Passenger Transport Executives
Light Rail & Modern Trams
I The most recent scheme – Nottingham Express
Transit - opened in 2004 and links the area
Q. How many light rail systems are
north of the city with the city centre using a
there in the UK?
mixture of segregated alignments and on-
There are seven modern light rail and tram systems
in the UK, four of which were promoted by PTEs.
I Opened in 1980, the first new “light rail” In addition, construction of Line 1 of a brand new
scheme, Tyne and Wear Metro, converted tram network in Edinburgh is currently underway
42km of under-used local rail lines, linked by which will bring the total number of light rail
17km of new infrastructure. It has since been systems in the UK to eight.
extended to Newcastle Airport and
Sunderland. Q. What improvement and
I Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in
1987, using former rail alignments and some
extension work is currently
new construction to link the City and the
underway on these systems?
Dockland development areas. Delivered for a
Work underway as of May 2009 is as follows:
mere £77 million, it has subsequently been
extended to Bank, Beckton, Lewisham and I £600 million project to reinvigorate Tyne and
Woolwich Arsenal. Wear Metro over 10 years.
I In Greater Manchester, Manchester Metrolink I Stratford International extension to the DLR as
converted the existing Altrincham and Bury rail well as upgrading the system to achieve a
lines to light rail and linked them through the 50% increase in capacity by 2010.
city centre by on-street tramway. The system I Manchester Metrolink extensions, including to
opened in 1992 and was extended to reach Oldham and Rochdale, East Manchester and
Eccles in 2000. Droylsden, Chorlton and MediaCityUK plus an
I Sheffield Supertram, a largely street-running overhaul of tracks and stops, 40 new trams
system, opened in 1994 with three lines linking and 200 new ticket machines.
the city centre to Meadowhall, Middlewood
I Midland Metro opened in 1999, linking
Q. What further work is planned?
Wolverhampton and Birmingham via the Black As of May 2009, future plans include:
Country, mostly using a former rail alignment I Extension of Manchester Metrolink to Ashton
with some on-street running. and Manchester Airport.
I Croydon Tramlink, a three-line network
I Extension of the Midland Metro across
linking Beckenham, New Addington and
Birmingham City Centre and further into the
Wimbledon to central Croydon, opened in
2000. It involves street running, segregated
alignments and replacement of rail services. I Nottingham Express Transit Phase 2 involving
extensions to the existing line.
Sheffield Supertram provides easy access to the I Line 2 of the Edinburgh tram network plus a
heart of the city centre
possible connection to Fife.
I Tram-train opportunities within the Leeds city
I Merseytram – a new network which would begin
by connecting Kirkby with Liverpool city centre.
Cities are determined to forge ahead with their
plans to develop light rail systems in recognition
of the enormous benefits they deliver.
Passenger Transport Executives
Tyne and Wear Metro is estimated to take 40,000 car journeys off the road every day
Q. Why build light rail schemes?
Light rail is good for regeneration offering: This modal shift is encouraged by several key
I a sense of permanence, giving individuals features of light rail, including:
and businesses confidence to invest in an I easy access right into the heart of town and
area: without Manchester Metrolink, for city centres;
example, it is unlikely that the successful I predictable, regular and reliable journey times
regeneration of Salford Quays would have and service patterns;
taken place. The Salford Quays extension cost
I a high quality of ride throughout the journey;
£150 million but created over 3,000 permanent
jobs, stimulated £60 million of investment by I complementary park and ride facilities;
business and boosted the economy of Greater I potential to integrate with new developments,
Manchester by £70 million a year. the urban fabric and other public transport
I a ‘buzz’ to the places they serve, changing modes.
perceptions of urban areas: in Croydon, for All of which helps to explain why light rail
example, surveys of residents and businesses patronage has grown by almost 80 per cent in
before the opening of the Tramlink showed the last 10 years (excluding those systems which
that many viewed Croydon as in decline. After opened after 1997/98).
the opening, most saw the area as The reduction in road traffic associated with light
experiencing regeneration and expansion. rail schemes not only cuts congestion but also
I a climate for business growth: businesses reduces ambient noise levels and can help
located near to light rail schemes benefit from improve air quality - modern trams are quiet
being more accessible to customers and and emit no direct pollution or greenhouse gases.
having greater access to labour markets to
support growth and expansion.
Light rail is good for the environment too,
encouraging modal shift. Typically, at least one
in five peak hour travellers on trams in the UK
formerly commuted by car. At weekends, as many
as half of UK tram users previously used a car to
make the same journey. Tyne and Wear Metro,
for example, takes an estimated 40,000 car journeys
off the area’s crowded roads every day. 2
Passenger Transport Executives
policy context in which schemes are evaluated
(leading to round after round of scheme
Q. How is light rail approved and
PTEs are the promoters of light rail schemes in I A key requirement for new schemes is that,
their areas. The approval process in the UK is unlike bus and rail services, they must
extremely protracted. A comparative report for operate without the benefit of revenue
pteg by Egis Semaly/Faber Maunsell showed subsidy meaning that all the costs and
that French cities are able to implement light rail potential risks of a scheme must be reflected
schemes much faster than is generally the case upfront.
in the UK. I Utilities (such as gas mains), are usually dug
The Lyon tramway scheme, for example, took up and moved when a light rail system is built
approximately three and a half years from the for ease of access in future. Light rail
beginning of preliminary studies to the opening promoters have to cover 92.5% of the costs
day of service. It took 15 years for Sheffield of utility diversions which can be a
Supertram and 13 years for Croydon Tramlink to significant capital cost (accounting for 10% of
go through the same process. In France a Mayor the construction costs of Croydon Tramlink, for
can stand for office on a pledge to build a tram example). There is little incentive for utility
scheme and have that tram operational before companies to keep costs down or minimise
the end of his or her first term. the opportunities to upgrade their
In the UK, the costs of light rail schemes are met infrastructure. In other countries, much less of
through a variety of sources, usually including the cost of utility diversions is met by light rail
direct PTE funding and a Government grant, but promoters – and in France none at all.
also EU grants, developer contributions, I Under deregulation there is nothing to
regeneration funding and contributions from local prevent buses from competing directly with
authorities served by the scheme. light rail schemes. This increases the
financial risks associated with new schemes
which could, for example, see fares undercut
by bus operators. In mainland Europe and in
London, where bus services are regulated, a
new light rail system is an opportunity to
redesign a complementary bus network.
The National Audit Office has also suggested
that greater standardisation of light rail schemes
(for example, a common design for vehicles)
could cut the cost of new schemes. Currently,
the low rate of tram scheme implementation and
protracted timescales can make standardisation
difficult. Lack of continuity is also a barrier to
standardisation. When a scheme is finished,
teams are dispersed and expertise is lost. The
exception is the DLR where, in recent years, as
The Lyon tramway took just three and a half years
soon as one extension is completed, another is
Q. Why are light rail schemes so in the pipeline meaning that knowledge of
expensive? effective, standardised ways of working is
The price of light rail schemes is higher than it pteg is part of UK Tram which brings together
needs to be for a number of reasons: scheme promoters, the private sector and the
I The protracted approval and procurement Government to find ways of reducing the cost of
process for UK light rail schemes leads to light rail schemes – including greater
both higher development costs and higher standardisation and better knowledge sharing.
construction costs (which have risen rapidly in
recent years). Patterns of development and
land-use can also change, as well as the
Passenger Transport Executives
temporary) struggle to achieve the same catalytic
effect on urban regeneration and city image that
Q. Is light rail the right solution?
can be triggered by the tangible and permanent
commitment to an area that light rail represents.
Q. What about tram-trains?
Tram-trains are similar in many ways to trams,
the main difference being that they can run on
railway tracks as well as on tramlines. This
flexibility has the advantage of freeing up
capacity at busy mainline stations as vehicles
seamlessly transfer from railway tracks to
tramlines to transport people directly to city-centre
locations (rather than to the nearest mainline
railway station). Like trams, tram-trains are
Modern light rail systems, such as the Midland Metro,
lightweight meaning potentially lower energy use
provide enhanced reliability and comfort for passengers
The PTEs’ approach is to find the most and less wear and tear on tracks and, therefore,
appropriate public transport solution for the reduced need for costly maintenance work.
specific circumstances and challenges of a Tram-trains are already operating successfully in
corridor or network. Often this will be through Europe. The first UK trial of tram-train technology
making comprehensive improvements to is due to begin in 2011 when 5 new tram-trains
conventional bus services such as bus priority will replace conventional trains on the 37 mile
measures and whole corridor upgrades. long Penistone Line between Huddersfield,
At higher levels of demand, light rail can become Barnsley and Sheffield. The trial, run as a
cheaper than the bus alternative. This is because partnership between DfT, Northern Rail and
very large numbers of buses are required to Network Rail, will examine environmental impact,
provide equivalent capacity, entailing high operating costs and technical suitability as well
staffing and vehicle costs and leading to roads as popularity with passengers. There is an option
becoming congested with buses. for a second phase where tram-trains would be
Even where light rail is a more expensive option tested on the Sheffield Supertram system to
than the bus alternative – the benefits that light evaluate the additional benefits of extending the
rail brings can outweigh the additional costs. The service onto city-centre tramlines. PTEs are keen
greater reliability, comfort, accessibility, faster to see this second, street-running, phase of the
journey times and capacity that light rail offers trial implemented to further strengthen the
over the bus, is reinforced by its perceived high business case for the development of their own
status and permanence. All of which helps to tram-train schemes and to accelerate delivery.
explain why UK light rail schemes typically
achieve a 20% modal shift from the car, a much
higher level of modal shift than a typical bus Q. How can I find out more?
priority scheme will achieve.
What existing light rail schemes have already Keep up to date with light rail policy
achieved, new schemes are also expected to developments by visiting our online
achieve. Development work on the planned Light Rail Policy Centre
expansion of Manchester Metrolink shows that
the extensions would take 5.6 million car
journeys a year off the road compared with 2
million for the bus alternative.
Finally, as independent research for pteg by
Steer Davies Gleave shows, improvements to
bus services (often perceived as potentially
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