Questions posed by the
London Assembly Transport Committee
A Response from the Electric Tbus Group
It will produce sufficient capacity to support projected population growth and the consequent
rise in both road use and public transport demand.
Many of the figures given for usage seem highly speculative and mutually contradictory. Contrary to what is stated,
they do not represent the experience of other tram schemes [even those with much greater segregation and higher speeds]
but purport to show increases in levels of patronage which are greatly in excess of all previous experience. Any
realistic future capacity could be achieved by a trolleybus option. The difference is that with a lower cost, the
trolleybus option would be viable even if the predicted increase in patronage is not totally realised.
The tramway has to achieve the maximum figures given or it will be financially impossible and not meet any stated
benefit/cost ratios. These ratios may be dubious even at the highest levels of increase of patronage because of the
previously stated incompatibility of many figures and an apparent omission of a number of disbenefits involving users
of bus routes other than the 207/607 routes.
It will deliver a highly segregated and reliable service.
Most of the route which passes through traditional Victorian/ Edwardian towns [i.e. Southall and all east of the River
Brent at Hanwell] will be unsegregated according to the current scheme. WLT trams are liable be stuck in peak hour
congestion and queues along with all other traffic in these areas. On sections where this is not the case [mostly the
dual carriageways between Uxbridge and Southall and between Southall and Hanwell], it would be equally possible to
provide similar, highly visible or kerbed segregation. This could be achieved for a trolleybus solution using tarmac
rather than rails. In respect of reliability, the trolleybus would be able to much better
integrate with the remaining diesel bus services where required and would be able to avoid blockages of the transit way
[whether by car, van, bus or any other problem] by using the main carriageway or diverting if necessary via other roads
[using an auxiliary power unit with which modern trolleybuses are fitted].
The tram is fixed on its railed carriageway and therefore is intrinsically less flexible than the trolleybus on all
sections used by other modes of any sort. A stoppage at any part of a tramway implies rapid disruption to the entire
route. This is not so with a trolleybus option. There is no inherent design reason why trolleybuses can not be equally
segregated. There is worldwide evidence that trolleybuses provide at least equal technical reliability to trams.
In terms of service reliability trolleybuses can provide greater reliability than an all-on-street tramway.
It will reduce operating costs per passenger
At best this could only be true at the very highest levels of predicted patronage and even this is not proved by
the submitted TfL figures which contain a number of anomalies. At any lower levels, trolleybuses would be more
economic, with lower running costs and a fraction of the installation costs to provide equal capacity.
It will provide a highly attractive service to compete with car travel and will therefore
generate modal shift.
It is the overall system that has to provide the attractiveness not simply the vehicles. A well planned and fully
controlled trolleybus system would prove as attractive as any railed equivalent. This would be as true in London as
in other cities that have or are developing trolleybus systems [e.g. Athens, Rome, Lyons, Arnhem and Salzberg].
The attractiveness of WLT to car users is almost certainly overstated because of the spurious assumption that because
WLT uses trams, it is very similar to Croydon Tramlink and is likely to give the same outcomes. There is no evidence
that trams in particular, achieve any better modal shift than other modes.
It will encourage necessary environmental improvements and aid regeneration.
Trolleybuses are zero polluting on street, the same as trams. There are a number of factors which give the confidence
in a transport system such that it aids regeneration [permanence, reliability, speed, frequency etc.]. All of them
can be provided equally well by a trolleybus system as a tram system. It is not trams themselves as the vehicles that
The corridor is a relatively prosperous one, which is in much less need of 'regeneration' than many others. Of the
296 20% most deprived wards that occur within London, only 11 occur within the WLT corridor, of which only 2 rank in
the top half of the total.
Is there a traffic problem now on the A4020; is traffic going to get worse? If not, what
assumptions made by TfL are incorrect?
The A4020 is a well used corridor that, at times, saturates at certain locations. Traffic conditions on the A4020
are, however, no worse than on other comparable main road corridors, and indeed considerably better than some.
There are no particular development plans that relate to the corridor - including the Southall Gasworks site
redevelopment - that suggest a doubling in traffic [TfL figures of 23 to 44 million users].
If TfL are right Uxbridge Road will grid lock before 2011 even without any tramway construction. If TfL are right
the traffic will not be able to be encompassed in any way during the disruption inevitable whilst the entire road
is excavated during the tramway construction phase up to 2011. This aspect has been completely ignored by TfL despite
having caused major problems on other tramway construction projects such as Sheffield, Nottingham and even Croydon
where in each case the road lengths were much shorter and much less used than the Uxbridge Road. It is envisaged
by TfL that the use of the 207/607 bus routes would continue to rise up to 2011. In light of the disruption along
their route during this time, it is inconceivable that this would actually happen.
Are trams the only alternative segregated method to buses? Are the reasons TfL cite for dismissing other alternatives,
such as trolley buses, justified?
Trolleybuses may be regarded as the same as trams, except for rubber tyres, no inherent guidance and lower capacity
per vehicle. By using Kassel kerb guidance at stops, trolleybuses can achieve 50mm vertical/horizontal level
boarding equal to trams. 100% level floors can be achieved with trolleybuses with hub motors. 25m long, 200 passenger
trolleybuses would be suitable for the Uxbridge Road to give increased capacity. Equal segregation, without tracks,
would be entirely feasible.
However, there is a statement that trolleybuses could not carry the same capacity as that predicted for the trams.
This can be easily proved to be false in a simple example of two 18 metre trolleybuses immediately following each
other replacing one 40 metre tram. Whilst this is not proposed as the service in practice, it is clear that it
would use the same road space and junction timings as the tram and carry the same number of passengers. With very
minor disruption, the trolleybus option could use junction capacity better. Using shorter vehicles would give an
increased frequency that would be appreciated by passengers. The staffing cost differential is not significant to
the overall cost.
Are operating cost assumptions correct? Does the tram offer the best return on investment
[capital and operating]?
Previous TfL reports quote better cost/benefit ratios for trolleybuses over trams.
The cost assumptions for a trolleybus solution are not justified and give an over estimate of cost. A comparable
system including equal segregation and passenger capacity would cost no more than 50% that of a tram solution.
Operating costs are inherently lower than trams because of the removed rail maintenance costs.
It would appear that what is an absolute necessity for reliable tram operation [for instance complete removal of
all utilities under the road along the entire route length] have been included in other modal options where they
are by no means essential. It should be noted that power supply systems are common to both modes and can be
What can be learnt from other tram schemes such as those recently developed in Croydon and
Largely segregated light railways achieving high speeds along radial routes from city centres [Croydon and Manchester]
have very little in common with the proposed WLT [all on street] other than the vehicles. Experience in the UK proves
that patronage can be improved and modal change achieved by non tramway schemes and that conversely tramway schemes
can fail to achieve either. It is not simply a question of replacing buses with trams.
What evidence is there that environmental improvements will occur as a result of the West London Tram across the
wider area beyond the A4020?
WLT itself will have a limited and localised effect on the environment, in particular air quality. The use of such
a very large investment for one scheme will inhibit the ability to improve transport and the environment across a
broader area of London. A less expensive trolleybus scheme, with equal environmental advantages, would enable money
to be available for other such schemes, which could produce much greater benefits over a wider area of London.
Potentially, trolleybuses could contribute considerably to improving the health and lifestyle of a large number
What evidence is there that new tram schemes provide economic regeneration to an area?
There is very little evidence that tram schemes have, for instance, increased property prices any more than advanced
bus schemes. Electric transit modes, whether steel or rubber tyred are more likely to attract investors and users as
they display evidence of permanence and commitment, unlike diesel buses.
It is the overall characteristics of the system, in terms of reliability and frequency that produce the end results,
not simply the specific vehicles used on them.