Review of Light Rail/Tramway costs

A Federal Parliamentry Review of Light Rail/Tramway/Transit costs must be carried out!Ai??

Both Fang & Zwei have posted articles in the past weeks on the high costs of Canadian LightAi??Rail, Tramway & Transit schemes. Vancouver, TorontoAi??and Waterloo.
Design, Utility relocation, Financing vehicles (ie P3) Project management, Construction management, Land purchase and now theAi??concern that Ai??Canadian LRT is being built, not to economically carry transit customers, rather to promote land speculation and land development. This is the main reason that SkyTrain and the Canada Line have been built as metros, it is perceived that metro will give the biggest bang for the developers buck and the real reason the Rob Ford wants subways instead of LRT in Toronto.Ai?? In theAi?? Autumn of 2011 aAi?? review ofAi?? light rail costs was Ai??published in Britain
A Department for Transport report into the high costs of light rail projects in the UK was published on September 20. ‘Green Light for Light Rail’ was commissioned by Transport Minister Norman Baker with the aim of identifying the key cost drivers and what can be done to make light rail more cost-effective and thus more attractive to promoters.
The report draws on work by the National Audit Office, Commons Transport Committee and All-Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group, and evidence from industry lobby group UKTram and project promoters. While some reasons for high costs apply to UK infrastructure projects in general, a number of tram-specific problems are identified.
There is a tendency to ‘over-design’ because promoters lack internal expertise to select designs which minimise lifecycle costs, or are unable to withstand pressure from consultants and politicians for prestige projects. The lack of specialist tram engineers results in an over-reliance on heavy rail expertise and ‘unnecessarily cautious’ approaches.
The report says UKTram should assist with sharing expertise through a procurement ‘centre of excellence’. The adoption of Germany VDV technical standards is proposed, and is supported by the Office of Rail Regulation. Pooling of maintenance facilities and spares could also save money, with joint ownership of heavy equipment.
The report says further work is required to address utility relocation costs, and DfT is to commence consultation on this subject. At present promoters pay 92Ai??5% of the costs, but UKTram says light rail’s share should be reduced to 82% to match road projects. Finding ways of avoiding the perceived need to move utilities would help, possibly by tolerating disruption to light rail services when utility work is required.
DfT is to convene a light rail summit to discuss implantation of the report’s findings.
‘In the past light rail systems have been seen as expensive and an unaffordable option for local authorities to pursue’, said Baker. ‘I initiated this review so we can get to the nub of the problem. I now urge all parts of the light rail sector to work together on implementing these recommendations and I look forward to working with them towards these exciting opportunities.’
  • The report recommends that promoters study the ‘no-frills’ tram project in BesanAi??on, France.

How is BesanAi??on Building a Tramway at ai??i??16 million/kilometer?
Though MontrAi??al has significant Metro and tramway expansion plans, its next new transit line will come in the form of a bus rapid transit line down Boulevard Pie-IX on the east side of the city.Ai?? The city hopes that the creation of a ai???bus highwayai??? connecting into the suburban city of Laval would be able to attract about 70,000 daily users. The project, which includes the construction of new stations and dedicated lanes along the entire MontrAi??al side of the 15 kilometer corridor, would cost some C$305 million ai??i?? or about U.S. $32 million a mile.
MontrAi??alai??i??s new line will share many features of the Express Pie-IX, a bus line whose contra-flow bus movements were blamed for the deaths of several bikers and pedestrians and which was shut down in 2002 after carrying about 8,000 daily users.
The development of BRT in MontrAi??al isnai??i??t particularly remarkable outside of the fact that it is being done at a high price for what are primarily surface improvements. Yet compared to other recent rail projects in North America, the project looks downright cheap: Phoenixai??i??s first light rail segment cost about $70 million a mile; Seattleai??i??s broke the bank at $150 million. Subway projects are far more expensive.
How, then, is the eastern French city of BesanAi??on building a new tramway for the equivalent of just about $35 million a mile?*
Itai??i??s a question Americans should be asking themselves, since the costs of transit investments seem to be spiraling out of control even as the demand for alternative transportation options has increased and the funds to support them have diminished. BesanAi??on, a city of about 115,000 in a region of about twice that size, has managed to develop a project whose costs are acceptable ai??i?? ai???optimized,ai??? the local transit agency calls them ai??i?? even in a small metropolitan area.

Delivering a `No-Frills Tram’

BesanAi??on: Build it Right, Build it at a Fair Price

This French community isn’t very big, much smaller than Victoria, in fact (metro pop. appr. 220,000). The nearest big city to BesanAi??on is Geneva, Switzerland. But they’re building a 14.5 km tramway (almost as long as a James Bay/Western Communities tramway) for ai??i??228 million (that’s about $310 million Canadian).

The B-BOT Bring Back Our Trams blog which is centred on Victoria has a very authoritive web page on comparative Light Rail & Trams costs for Canada, Europe & the US

The strap line is What should a Tramway Cost and guess what from the following table -Ai??Canada, BC & particularly Victoria is twice the Cost $million/km of comparative European schemes.

Costs of At-Grade Tramways


City Completion Year Cost $million/km Engineer
Angers, France
Tractabel, Antwerp
Nordic, Stockholm
Besancon, France
Brest, France
Systra, Paris
Charlotte, NC
S&ME, Raleigh
Dallas TX
STV consortium
Denver CO West Corr.
Balfour Beatty
Dijon, France
GDF Suez, Paris
Florence, Italy
Hydea, Florence
LTK, Philadelphia
Mulhouse, Fr.
Norfolk, VA
PB, New York
HDR, Omaha
Salt Lake Mid-Jordan
PGH Wong, SF
Salt Lake West Valley
PGH Wong, SF
Tenerife, Spain
AEC, Bilbao
Tours, France




Vitoria, Spain
Zaragoza, Spain





2 Responses to “Review of Light Rail/Tramway costs”
  1. Evil Eye says:

    Bang on!

    For too long, transit planners in North America have been gold plating light rail projects too such an extent that they have become more expensive than building mini-metros! Transit planning has become a sort of legalized graft, where the taxpayer is “shaken down” to pay for exorbitant costs for LRT. This must stop or affordable public transit will all but disappear.

  2. Dudley Horscroft says:

    Unsubstantiated reports indicate that the heritage tramway extensions being built in Christchurch, NZ, before the earthquake, was costing $NZ5000 per km single track. Double track, using the same stndards, would be $NZ10M per km. Wiork has been interrupted while the damaged buildings are being demolished or made safe, but the tramway was barely damaged.

    It may be assumed that diversion of utilities was negligible. Track standards accommodate double deck trams, so should be sufficient for any modern single deck tram.

    Canadian, and other NA transit experts would be well advised to contact Christchurch City Council for further information re the work being done.

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