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A resurgence of interest in WLT
A Reassuring Lie The West London Tram project was postponed indefinitely by TfL in August 2007 and yet three years later we can't help notice a resurgence on a number of internet forums suggesting that it was "Time to reconsider implementing this tram scheme". Misinformation and some outrageous trammy propaganda has once again surfaced which needs nipping in the bud to avoid it rooting in the minds of some current or future movers and shakers found in West London. With the continuous turnover of residents of this esteemed London suburb the history of the fight to "Save Ealing's Street" might be unknown.

On this site is presented the arguments to use trolleybuses as an environmentally friendly solution for public transport along the 'Uxbridge corridor' but in the minds of some it won't cut the mustard and they go on the offensive against such an idea. What they say, and our response, is shown below.

STATEMENT
In looking forward, trolleybuses are only a partial solution. Agreed, they are pollution free at the point of use, unlike the bus, but on the other hand, a trolleybus is still just a bus as far as the passenger sees it.

 

RESPONSE
This perpetuates the myth that passengers have some special preference for steel wheels. There is absolutely no objective evidence of this.

STATEMENT
When WLT was being surveyed the first time, the public view of the different transport modes was 1:2:8, with bus being 1 and trams being 8.

 

RESPONSE
People interviewed would have understood 'tram' to be like Croydon and bus like most London buses. Most would have had little idea of what a trolleybus really was. As TfL deliberately misled people into thinking that WLT as a tram would be 'like Croydon Tramlink' (i.e. speedy and reliable), the results were not surprising. Eventually as more and more people found that TfL's words were to put it mildly, not totally accurate, they supported the tram less and less until eventually of course a majority were against the tram. This actually proved that it was the 'speed and reliability 'aspect' that people were going for not steel wheels. Once that was shown to be false no one cared about steel wheels!

STATEMENT
It is true that unlike the tram, they can get around obstructions in the road, but only to a limited extent; too much offset between the wires and the bus significantly increases the risk of dewirement. [Past practice with trolleybuses was to temporarily realign the wires when major road works were involved].

 

RESPONSE
Past practice in London cannot be used to judge modern systems. Trams have come a long way in recent times and so have trolleybuses. Dewirements on a system using essentially pre-war vehicles and overhead that was not always of the best, cannot be compared to modern trolleybus systems no more than the ride on an E1 car on old London track can be compared to Croydon Tramlink. Modern Trolleybuses can of course run off-wire for considerable distances and rewire without need of poles of trolley receivers being used manually. Trolleybuses could be very flexible along the Uxbridge Road. The fixed path of trams on tracks along such a route would have been a reliability disaster.

STATEMENT
It should not be forgotten either that, as a rubber tyred vehicle, the rolling resistance of a trolleybus is much the same as that of a bus, and is considerably higher than that of a steel-wheeled tram. The result is that there is little improvement in energy efficiency compared to the diesel bus, whilst the tram uses far less. This will also reflect back into the design of the overhead, since effectively more power = heavier contact wires.

 

RESPONSE
This is to totally misunderstand physics. Rolling resistance in such operations is of no great importance. Overall efficiency is what counts - energy in to energy actually used to make the vehicle go along. Direct electric vehicles [i.e. not batteries] are very much more efficient in such terms than any internal combustion engine vehicles [conventional or hybrid]. Although trams carry more passengers generally per vehicle [or sometimes more empty seats!], they also have much greater mass than a trolleybus. The energy used per passenger capacity kilometre is thus almost exactly the same between modern tram and modern trolleybus. Evidence of this is available from many systems across the world. This is one of those tramway enthusiast 'urban myths' that just never seems to die, however much evidence is supplied to prove its falsehood!

STATEMENT
Although the trolleybus may not need the utilities diversions that are supposed to be necessary for the construction of any tramway [considered unnecessary if the track was built properly], the relatively fixed path of trolleybuses will still leave its effects on the highway. Bitumen-based highway surfacing's are not solid, and will creep under load - just look at the inside lane of any motorway to see the rutting caused by heavy vehicles. Thus, whilst they may not need track to run on, there is a potential issue with having to reinforce the road; that was recognised at the time WLT was being proposed.

 

RESPONSE
f you do not divert your Utilities to start with when you build your tramway, then you will inevitably pay later [in all senses] when you are later running it, when [not if] there are any problems with such Utilities. This will then suspend your tram routes unpredictably [and possibly frequently if the Utilities are not in good fettle] and require extensive (and expensive) removal of the track to put right the Utility problem. Recovery of costs is no great recompense if your transport system starts to be perceived as unreliable. It is no great surprise that all systems in the UK have chosen to move the Utilities before construction. To not do so is wishful thinking of the 'Russian Roulette' type!

Roads are generally required to be built in the UK to withstand the axle loadings of the heaviest lorries and buses. The only badly rutted roads seen are those that have been badly made in the first place. Comparison of the dynamic stress loads of over 40 tonne artic lorries at 56 mph in continual convoy on a motorway with use by artic trolleybuses on a normal street doing probably less than 30 mph is in any event hardly a reasonable comparison.

The simple fact is that both roads and rails need to be maintained properly to keep them in good condition. The difference is that it is much easier to maintain street road surfaces than rails set in the street. The latter usually requires at least partial suspension of the tram routes with bus replacements [as in Croydon] and if mixed traffic running along the street normally operates, diversion of all such traffic as well for what is usually a quite long period [measured at least in days]. Street resurfacing without rails involved is much simpler, cheaper, quicker and less disruptive to everyone including the public transport system users.

STATEMENT
Trolleybuses may be clean and quiet, but are not a substitute for trams when the passenger flows justify the latter. What we need to do is look at ways of getting the costs of tramways down, both by employing sensible engineering and reducing the fortunes paid to lawyers and consultants in getting them planned, let alone built. Clifton Robinson and his successors at the helm of the London United Tramways, developers of the original Uxbridge Road tramway, would be mortified if they could see the palaver and money-wasting that building a tramway now seems to require.

 

RESPONSE
To compare costs of building anything at the beginning of the 20th. century to costs in the 21st. is both unrealistic and futile. To state the obvious the world of 2010 is not that of 1901! What is more, LUT did not have to worry about the trams getting in the way of other vehicular traffic as there was very little of such at the time. The ever increasing problem of using one piece of roadway for a vehicle with a totally fixed path along with all other [ever increasing] vehicular traffic is of course what sounded the death knell for the first generation trams in the UK. This is an intrinsic problem and does not change however much cheaper you can make building and operating a street tramway [which is probably not all that much].

This is why Croydon [on its largely reserved alignments] is an example of a food genuine light rail system whilst WLT would have been a particularly bad example of a street tramway. For TfL to compare one to the other was due either to an accidental but nonetheless very poor misunderstanding of the systems or was particularly mischievous. Either way it was eventually seen through by most potential users of WLT and the other local members of the public.

In the course of our analysis of WLT, it became obvious that a trolleybus system could very easily cope with what were then the present flows and could even cope with the absurdly optimistic growth in patronage predicted then for the future by TfL. Ordinary diesel buses coped then as they continue to do now. Neither the predicted huge growth in public transport usage along the corridor nor the predicted 'doomsday' scenario of traffic gridlock used to justify the huge expense of a street tramway WLT by TfL has actually occurred.

  Congestion along the Uxbridge Road   The Issues  

Advocating for the best public transport solution along the Uxbridge Road

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