While there are many places in the UK who have had plans for trams at various times in the recent past one place which coming back with proposals is Bristol and another report has recently been released by the campaign group Moving Bristol Forward which says proposed routes would be technically feasible and would help to cut pollution and congestion in the city.
The new report – which is described as a “Pre-feasibility study” and as such is not a full investigation – is building on the Transport for Greater Bristol Rapid Transit Plan which proposed that a tram network could be built over a period of 10-15 years. It should be noted that this report has been put together by a campaign group which is a partnership between Zero West and Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance and is not currently part of the transport plan for Bristol and the West of England with the Bristol City Mayor having previously backed an underground system.
During the study several potential routes were assessed:
- Along the A38 from a proposed Park and Ride near the M5 to the city centre
- From a proposed Park and Ride at the Globe Inn on the A4 Bath Road to the city centre
- A radial route along the A38 South to the airport which includes a Bishopworth-Imperial Park circular to serve the BS13 area
It was concluded that for all these routes passenger demand will “almost certainly be sufficient” and that there are no engineering or traffic management issues which would stop on-street tramways from being constructed. The suggestion is that if this is taken forward trams could be running by 2026.
As well as looking at the specific routes the study has also given the benefits of trams as opposed to other modes of transport. These include:
- It would be vital for health by reducing pollution
- Help to shift locals from cars which is economically important as it would cut congestion. With only a small shift of passengers likely from improved bus services the only way to reduce congestion enough would be to introduce a tram system with evidence from other UK cities showing that an average of 25% of tram passengers have left a car at home.
- Improved mass transit is socially important. Lower income groups, an ageing population, disabled people and people with babies and young children need equal access to safe, reliable and affordable travel
- Trams are affordable as they have lower operating costs per passenger than buses (with a bus only carrying 70 passengers and a tram 200)
The report also proposes that Bristol goes for a “third generation tramway” which would use ultra-light vehicles and different track construction methods, helping to cut costs and improve efficiency. The vehicles would be typically 20 tonnes instead of the more general 40 tonnes with shallower trenches used for the installation of prefabricated track. New propulsion systems should also be used including overhead line technology and larger on capacity on-board energy storage systems.
The Bristol and Bath Trams Association have also backed these plans. Dave Andrews, Chair of the Association, said: “We have long argued for trams within Bath, reaching out to Radstock Chippenham and connected to Bristol. The reason is that a tram line can carry up to 40 times as many people, as can cars on the equivalent road. Experience shows in all 7 UK re-trammed cities that car drivers will accept a tram as an alternative to the car because of the intrinsically higher quality of service of a tram (reliability, frequency, comfort) whereas they will not accept a bus. A tram has much lower carbon emissions than a bus and does not emit tiny and dangerous rubber tyre dust particles which get deep into organs including the brain.”
It is now planned that this study will be presented to the relevant authorities in the area as they continue to develop mass transit plans for the future.
- The full report – and a shorter summary – can be downloaded from https://www.movingbristolforward.co.uk/tram-study