Tram, bus, trolley bus, Frieburg, mode shift facts from Bob Chard and Andrew Braddock

Dear all ,

OK , the issue you need to consider is what mode shares should be assumed for each possible mode.  I don’t believe that if we continue to just argue about it we will come to a sensible or useful conclusion, because there are too many cleaver promoters trying to maximise their mode share at the expense of somebody else’s mode share. We have today replaced the competition and control by funding of the 1930s by competition on the internet and a different kind of control of funding. So I propose :-

  1. We have a vision, a vision which addresses the identified problems, which are CO2 emissions driving climate change, toxic air quality in cities, and a need to improve energy efficiency to reduce operating costs and commercial viability. Does anybody disagree?  I don’t think you mean “to reduce commercial viability”!  This is only important if we continue with basket-case PFI/PPP procurement – the lesson should have been learnt by now.
  2. We recognise that walking and cycling are health promoting modes and are not expensive to promote compared to some others, so they should be a priority. Does anybody disagree?  The extent to which cycling can replace motoring is debatable.  Walking in particular needs to be highlighted as the first and last “mile” of most public transport journeys.
  3.  We accept as a starting point that the minimum we should plan for is what has already been achieved in another city; that is the best performing city measured against the above stated vision. That city is Freiburg in Germany. You have all seen the current mode shares for Freiburg compared to York. Does anybody disagree with my suggestion that more than any city in UK Freiburg has addressed all the objectives of the suggested vision and is performing much better than any other city in Europe?  Freiburg may not be “best-performing” in Europe by a variety of measurements.  Though a model example, I prefer the more general statistic that no UK city comes close to the levels of public transport use of continental cities with trams.


It is an obvious truth that if we build a large 5 line tram system in Bath using only trams which are zero C, zero toxic emissions and A rated for energy efficiency we will address all the aspirations in the above stated vision; all of them. Does anybody suggest there is a better way to progress toward achieving the vision?


Some of us are agreed that we don’t want to wait 10 years to get the tram system the public want and the city needs, so we need to focus on solutions that have a  guaranteed and fairly immediate access to the necessary funding for line 1 of a new high demand public transport route. That involves smart choices about how we get our primary consents and approvals, because that is the stage of promotion which has had the highest failure rate in the recent past.  Not clear what you have in mind?  Essentially, we just need to understand how (eg) Lyon did it and copy (the record is held there for shortest time from decision to build and passengers being carried).

  Looking at alternatives:-

  1. We are agreed that in an average new tram line in UK 25% of tram passengers will come from mode shifts from car use. Are we also agreed that on average 60% or more of passengers come from mode shifts from bus use?  Depends on a variety of factors such as whether bus competition exists; parking policies; tariff integration; reasonableness of fares, etc. etc.
  2. Does anybody suggest mode shift from bus to tram has been any different in Freiburg?  There hasn’t been any significant bus to tram transfer in Freiburg – they started with a traditional tram system, upgraded to modern standards and built new lines in tandem with planned residential development.
  3. Apart from the fact that in UK trolleybusses do not meet any of the criteria of the suggested vision are you also aware that they:-
  • Must have much more visually intrusive overhead lines than trams  Trolleybus OHLE is not that much more intrusive (particularly if special work – ie: junctions, etc. – is avoided).
  • Require a much wider swept path than trams, because the wheels are not autonomously guided, and especially on short radius curves  Hugely dependent upon type of tram!
  • Cannot and are not required to achieve the same standards of level boarding as that required by DDA for trams.  Not strictly true – it is the guidance of a tram that ensures minimal horizontal/vertical gap at every doorway at stops (provided platforms are straight).  Trolley (and diesel) buses can be optically guided at stops to achieve the same effect.
  • Cost more than trams per km of route and per passenger in UK (research report by experts Steer Davies Gleeve) SDG report suspect; little transfer of experience from trolleybus systems outside UK.

Finally if we might just manage to accept that the transport planners in Freibourg  might know more than we do about achieving sustainable transport ; we could learn from their experience and note that they are so pleased and confident that they are now building to double the extent of their tram network within five years.  As above, there is valid experience from a range of German, French, Swiss and Dutch cities – to name but four!


best regards,

Bob Chard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *