Trolleybuses - An out moded form of travel?
Half a century ago trolleybuses were to be found in most towns and cities throughout the UK and yet a little over a
decade later all were gone leaving the diesel engine bus to dominate public transport facilities.
Environmental considerations were not yet on the agenda, just favourable financial incentives for bus operation with
subsides available for buying new vehicles and the fuel to put into them. At the same time local power stations,
initially built for tramway services, were approaching the end of their life. To add to these woes the 1960's saw massive
inner-city development of ring-roads, one-way systems and the like, creating escalating costs for overhead traction
The trolleybus was in a no win situation with expensive infrastructure renewal against declining revenues due to
the post-war boom in private car ownership; economics were therefore strongly in favour of the diesel bus which could
cope easily with these changing trends. London's once vast trolleybus network was no more after 1962 with the last UK
system, in Bradford, closing in 1972.
Green pressures and oil-dependency worries surfaced just too late to give the trolleybus a reprieve, although Bradford
did consider reversing its abandonment decision in the twilight zone of overhead wiring still in place but
unused. Unfortunately immense pressures on a multitude of other projects meant that budgets were so squeezed that capital
expense savings were too attractive to ignore. Oil was simply seen to be cheap and plentiful for the modern diesel bus,
and any idea that supplies would be disrupted for political reasons was never contemplated. The trolleybus was dead and
burred in the UK.
Just dreaming on
We can only dream on how a London trolleybus might look like today, perhaps like our illustration above, but one thing
is for certain that the air we breath in London today would be less polluted and travel to the 2012 Olympics would have
been possible all the way by electric street transport.