US, UK, French & Australian Light Rail & transport news

Plans for New Eco-Trams In Bristol


Wednesday, May 4th 2011 13:17


An artistai??i??s impression of a tram in Bristol


A consortium has put forward plans for a new eco-tram system in Bristol that would run between Ashton Meadows and Temple Ai??Meads station.

If it is given the go ahead, the route would originate at a new park and ride site that would be built on a brownfield site in Ashton Meadows and go along Cumberland Road and along the Harbourside past the M-Shed museum and terminate at Temple Meads Rail Station.

The scheme is being headed up by the Sustraco Tram Consortium, and it is claimed the system would be a pioneer for the transport.Ai??The plan is that itAi??would run on biomethane gas as opposed to electric lines.

The plans are not approved yet and the West of England Partnership needs top decide whether or not to put this proposal forward for government funding, or the bendy-bus scheme – that would use a similar route. But those backing the tram system say as well as its greener benefits, it would be cheaper to run as the route is based on existing tram and rail track lines.

Residents along the route are also said to be in favour of the tram. Pip Sheard is the spokesperson for residents group Trams For Bristol, she told us people in Bristol have wanted trams for a number of years: “The previous Labour government told us we could not have trams because they’re too expensive. But that’s because a conventional, electrified tram would cost around A?12-15million per kilometre, we think this whole route will cost A?12million.

“It is not just a tram route, it’s a tram route, a park and ride and two transport interchanges, because that’s what people involved thought we needed.”Ai??Ai??


Sydney’s $180 million light rail planAi??

The Daily Telegraph May 6th 2011

Vikki Campion



Artist’s impression Sydney City Council’s vision for the light rail. Source: The Daily Telegraph

SYDNEY Council has put its money where its mouth is with a $180 million investment to run light rail down the city’s spine and clear cars out for good.

Draft budget plans reveal the council will make its single biggest investment in a decade to give George St to the people and run trams down the city heart.

Its bold plan is to pedestrianise up to 1km of George St from Bathurst St, near Town Hall, to Hunter St, near Wynyard Station.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore yesterday promised the changes would make it easier for motorists who had to drive through the city.

“Many international cities have pedestrianised roads in their city centre and these cities continue to thrive – we only have to look at New York’s Broadway, London’s new West End and our own Pitt St Mall to see evidence of how it works well,” Ms Moore said. “George St will flourish if we remove the traffic congestion currently choking it. We want to open up a network of vibrant lanes and small plazas that encourage shops, bars and other small

The cash will be on condition the State Government runs light rail down George St, transporting up to 8000 people an hour. “Light rail is the solution to the gridlock in the city,” Ms Moore said. “Our investment is dependent on the State Government building light rail down George St, which all our research shows is the optimal route into the city centre.”

The council’s investment will be spent on streetscaping, signs, laneways, landscaping and traffic management works to redirect vehicles around George St.

“This is about making it easier for people who need to drive to be able to do so,” she said.

“While we are looking at pedestrianising a part of George St if light rail is introduced, other easier routes will be found for motorists and buses.”

Ms Moore said bold changes were urgently needed to stop the gridlock gripping Sydney, which costs $3.5 billion a year.

“Congestion is crippling our city and it’s not going to get any better unless we radically rethink the way our city works and how people move around,” she said.

“Congestion costs are expected to more than double to $7.8 billion by 2020 if we do nothing.”

The $180 million will be set aside in the new long-term financial plan to be discussed next week.

Gold Coast transit


GoldLinQ win Rapid Transit bid

Sue Lappeman Ai?? 6th, 2011



CONSTRUCTION of the Gold Coast Rapid Transit system will begin in earnest later this year with the long-awaited appointment of a consortium to construct and operate the $1 billion service from the new University Hospital to Broadbeach.

Premier Anna Bligh will this morning announce GoldLinQ, which includes companies Keolis, Downer EDI, McConnell Dowell, Bombardier and Plenary, is the successful bidder for the first public passenger transport project to be delivered through a public-private partnership.

Ms Bligh said each of the companies in the consortium, chosen from a short list of three, had a proven track record of transport construction within Australia and overseas.

Gold Coast light rail builder announced

America’s transport infrastructure

Life in the slow lane


Americans are gloomy about their economyai??i??s ability to produce. Are they right to be? We look at two areas of concern, transport infrastructure and innovation


The Economist Apr 28th 2011


ON FRIDAY afternoons, residents of Washington, DC, often find a clear route out of the city as elusive as a deal to cut the deficit. Ribbons of red rear-lights stretch off into the distance along the highways that radiate from the cityai??i??s centre. Occasionally, adventurous southbound travellers experiment with Amtrak, Americaai??i??s national rail company. The distance from Washington to Raleigh, North Carolina (a metropolitan area about the size of Brussels) is roughly the same as from Londonai??i??s St Pancras Station to the Gare du Nord in Paris. But this is no Eurostar journey.

Trains creep out of Washingtonai??i??s Union Station and pause at intervals, inexplicably, as they travel through the northern Virginia suburbs. In the summer, high temperatures threaten to kink the steel tracks, forcing trains to slow down even more. Riders may find themselves inching along behind a lumbering freight train for miles at a time, until the route reaches a side track on which the Amtrak train can pass. The trip takes six hours, well over twice as long as the London-Paris journey, if there are no delays. And there often are.

America, despite its wealth and strength, often seems to be falling apart. American cities have suffered a rash of recent infrastructure calamities, from the failure of the New Orleans levees to the collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis, to a fatal crash on Washington, DCai??i??s (generally impressive) metro system. But just as striking are the common shortcomings. Americaai??i??s civil engineers routinely give its transport structures poor marks, rating roads, rails and bridges as deficient or functionally obsolete. And according to a World Economic Forum study Americaai??i??s infrastructure has got worse, by comparison with other countries, over the past decade. In the WEF 2010 league table America now ranks 23rd for overall infrastructure quality, between Spain and Chile. Its roads, railways, ports and air-transport infrastructure are all judged mediocre against networks in northern Europe.America is known for its huge highways, but with few exceptions (London among them) American traffic congestion is worse than western Europeai??i??s. Average delays in Americaai??i??s largest cities exceed those in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen. Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work (see chart 1). More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the OECD average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.

There is little relief for the weary traveller on Americaai??i??s rail system. The absence of true high-speed rail is a continuing embarrassment to the nationai??i??s rail enthusiasts. Americaai??i??s fastest and most reliable line, the north-eastern corridorai??i??s Acela, averages a sluggish 70 miles per hour between Washington and Boston. The French TGV from Paris to Lyon, by contrast, runs at an average speed of 140mph. Americaai??i??s trains arenai??i??t just slow; they are late. Where European passenger service is punctual around 90% of the time, American short-haul service achieves just a 77% punctuality rating. Long-distance trains are even less reliable.

The Amtrak alternative

Air travel is no relief. Airport delays at hubs like Chicago and Atlanta are as bad as any in Europe. Air travel still relies on a ground-based tracking system from the 1950s, which forces planes to use inefficient routes in order to stay in contact with controllers. The systemai??i??s imprecision obliges controllers to keep more distance between air traffic, reducing the number of planes that can fly in the available space. And this is not the systemai??i??s only bottleneck. Overbooked airports frequently lead to runway congestion, forcing travellers to spend long hours stranded on the tarmac while they wait to take off or disembark. Meanwhile, security and immigration procedures in American airports drive travellers to the brink of rebellion.

And worse looms. The countryai??i??s already stressed infrastructure must handle a growing load in decades to come, thanks to Americaai??i??s distinctly non-European demographics. The Census Bureau expects the population to grow by 40% over the next four decades, equivalent to the entire population of Japan.

All this is puzzling. Americaai??i??s economy remains the worldai??i??s largest; its citizens are among the worldai??i??s richest. The government is not constitutionally opposed to grand public works. The country stitched its continental expanse together through two centuries of ambitious earthmoving. Almost from the beginning of the republic the federal government encouraged the building of critical canals and roadways. In the 19th century Congress provided funding for a transcontinental railway linking the east and west coasts. And between 1956 and 1992 America constructed the interstate system, among the largest public-works projects in history, which criss-crossed the continent with nearly 50,000 miles of motorways.

But modern America is stingier. Total public spending on transport and water infrastructure has fallen steadily since the 1960s and now stands at 2.4% of GDP. Europe, by contrast, invests 5% of GDP in its infrastructure, while China is racing into the future at 9%. Americaai??i??s spending as a share of GDP has not come close to European levels for over 50 years. Over that time funds for both capital investments and operations and maintenance have steadily dropped (see chart 2).

Although America still builds roads with enthusiasm, according to the OECDai??i??s International Transport Forum, it spends considerably less than Europe on maintaining them. In 2006 America spent more than twice as much per person as Britain on new construction; but Britain spent 23% more per person maintaining its roads.

Americaai??i??s dependence on its cars is reinforced by a shortage of alternative forms of transport. Europeai??i??s large economies and Japan routinely spend more than America on rail investments, in absolute not just relative terms, despite much smaller populations and land areas. America spends more building airports than Europe but its underdeveloped rail network shunts more short-haul traffic onto planes, leaving many of its airports perpetually overburdened. Plans to upgrade air-traffic-control technology to a modern satellite-guided system have faced repeated delays. The current plan is now threatened by proposed cuts to the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that America needs to spend $20 billion more a year just to maintain its infrastructure at the present, inadequate, levels. Up to $80 billion a year in additional spending could be spent on projects which would show positive economic returns. Other reports go further. In 2005 Congress established the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. In 2008 the commission reckoned that America needed at least $255 billion per year in transport spending over the next half-century to keep the system in good repair and make the needed upgrades. Current spending falls 60% short of that amount.Ai??

How trams could save us from the ai???tyranny of the carai??i??

Robert Williams 26th April, 2011

The Ecologogist


Back in 2000 John Prescott mooted 25 different tram projects across the UK, but a decade later where has that dream gone? Robert Williams laments how we have lost a solution to cutting cars and reclaiming our urban streets

Transport has been the Cinderella department of almost every British government since the Second World War. Successive ministers, both Labour and Conservative, have failed to address the challenges of growing mobility, the funding and provision of public transport and the increase in cars on the road.

Over the last 30 years, most British cities have suffered from increasing traffic congestion, so that in many cases streets are at, or near, gridlock. Average traffic speeds in London, at 11mph, are slower than they were a century ago. Pollution, noise and stress for drivers and pedestrians have increased dramatically and the quality of life in urban centres has suffered. Even the most enthusiastic members of the road lobby would admit that motorists are being driven slowly, so very slowly, round the bend.

Many cities have been abandoned to what has been described as the ai???tyranny of the carai??i??. Buses were deregulated by the Conservative government of the 1990ai??i??s, everywhere except in London, and passenger numbers fell precipitously, everywhere except in London.

Labour’s big tram plans

When Labour came to power in 1997, it promised an integrated transport policy. But transport policy was one of Labourai??i??s greatest domestic failures, and nowhere was the short term, unimaginative, bean-counting failure more evident than in the failure to invest in trams (or Light Rail) schemes.

In 2000 the then transport minister John Prescott promised that there would be ai???up to 25 new light rail lines in major cities and conurbationsai??i??. In fact, there are currently eight tramway/light rail systems in the UKai??i??in Croydon, London’s docklands, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham and Blackpool. In Edinburgh a new tram network is currenlty under construction. Systems were also proposed in Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Portsmouth, although funding was refused by the government, and they remain unlikely to proceed.

Letting tram schemes hit the buffers was a terrible error. Trams are flexible modes of transport that fit between the bus and the underground systems or conventional railway. Tram routes are certainly more expensive to construct than the bus based alternative but, in the long term, trams are cheaper to operate for a given capacity, have lower whole-life costs, offer higher commercial speeds, reduce pollution, and are more successful in attracting motorists to public transport.

In busy cities, trams can carry significantly more passengers than conventional bus networks, including the higher quality bus-based alternatives such as guided busways. Trams can carry flows of up to 20,000 passengers per hour per direction which is about four times more than conventional buses and twice that of the largest, tram-like bus alternatives.

Bus usage would have to increase in the order of 500-900 per cent just to keep the level of traffic congestion standing still, so to speak, in any case, where there is high demand (at least 2,500 passengers/ hour/direction) trams are cheaper than buses. Large numbers of buses are needed to provide equivalent capacity, leading to high staffing and vehicle costs, and roads becoming congested with (empty) buses, as anyone who has travelled along Oxford Street in London will recognise.

If we want to attract motorists away from their cars, alternative forms of public transport must be put in place first. All the evidence shows that people will not switch to public transport unless it is reliable, frequent, efficient, safe and clean, with affordable fares. Tram systems meet these criteria.

Trams cut car use

A study for the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) found that light rail has generated levels of modal shift from road that bus upgrade schemes rarely match. Typically about 20 per cent of peak hour passengers using British tram systems previously travelled by car. At weekends up to 50 per cent of British tram passengers used to travel by car. Overall light rail takes around 22 million car trips off the roads every year in Britain, and there is evidence, particularly in Manchester and Croydon, of reduced road traffic levels following their opening.

Ai??Ai??Reims Tramway

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