| Nottingham Express Transit: The Operation
Article Posted Saturday 17 April 2004
In the final part of our Nottingham Express Transit trilogy of articles, British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior looks at the system…|
The Line and Stops
Line One of Nottingham Express Transit opened to the public on Tuesday 9 March 2004 and runs for 8.5 miles (14 km) from the north of the city at Hucknall to Station Street, next to Nottingham railway station. There is also a branch off the main line running to Phoenix Park Business Park. A large part of the line runs on former railway line with the remainder featuring on street running. It runs through the districts of Hyson Green, Bulwell and Cinderhill (on the Phoenix Park branch) before arriving at Hucknall and has links to the national rail network at Hucknall and Bulwell (both for the Robin Hood line) and Station Street (for the main Nottingham station with services across the country). In total there are 23 stops on the journey, including 5 park and ride sites (Hucknall, Phoenix Park, Moor Bridge, Wilkinson Street, The Forest and Wilkinson Street) giving over 3000 spaces. The line is a mixture of double and single track with significant single track sections running alongside the Robin Hood Line with the whole section from Bulwell just single track as well as the Phoenix Park spur. In Hyson Green the line diverges into two with northbound trams going via Noel Street, Gladstone Street and Shipstone Street and the southbound services along Radford Road and Terrace Street.
The stops are of a standard design and stand only 30cm above track level owing to the low floor nature of the trams, and this means they have little impact on the streetscape. Each stop has at least one shelter with a bench, information casings, a passenger information display (although often poorly situated with only one face so if you are at the wrong end of the platform you can’t tell when the next service is), a PA system for important announcements, emergency help points and CCTV for passenger safety. Some of the stops along the way have island platforms whilst the remainder have platforms either side of the track. The three termini all have 2 platforms with Station Street having space for 3 trams with one of platforms being double length. The one stop on the line with 3 platforms is at The Forest where there is one island platform and a side platform for city bound services. The stop at Highbury Vale is also non-standard as it is at the junction of the spur to Phoenix Park and it has two different stops linked by a footpath with the Phoenix Park branch having a single platform and the main line having the standard 2 platforms.
Nottingham Express Transit have a fleet of 15 Incentro trams which were assembled at the nearby Bombardier plant in Derby. They are the first 100% low floor trams to operate in the UK which enables the platforms to be low on the streets and also gives easy access to the whole of the trams for the disabled. Each tram has seating for 62 with standing room for 129 meaning each tram can carry 191 people. There are also plenty of doors for passengers with 4 double and 2 single doors on each side of the trams with 2 areas specified for wheelchair users. They also have CCTV fitted for both internal and external use (externally in place of wing mirrors) and are both air conditioned and heated for all types of the British weather. The maximum speed the trams will travel at on the reserved track sections is 50mph (80kmph) with the street sections obviously being taken slower. Initially all of the trams were finished in the attractive dark green, silver and white fleet livery of Nottingham Express Transit but since then three have received all over adverts (see the fleet list for more details).
All 15 trams are kept and maintained at the depot located next to Wilkinson Street Park and Ride stop. As the depot is located here it means that enthusiasts can get good views of any trams located in the yard whilst not in service with the car park stretching to a staff entrance of the depot. It is built on decontaminated land which was formerly disused industrial land between the former Shipstone’s Brewery and Cusson's soap factory. The main features of the depot see stabling room for all 15 trams, an automatic tram wash, wheel lathe, sanding facilities and silo, workshops and the NET control room (includes access to all the CCTV cameras). The inside of the depot building has 3 tracks including one without any overhead wires allowing the trams to be jacked up for access to the lathe. For access to this road NET own a battery operated shunter.
The Power System
Nottingham Express Transit has 6 substations along the route of Line One located at Station Street, The Forest, Wilkinson Street, Highbury Vale, Moor Bridge and Butler’s Hill. These provide the power for the whole length of the tramway with the overhead powered at 750v DC and the power gets from the National Grid substations to the wires by underground cables. The overhead wires themselves are held in place by a mixture of overhead poles and fixings to the sides of buildings (particularly in the city centre) and of course the power is translated to the trams by the single arm pantograph. When the wiring was initially fitted in the city centre there were many road closures for the safety of passing motorists and pedestrians but these took place many at night so as to avoid major disruption. It is possible for certain sections of the tramway to be isolated power wise so this means that sections between the substations can be taken out of action without affecting the rest of the tramway.
NET is timetabled to run 128 trams in each direction on weekdays with 112 on Saturdays and 60 on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It is planned to run services 364 days a year (with Christmas day the only day without any service at all) and northbound services run from 0600-0000 on Mondays to Saturday (0800-2300 on Sundays/Bank Holidays) and 0600-2330 going southbound (0800-2230 on Sundays/Bank Holidays). Services are fairly frequent throughout the day with Station Street-Highbury Vale enjoying 8 trams a hour in each direction between 0930-1600 with half going on to Hucknall and the other half to Phoenix Park with peak hours seeing 2 additional trams in each direction going as far as Highbury Vale. In early mornings and the evening/night period it is only 4 trams in each direction, again with a 50/50 split for Hucknall and Phoenix Park. The Saturday service sees 0800-1800 having 8 trams each way with other times having just 4 whilst the Sunday service is a constant 8 per hour in each direction.
At an early stage it was decided that tickets would be sold on board the trams by conductors although if this proves not to be successful it will be easy enough to fit ticket machines at the stops. This decision was made after other light rail systems in the UK showed that passengers preferred this way of operation particularly as it made them feel safer. It means that NET is the first second generation tram system in the UK to start services like this (although Sheffield now use conductors rather than machines). All of the trams in service will have a driver and at least one conductor with many of the staff employed for NET being dual skilled as drivers and conductors. In order to combat busy peak periods extra conductors will be provided at stops and on trams, although it has been reported since opening that even this is not enough with many people getting away without paying their fares due to the fact that each tram can hold nearly 200 people. Because of this NET have recently started advertising for additional conductors to help them collect these fares.
Fares themselves are quite respectable with a TramRider ticket, allowing all day travel on the trams, costing just £2.00. Single fares on the trams range from 80p to £1.20 for adults and are 60p for children. There are also Group TramRider’s available as well as Weekly versions for those who use the trams regularly. In addition there are joint tram and bus tickets available including a CityRider which allows travel within Nottingham City Transport’s bus boundaries for just £2.20 a day.
As this article is written (mid April 2004) passengers are still trying the system out and loadings are reported to still be high. This can still be out down in a way to people just giving it the first go with the Easter holidays being the first chance many children will have of being given a ride on it. It will be interesting to see what the loadings are in the next 3 months or so. However these high loadings have also seen problems with the conductors not being able to collect all the fares meaning that people are travelling without having paid.
The following sources were used in the preparation & writing of this article
Tramways and Urban Transit: Nottingham Express Transit is almost ready to roll!, by Colin Lea - March 2004, No. 795, Published by Ian Allan Publishing & LRTA
Nottingham Express Transit construction website
Nottingham Express Transit new website
British Trams Online Internal Links
Nottingham Express Transit Fleet List
Gallery 16: Nottingham Express Transit
Features: Nottingham Tram History
Features: NET Background to the project
News Special: NET opening
Next Month's article: Celebrating 70 years of English Electric Trams in Blackpool!