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Design ConsiderationsThe Issues - Page 3b
Finding the right way to go

 

Inaccuracies and unwarranted conclusions made by West London 'Friends of the Earth'
are further explored.
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References:     FOE "Say Yes To West London Tram!" [HTML]           FOE "Frequently Asked Questions" Section [DOC]


Issue: If one tram breaks down, would the whole system immediately stop?
Could a broken tram be pulled off the road? Could other trams go round it or overtake it?

FOE
The proposal includes a loop at Southall, and possibly others elsewhere, so that the entire network is not brought down. Modern trams are very reliable, so breakdowns are few. They give the driver early warning of breakdown so that action can be taken to avoid disruption. When they do occur they will be inconvenient, but the overall delay will be much less than continual and worsening delays caused by increasing traffic congestion.

 

TfWL
The most honest and straightforward answers to the questions in the first, second and third sentences are yes, no and no respectively. The fact that a loop [or more than one] is included may reduce the disruption to [only!] half the route or a third or whatever although even this is not guaranteed as it depends on precisely how much of your tram fleet is where when the incident occurs. The simple fact is that any stoppage at any point on a rail based system with a frequent service will rapidly cause widespread disruption. This is an intrinsic disadvantage of all such systems.

Whilst modern trams are reliable, they do still have some breakdowns and each one will result in considerable disruption. What is more relevant is that breakdown of the tram is but one of many reasons why a tram may not be able to move. Any problem which stops one tram [whether directly concerning the mechanics of the tram or not] such as a parked vehicle, road accident, incident on the vehicle, closure of that section of road for a gas leak etc. etc. will have the same serious effect on the overall service.

It may be said that this is not frequent on Croydon Tramlink but even on this system such incidents do occur with some regularity - and that is on a largely segregated route not one that is sharing large sections of its route with other vehicles.

40 metre vehicles operating a street tramway along a road with a very high traffic density but often of relatively narrow width would implicitly seem likely to be embroiled in incidents of the type described quite often. However no investigation appears to have been done to quantify this problem. Despite this, TfL state [and Friends of the Earth dutifully repeat] the simplistic statement that WLT Trams will be 'reliable'. This may mean that the trams will be mechanically reliable as vehicles themselves but will the service provided to the passenger be reliable? One does not automatically imply the other, contrary to what TfL [and Friends of the Earth] seem to suggest.

To consider the truthfulness of the last sentence, consider using a service along the Uxbridge Road for a journey yourself.

Option A
You turn up to catch a bus. Traffic congestion is very bad and the journey which should have taken 15 minutes actually takes 30.
Option B
Alternatively you turn up to catch a tram to find that the section of the tram route you wish to use has no service at all. You then wait until a probably unknown time in the future when the obstruction [whatever it is] is able to be cleared or the operator provides a [rubber tyred] replacement service, whichever is the sooner.

Which would you rather have happen to you 'A' or 'B'?   Does your choice fit the conclusion of Friends of the Earth?

Issue: How will trams share the road? Won't they hold up other traffic?

FOE
At the places where the tram shares with other traffic, the tram gets priority over the other traffic. This is done by the tram tripping traffic lights on its approach, and other traffic is held while the tram passes. This is a key factor in making tram schemes fast, reliable and predictable, which is exactly what people want from a public transport system. No more coming along in threes like buses! A similar system is already in place for buses on the Uxbridge Road just west of the Hanwell Bridge.

 

TfWL
This is a gross over simplification of the problems of getting traffic to flow freely. There is discussion elsewhere on this site regarding the likely traffic flow implications of this rail based system operating along sections of the street with other vehicles particularly at certain difficult junctions. One thing is certain: the 'other traffic' the tram will get priority over at signals and other places along the route includes buses. Thus the numerous remaining bus services running along and across Uxbridge Road will be held up and made slower and less reliable than now as a result of the trams - unless such bus services are cut back and transferred away from the Uxbridge Road, as Transport for London appear to wish to do so that they serve as 'feeders' to the trams. Either case of course disrupts the journeys of countless bus travellers for the sake of those using the trams alone and is clearly a disbenefits but not one that appears in any official analysis of the scheme.

The comment about buses coming along in threes is self evidently true. The buses will have been replaced by trams! Trams do bunch however and even on Croydon Tramlink with much greater segregation and longer intervals between services, it is not exactly unknown after incidents to get two trams following nose to tail on the same route. How much more is this likely to be the case on WLT? You will then have to find 80 metres of clear carriageway along the tram track and of course the second tram will have to await clearance of the first from every tram stop.

Issue: Will deliveries be disrupted?

FOE
Deliveries should not be disrupted - delivery vehicles will be able drive along the Uxbridge Road as now. In addition, in many places rear access will be improved and that will assist many businesses. Transport for London has been studying the access requirements of businesses along the proposed route and is taking these into account in planning.

 

TfWL
The answer given here is not the answer to the question posed. If the question is whether what can currently happen along the Uxbridge Road in its entirety will be able to continue as now or will be disrupted, the only honest answer is that it will be disrupted. As described elsewhere you cannot afford a vehicle to impede any part of the tram track for even a short time during any of the [very long] hours of tram operation. This can not do other than to disrupt what must happen daily in regard to vehicles stopping to load/unload at many different places. It may [or may not!] be a reasonable proposition to say that the tram scheme is worth this disruption but that is a different view from what is expressed. That 'deliveries should not be disrupted' is really 'verbal slight of hand' of a very great order, which masks the truth rather than correctly expressing it.

Issue: Will those deliveries that require front access block the trams?

FOE
There will be space for deliveries - in loading bays as now. Parked vehicles will not be allowed to block trams.

 

TfWL
Visitors to this site are asked to consider those places that do not have 'loading bays' but where the tram track is kerb side running. Will they have 'space for deliveries' or 'not be allowed to block trams' or will these perhaps cease to exist? And it's not just goods deliveries and collections that are important. Disabled drivers and passengers [Blue badge Holders] also need to stop and at times park at the kerb side, and are legally entitled to do so even when and where no 'loading restrictions' are in operation. If the trams prevent this, as they will at many places of the route, this will make life even more difficult for those disabled people [who may not necessarily be able to use the tram for their journey].

Issue: So you think the tram proposal has a lot going for it?

FOE
Yes, it has. No transport system, public or private, is ideal. But there are many benefits to the proposed Uxbridge Road tram:

 

TfWL
Those claimed benefits that are actually proven [which is far from the all of them] could equally well be delivered by a trolleybus solution at lower cost. Many of the claimed advantages remain unproven [as was agreed by a GLA committee investigation].


• It will take between 4 and 8 million journeys made by car taken off West London's roads each year;

 


It is hard to take seriously figures which give a precise very high absolute minimum with no suggestion that the figure could be less but then give a huge range to the maximum [double that of the minimum]. The uncertainty implied by the large range suggests that there is little real certainty about the minimum. However let us for the moment take them to be accurate as expressed.

To believe that the much cheaper trolleybus solution will not achieve what a tram would, requires that there is a degree of modal shift that is entirely dependent on the vehicle having steel wheels and running on steel rails rather than rubber tyres on asphalt. What proportion of modal shift do you believe occurs for this reason alone?


• It will be a huge improvement in public transport speed;

 


The tram will actually be slower on longer journeys than the current 607 bus and the actual speed against the 207/ 427 is only an estimate at this stage. As the proposed road closures have been reduced during the different phases of the planning of the project, the 'average' speed has been reduced also and is now only 19 k.p.h. for the tram. The 207/ 427 operate at an 'average' speed of 14 k.p.h. in the peak along what is the slower end of the tram route [Source: calculation based on distance and duration of peak journey given by TfL Journey Planner]. Is 5 k.p.h. [3 m.p.h.] a 'huge improvement in speed'?

In any event, irrespective of the theoretical 'average' speed of the vehicle itself, the overall reduction of time taken for a person's total journey may well not be noticeably less and may in fact be more, particularly if they do not live immediately adjacent to a tram stop and have to walk further or if they now require to make a previously unrequired change en route.


• Reliability and capacity: the tram will have up to 70% more capacity than buses, will reduce journey times by about 25%, will bring 100,000 people within 10 minutes walking distance of a tram stop and carry around 50 million passengers a year [compared to 22 million on the present bus services];

 


Capacity is of course useful if it is actually needed. The real issue here is that the claim of greater capacity is needed to justify the huge capital costs of the project as a tramway [i.e. to achieve the absolute minimum benefit/cost ratio required for the project to proceed]. If the capacity is not needed and the tramway operates at less than that projected, it will be a fiscal millstone of huge proportion. The much less capital hungry trolleybus solution does not need such huge increases to justify its construction and thus represents far less financial risk.

Whilst it is true that some tramway schemes have certainly gained patronage on the corridors on which they have been built, it is also true that the slower routes with more street running have generally been less successful in so doing. Visitors to the site are asked to consider for themselves whether the replacement of an already busy and very frequent bus service together with an express version of the same by a street tramway which is marginally faster than the stopping bus but slower than the express one is really going to generate additional patronage equal to 127% more than the present bus services combined?


• It will provide a catalyst for regenerating town centres in Acton, Ealing, West Ealing, Hanwell and Southall, by bringing over 300,000 more people within 30 minutes public transport travel time of them, providing better access to shops, jobs and services and a wider pool of potential employees for businesses;

 


Is the very definite statement a logical conclusion of the statistic quoted or does it in itself not lead to any particular conclusion? Is there something special about 30 minutes? Is it for instance so much better than 31 or 33 or 35? Whatever the answer to these interesting questions it is again true that a trolleybus solution could do the same.


• It's the only solution to allowing residential development of the old British Gas site in Southall without swamping Southall with an additional 5,000 cars;

   


• It will reduce social exclusion and unemployment by providing better access from deprived areas to shops, jobs and services;

   


• It is guaranteed to be fully accessible to people with mobility difficulties: elderly, disabled, those with small children;

   


• The roads will be safer because there will be less traffic, the traffic on the Uxbridge Road will be managed, and there will be more pedestrian crossing points;

   


• Air pollution will be reduced: trams generate no local emissions and can be powered from renewable sources. 8,500 properties will benefit from reduced air pollution, and 6,500 will benefit from reduced noise pollution.

 


The tram is the only 'solution' that TfL in their world [and apparently also 'Friends of the Earth'] are prepared to consider but at the risk of repetition, it is not actually the only solution in the real world. A trolleybus solution is a valid option, supplies all the benefits mentioned and with even less noise than trams! It also involves much less cost and disruption. Does bulldozing whole parades of small shops and other businesses and services, as Transport for London propose in West Ealing, Hanwell and Southall town centres [see details elsewhere on this website] to force a pair of tram tracks through, really help to 'regenerate' those town centres?

Issue: What will happen if the tram doesn't go ahead?

FOE
The Mayor of London has said that if local people don't want the tram, he will spend the money elsewhere. This will be a disaster for West London. Just look at what's happening:

Within London Borough of Ealing, population and households have increased steadily in the last decade, and car ownership has increased even more, as shown in the table:

Statistical tables not shown for reason given alongside.

This trend is set to continue. There are planning applications in or imminent for several key development sites along the Uxbridge Road, in particular in Acton, Ealing Town Centre and the Southall Gas Works site, the largest brown field site in West London. Most of these are for mixed use but with large amounts of residential, much of which is high density.

Ealing Council's Replacement Unitary Development Plan [Statement of Decisions on the Inspector's Report, May 2004] agreed the London Plan total of 9,750 more homes to be added to the borough's housing stock for the period 2002 - 2017, and also recognises that 'future capacity studies may cause this figure to be revised upwards'. This is already happening: in September 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister produced new interim projections for housing which were much higher than previous ones for London and the South East.

Nationally, the Government is projecting traffic growth of between 20% and 25% between 2000 and 2010 [Managing our Roads, Department for Transport, August 2004]. For suburban and urban/suburban areas, increases of 22-23% are predicted in the 20 years from 2001 and 2021 [Transport Pricing: better for travellers, Independent Transport Commission, June 2003].

 

TfWL
This is the 'scatter gun' approach to statistics. If you put enough in, some somewhere must be relevant to the issue being considered - except that in reality they are not. UK-wide and other 'average' figures obscure rather than clarify the issues. The questions really are much more simple. Taking all the local conditions into consideration, is a street tramway option along the Uxbridge Road likely to achieve that which is claimed for it? Is it the optimal option [in terms of benefit/cost] or is there a more cost effective alternative that could do the same [or more] than the tramway could achieve? These are questions you, the visitors to this site, may care to consider for yourselves. They are questions which as public servants, the Mayor, TfL and the appropriate London Boroughs have a legal duty to consider and a public obligation to answer correctly to the best of their ability. Is that actually what is happening at the moment? Judge for yourselves!

You may also ask yourself whether the "Accept our tram scheme or you'll get nothing" stance adopted by the Mayor indicates a proper professional attitude to tackling the problems of traffic, transport and accessibility in West London or is the real motive for the imposition of this particular scheme more connected with leaving a physical monument to his tenure of office [rails in the street have a high degree of permanence]? This form of 'political justification' for schemes is a well known phenomenon just across the Channel in France and Belgium [such as in Charleroi where the 'part time' light rail system has remained half built for years].


If opposition to the tram wins the day, there will be:

  • more and more journeys made by car;
  • no attractive public transport alternative;
  • increasing congestion and rat running on the Uxbridge Road and surrounding streets;
  • worse air pollution and ill-health;
  • more parking problems;
  • a deteriorating, unattractive environment in the borough;
  • less regeneration of deprived areas;
  • more unemployed and socially-excluded people.


And people who can afford to leave the borough will do so.

 


All of these of course assume [yet again!] that the tram option is the only possible one that can achieve the benefits listed. This is a closed mind philosophy. We contend that this is simply not true. The alternative and more cost effective [unguided] trolleybus option has not been properly considered but should be as a matter of urgency.

Whilst Transport for London claim to have looked at the trolleybus alternative, but only considered a version with a costly and restrictive 'guidance' system inserted into it, which trolleybuses actually have no need of at all. This was not an objective consideration of available viable options but in effect the creation of a 'straw man' option which could then be dismissed as 'using unproven technology' and being 'more expensive and less economic' by comparison with the trams. In reality an unguided trolleybus system could be built much more cheaply, be more flexible and be far less disruptive than street running trams for the WLT scheme.

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