budgeted amount by a few million pounds. These and other PFI cost overruns were borne by the civil contractors and not by the city authorities.
Most major cities in Europe, China and the USA have installed light rail networks as one of a number of attractive public transport solutions, in order to reduce pollution, provide attractive alternatives to the car, protect the environment, improve overall mobility and the attractiveness of cities as places to live and work.
Bsc, C.Eng, MiMechE, CDipFA, CIM
I was profoundly disappointed to read the negative article (letters, John Carson, 17th Jan 2019) criticising proposals to consider promoting the use of trams as a transport mode in Bath. I was born in Bath and my whole working life has been involved with clean fuels and sustainable transport. The renewable technology developed by my company here in Somerset, was granted patents in 87 countries and I have visited every one of those countries and indeed many more all over the world. I mention this because I have actual first hand experience of the appalling air pollution and grid-locked traffic with unacceptable congestion continuing even after desperate measures where cars with even and odd registration numbers are banned on certain days of the week. I also have experience of the transformation in terms of air quality, traffic flows and the quality of life in cities after the introduction of trams.
Had your correspondent been present at the Bath Trams conference on 24th November 2018 he would have had all his comments addressed and would have heard amazingly honest, uninhibited and fascinating accounts from people who were actually involved with the implementation of some the schemes he has criticised. The arguments cited against using trams to which your correspondent refers are, without exception, spurious, as they have little to do with trams and everything to do with improper urban planning, inaccurate estimates, the appointment of inexperienced or unsuitable contractors and inadequate project management; all of which lead to budget cost and schedule overruns. An excellent result of Mr Carson’s letter will be to bring to people’s attention the danger of poor urban planning and substandard project management. The fears of uncharted territory should be allayed by carefully and properly planning the work and should include thoroughly investigating the problems which have arisen on similar projects
The adoption of a modern, self powered light rail system in Bath will transform the air quality and improve the atmosphere in this city beyond all imagination.
The enormous benefits to a city with a properly designed and implemented light rail tram system have been completely ignored in Mr Carson’s letter. The basic difference between trams and buses or taxis is that over 80% LESS energy is required to drive a steel wheel on a steel track when compared to an inflated rubber tyre on a tarmac road, and this reduction in the energy requirement and hence the ensuing reduction in the particulates associated with the fuel is only the first of a whole series of environmental advantages which are gained by replacing the rubber tyres on buses and taxis with the steel wheels of light rail trams. Particulates in the air are what kills people and these are generated by tyres, clutches and brakes as well as the fuel used to power vehicles. Trams produce virtually no particulates as they use regenerative braking, do not have clutches, and of course do not get their energy from diesel or electricity from overhead wires, but run using on board power generated from biomethane made from food wastes or renewable hydrogen made from wind or solar sources.
Following my concern about the impending appalling air quality affecting health and historic building degradation, my next worry for the city of my birth is for the vaults and tunnels underneath Bath. These will become, or are being damaged by the traffic above and the laying of pre-cast sectional track is an opportunity to spread the load of all the traffic over a larger area which does not disturb the existing services and will protect the ancient subterranean architecture, preventing its further degradation.
Light rail trams with steel wheels can operate on much steeper hills and can cope with worse weather conditions than can cars or taxis or buses with tyres and the routes do not need to be separated, except where urban planning decrees.
Any sound environmental project always has its detractors and I speak from bitter experience having been involved in the removal of lead from petrol (poisoning people, but it took nearly 30 years to get lead banned, worldwide!) and warning of the dangers of particulates from diesel engines (ongoing). Such projects involving changing established modes of transport are usually, but not exclusively, opposed by well-funded vested interests, but they are always delayed by misunderstandings.
My worldwide experience leads me to predict that Bath will suffer the same fate that I have witnessed in cities that rely on cars, taxis and buses, unless measures are taken to introduce lightweight, self powered trams with regenerative braking. The technology exists and the time to start is now, using people with real practical experience of light rail and town planning so that Bath’s heritage is preserved in a vibrant healthy city in which people want to live, work, play and visit, with good air quality, without the present nightmare traffic situation, and with vastly reduced pollution.
Trams in Bath will transform the air quality and improve the atmosphere in the city beyond all recognition.
Chairman, Organic Power Holdings Ltd.
John Carson (Letters – 17 January) has given no good reason why Bath should not seek to introduce trams as a solution to its chronic traffic and air quality problems. What he says about Edinburgh does not have to apply to Bath.
Despite it being unfashionable among those who would take us out of the EU, the best comparators are to be found in France where new tramways have been successfully introduced at reasonable cost in small cities such as Aubagne, Besançon, Brest, Le Mans, Mulhouse, Orléans, Tours and Valenciennes – all of which have less than 150k population.
The UK has spent 50 years following the American model of motorcar dependence with the result that we now face urban gridlock and the worst air quality in the developed world. It’s time to learn from civilised continental cities that it doesn’t have to be like this.
Andrew Braddock FCILT