Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum by Transport for London (LR 77)



  Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for all public transport in London, except National Rail. It plans, implements and operates light rail and tramway systems in London, the Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink. Plans to extend these systems are in progress and new tram routes are planned. Light rail can bring major benefits, particularly to support the local economy, encourage regeneration and attract car users to public transport. Light rail can bring a step change in quality and capacity at much lower cost than new rail or underground lines. While most surface routes will remain as bus served, tramways are a more cost effective solution on very heavy corridors. New routes must be fully integrated and have strong political and stakeholder support. Barriers include long timescales, difficulties in funding, and complex procurement methods. TfL strongly believes the Government should support local economies by investment in light rail where appropriate to combat congestion, pollution and global warming and encourage urban regeneration.


  1.  Transport for London (TfL) is an executive arm of the Greater London Authority (GLA) reporting to the Mayor. Its role is to implement the Mayor's Transport Strategy and to manage transport facilities across Greater London. TfL manages almost all transport modes in London apart from National Rail (NR), including London's buses, London Underground (LUL), the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) London Trams, the central London congestion charging scheme and the TfL road network. It also runs London River Services, Victoria Coach Station, Dial-a-Ride and London's Transport Museum and regulates taxis and the private hire trade.

  2.  Every day, London buses carry six million passengers, London Underground carries more than three million, the Docklands Light Railway carries 170,000 and Croydon Tramlink carries about 60,000 passengers. The London Plan forecast to 2016 gives an increase of at least 800,000 population and over 600,000 extra jobs. This will result in 25% more public transport trips per day. Strong growth is expected in central and East London and in town centres. The overall increase in passenger kms in the morning peak will be 38%. Against this demand, increases in supply are expected to total an extra 36% across the network, hence significant overcrowding on some rail services is predicted to continue.

  3.  The term "light rail" covers a wide spectrum from street running tramways to light metro. The two existing light rail systems in London, DLR and Tramlink, have very different characteristics with DLR being at the "heavy" end of the light rail spectrum and Croydon Tramlink having many tramway features. This Memorandum refers primarily to light rail systems with significant tramway characteristics. A summary of Croydon Tramlink is given in Appendix 1. (DLR is submitting a separate Memorandum to the Committee, reflecting their particular system and its recognised success.)

  4.  TfL's role in "The Future of Light Rail and Modern Trams in Britain" is as strategic transport planner, promoter and operator. In addition to the two operational systems, several more are at an advanced planning stage including West London Tram (WLT, a 20 km route between Shepherd's Bush and Uxbridge), Cross River Tram (CRT, a 16 km route linking Camden and King's Cross with Peckham and Brixton) and extensions to Croydon Tramlink, particularly the 5 km Crystal Palace extension. The DLR will be extended from London City Airport to Woolwich Arsenal and from Canning Town to Stratford International and the Bank to Lewisham route will be upgraded for three-car operation. All these projects are included for development in TfL's five year Investment Plan for 2005-06 to 2009-10, although the tramway schemes are not yet fully funded for construction. They are shown in Figure 1.


  5.  The ever increasing demand for travel, and the need to manage the resulting adverse impacts such as congestion and environmental degradation, requires a package of transport measures. Investment in light rail is a potentially powerful element in a strategy which embraces expansion of public transport modes, traffic management and restraint, parking control, improved pedestrian and cycling facilities and congestion charging.

  6.  Where corridor flows are high, light rail can offer an attractive option which has greater capacity than the bus but is much cheaper than a new underground or heavy rail line. It therefore fills the gap between buses and railways. Importantly, light rail has clearly demonstrated that it can attract car users to change mode and encourage development and land value gain. The potential benefits of light rail include:

    —  providing a greater range of capacity-cost options than available from just bus and train;

    —  a high capacity public transport option at lower costs than a new underground or heavy rail line;

    —  faster journey times than buses operating in mixed traffic;

    —  more reliable journey times due to high levels of priority;

    —  de-congestion benefits resulting from modal shift from cars;

    —  guaranteed full accessibility with level boarding and alighting at every stop;

    —  increased social inclusion by linking areas of deprivation and economic opportunity;

    —  local environmental benefits from electric traction, reduced noise, vibration and pollution;

    —  encouraging regeneration and increased property values due to improved accessibility;

    —  improving the local economy through easier access to customers and employees; and

    —  creating a modern and dynamic image, generating civic pride and attracting investment.

  7.  The capital costs for light rail projects in London are shown in Table 1 below. The relatively low cost of Croydon Tramlink results from about two thirds of the network being on former railway alignments. The relatively high cost of DLR is because of the need for extensive tunnels and viaducts, particularly the complex Bank extension. These costs also include major upgrading of the system and new vehicles which was necessary because the initial design was tightly constrained by available resources. If DLR had been built originally for its current patronage, costs would have been significantly lower.

Table 1


Year open
Capital cost
(2003 prices)
Capital cost
per km
(million per

Docklands Light Railway
49 (a)
Croydon Tramlink
22 (a)
Croydon-Crystal Palace ext
3.5 (f)
West London Tram
44 (f)
Cross River Tram
66 (f)

  (1) Excluding DfT 40% optimism bias. Q4 2002 prices.

(2) Includes 40% optimism bias and risk premium.

(3) includes 57% optimism bias and risk premium. (a) actual (f) forecast.

  8.  Capital costs for all UK light rail schemes are shown in Appendix 2 which also includes light rail lines built in France and Ireland for comparison. The cost of Croydon Tramlink was comparable to other similar UK schemes, as was the initial DLR system which also made extensive use of railway alignments. The DLR Bank extension was very expensive because of tunneling costs and the major works necessary at Bank to provide good interchange with LUL lines. It also included new rolling stock as the original fleet was not suitable for tunnel operation. Costs of lines in Ireland and France are generally within the range £10 million to £20 million per km. French costs often include a high element of environmental works including pedestrianisation, landscaping and additional features. However they do not include service diversions which are largely not charged to the light rail project. The average capital cost for all new lines built in Britain is £14.7 million per km at 2003 prices compared with £14.2 million per km in France. Considering the wide range of types of scheme, and the different approaches to funding and procurement, these figures are remarkably close.

  9. Table 2 gives indicative operating costs for different modes. Bus operating costs vary according to the type and location of route and the extent of priority. Bus operating costs per vehicle km are low compared to rail based systems but the cost per passenger place km is lowest for rail based systems because of their higher capacity. Light rail operating costs are comparable to bus operating costs but can be considerably cheaper where bus costs are high, as for example in congested urban corridors.

Table 2


Operating cost
per vehicle
Operating cost per
passenger place

Light Rail (Tramlink)
Light Metro (DLR)
£5.2, £10.3*

  * cost per train km.

  10.  Where there is strong demand in an urban corridor, light rail can offer a cost effective alternative to the bus. Substantial investment is required to construct new lines but the range of benefits to the community and businesses makes this investment extremely worthwhile. There can also be major cost savings in total operating costs where light rail or tramways are able to replace some bus services and integrate with others.

  11.  The National Audit Office (NAO) report found that in all but one of the six light rail schemes built in Britain (excluding Nottingham which had not then been completed), the DfT expenditure has been kept within budget.[21] Despite this fact, the DfT now require up to 57% optimism bias to be included in capital cost estimates for rail schemes, compared to up to 32% for road based schemes. This places light rail at a disadvantage compared to other forms of transport investment and makes justification for new schemes more difficult. The basis for this "optimism bias" is debatable as it appears to be designed to reflect cost escalation through increasing private sector risk premiums and borrowing costs resulting from inappropriate procurement, funding and risk transfer models rather than a genuine increase in the base cost of the works and services. TfL is of the view that tramways and light railways are well understood technologies (over 125 years old) and there is no justification for this differential.


  12.  Light rail is only a feasible option where major urban corridor flows of at least 2,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) exist or are predicted in the peak direction. Flows may be considerably in excess of this figure, for example on CRT where the demand is expected to be over 6,000 pphpd. Routes should link major traffic generators and attractors such as town centres, shopping centres, major rail stations and interchanges, hospitals and universities, and areas of deprivation with areas of economic opportunity. Stops or stations should be located as close as possible to passenger objectives to minimise walking distances. The successful new French tramway networks are all designed along these principles.

  13.  A high degree of public transport priority is essential to maintain one of the most important characteristics of light rail: reliability. There is a wide range of priority measures that can be adopted including reserved lanes, segregated alignments (eg former railways), tram or bus and tram only streets and priority at traffic signals. A key principle that should be adopted is re-allocation of road space in favour of sustainable modes: public transport, cycles and pedestrians. This may result in a reduction of vehicular capacity but it will increase total person capacity and reduce adverse environmental impacts. Modal shift from the car towards public transport is essential if traffic congestion and all its undesirable effects are to be seriously tackled and a more balanced transport policy achieved. The UK transport appraisal system usually sees such road space reallocation as a transport "disbenefit" to car drivers, tipping policy away from public transport schemes.

  14.  For light rail to be successful it must be protected from the effects of delays and congestion created by other traffic. The degree to which a project is prioritised, in terms of dedicated space, needs to be taken into account when determining a project's viability and Business Case. Schemes with a high degree of interaction with existing traffic and local conditions are by definition more complex in both design and operational terms. As an example, all the new French tram systems are fully segregated (mainly within the highway) with no track sharing with traffic and this undoubtedly contributes to their success.

  15.  The route of a tramway or light rail line will need to be re-engineered to accommodate tracks, stations and overhead power supply. The full range of traffic management measures needs to be employed to ensure the efficient operation of the tramway and the maintenance of all other functions along the route, particularly access to frontage properties. Traffic management may need to be applied on adjacent roads and corridors to mitigate any potential adverse impacts from diverted traffic. The recent highly successful Dublin light rail system, Luas, shows however what can be achieved even in a very congested highway network.

  16.  Light rail must be fully integrated within the public transport network if it is to reach its full potential. In London this can be achieved through TfL's strategic powers and its ability to plan the bus, rail, light rail and tram networks comprehensively. This is in marked contrast to the rest of Britain where integration cannot be achieved because of bus deregulation and the implications of the Competition Act. DLR and Tramlink are already fully integrated into London's transport network, as explained below.

  17.  Light rail must also be well integrated with the urban development that it serves. It can reinforce and support redevelopment and regeneration programmes, as dramatically demonstrated by the DLR in the Isle of Dogs and beyond. There is evidence that Tramlink is strengthening the local economy of Croydon and again that Luas has had a significant locational effect on Dublin property values.

  18.  Another essential ingredient is political will and stakeholder support, at national, regional and local levels. Introducing a new light rail or tramway line into already busy urban areas is a complex task affecting all members of the community. There must be strong support for the project across the spectrum of interests. It is inevitable that although most people will benefit from the investment there will be some who are adversely affected and their concerns need to be addressed and mitigated as far as possible. Scheme benefits may take several years to develop as the community responds to the availability of new infrastructure and it is essential to maintain long-term commitment.

  19.  The timescale for implementation of any tramway is inevitably protracted in the UK legal system, usually taking at least 10 years from inception to operation. It is essential to maintain a commitment to a longer-term vision for a new transport system that can bring great benefits to the community.


  20.  Light rail is a high quality intermediate mode which fits into the range of public transport systems between the bus and the Underground or National Rail networks. Its benefits can only be realised to the full if it is effectively integrated with all other transport modes. Integration includes planning, implementation and operation and embraces service timetabling, integrated fares and ticketing, publicity and information, marketing and interchanges for easy transfer between modes. DLR and Croydon Tramlink already meet these criteria as will any new transit systems in London in the future.

  21.  Integrated fares are now available on all public transport modes throughout Greater London through the Oyster smartcard. It embraces Travelcards, bus season tickets and pre-payment for single journeys and can be purchased through tube or rail stations, information offices or on-line.

  22.  Interchanges are a key element in integration. TfL has an ongoing programme of interchange development for the provision of new and upgrading of existing interchanges. The extent to which the existing systems are integrated is illustrated by DLR which has seven interchanges with LUL, six with NR and many with buses. Croydon Tramlink has seven interchanges with NR, six with buses and one with LUL. CRT will have 10 interchanges with LUL, six with NR and numerous interchange points with buses.

  23.  Integration also means providing for other modes to access bus or rail based systems. They may include park and ride, kiss and ride, cycle and ride and access for taxis. In dense urban areas the scope for these modes may be very limited and each location needs to be carefully planned to meet the specific needs appropriate to the area. Integration with the pedestrian network is crucial as nearly all public transport journeys start and end on foot.

  24.  Light rail has been effectively integrated in the transport network in Greater London and any new transit system, whether bus or rail based, will be similarly planned, operated and marketed as part of the integrated network. This cannot be achieved elsewhere in Britain where integration is legally constrained although some limited integration exists where tram and predominant bus operators are the same, as in the West Midlands and Nottingham. Lack of integration is one key factor in the general decline in public transport patronage outside London compared with continuing growth in London.


  25.  As highlighted previously by the Committee, there are a number of barriers to the introduction of new light rail or tramway schemes which make the development process difficult to manage and unpredictable.[22] One major element is the protracted timescale for obtaining authorisation. Until 1992 authority was obtained through the Parliamentary Bill procedure but it is now obtained through the Transport and Works Act 1992. Table 3 below shows the time taken from deposit of the Bill or Draft Order to obtaining Royal Assent.

  26.  With the exception of the Bank extension which took only just over a year, most schemes have taken 2 to 2½ years or more. Outside London timescales have been even longer, for example 31 months for South Hampshire and 38 months for Leeds. The uncertainty over the period for approval makes project planning and implementation difficult to programme. Uncertainty also increases costs and the risks in seeking funding are greater. There is now some evidence that times can be reduced, as achieved for DLR Woolwich Arsenal extension and Mersey Tram in Liverpool which took only 14 months. In Ireland a procedure modelled on a streamlined version of the TWA was used for authorising the Dublin Luas light rail lines in less than nine months, including public inquiries.

Table 3


Royal Assent

November 1982
DLR Tower Gateway-Isle of Dogs
Parl Powers
April 1984
17 months
November 1983
DLR Poplar-Stratford
Parl Powers
April 1985
17 months
November 1985
DLR Bank extension
Parl Powers
December 1986
13 months
November 1986
DLR Beckton extension
Parl Powers
July 1989
32 months
November 1990
DLR Lewisham extension
Parl Powers
May 1993
30 months
November 1991
Croydon Tramlink
Parl Powers
July 1994
32 months
November 1991
DLR Lewisham (No 2)
Parl Powers
May 1993
18 months
March 2000
DLR Silvertown and London City Airport extension
March 2002
24 months
July 2002
DLR Woolwich Arsenal extension
February 2004
19 months

  27.  Light rail projects have high capital costs compared to bus schemes although significantly lower costs than new underground lines. Obtaining funding is in itself a major barrier. It is inevitable that major complex projects which involve a multiplicity of high risks require large capital investment which will be difficult to secure from public or private sources. Serious concerns over escalating cost estimates for some light rail projects have resulted in the DfT requiring an "optimism bias" loading of up to 57% on capital costs (as described in paragraph 11). This has for example resulted in the estimated cost for West London Tram increasing from £463 million to £648 million. This makes any approaches to prospective private sector funders more difficult. The complex procurement methods required by DfT have had a major impact on the rate of progress and costs of light rail projects. This is developed further below.

  28.  The methods of appraisal and criteria which have to be adopted in the justification for a light rail scheme often require studies over a number of years before adequate evidence can be presented to satisfy the DfT. Investigation of alternative solutions may be necessary even when such alternatives are clearly impracticable. This is another risk factor which makes programming unpredictable.

  29.  For street running systems there are close interactions with frontagers (owners or occupiers of residential or commercial property along the route) and with all the activities that may be expected along a main urban corridor. Objections may arise, especially where changes are needed to access arrangements, traffic circulation, parking and loading restrictions. There may be local environmental concerns particularly if conservation areas, listed buildings, parks, gardens or trees are likely to be affected by any works. Objections are also likely from residents in adjacent areas if there are perceived to be potential adverse impacts, for example from diverted traffic. All these concerns must be fully addressed by the promoter through a detailed programme of survey, analysis, consultation and discussion with all affected. Close liaison with stakeholders including local groups needs to be maintained throughout the planning and design process. TfL has aimed to ease this barrier by extensive consultation and involvement of stakeholders at key stages of the planning process.

  30.  Street running light rail requires major works to divert or protect statutory undertakers plant and equipment. Most of the cost of these works falls to the light rail scheme. The change in promoter contributions to utilities diversions under the New Roads and Street Works Act has resulted in an additional capital cost, equivalent to 2.5% to 3% of total capital cost. This would have amounted to £2 million in Croydon and will add some £10 million to the cost of WLT.

  31.  Any major building project impacts on those around it during construction and this especially applies to tram systems along busy urban corridors. Some adverse impacts are impossible to avoid and special attention to individual needs has to be made as works progress. Consultation and close working arrangements between contractors, highway authorities, transport operators and frontagers can help to alleviate problems and provide avenues of communication to resolve issues as they arise. Well designed temporary traffic management schemes can greatly assist in maintaining access and minimising disruption. The Traffic Management Act 2004 should go some way to ensuring that best practice in management of the network during construction is adopted across the country.

  32.  There is a multiplicity of agencies involved in developing any light transit project. In London they include TfL itself, DfT, the Mayor, ODPM, HM Treasury, the London Boroughs, the London Development Agency, Statutory Undertakers and Network Rail. Many other bodies need to be involved or consulted at various stages in the development of any project. This process has to be managed carefully to ensure that all interests are fully recognised and taken into account in the design and implementation of the project.

  33.  A new organisation, UKTram has been formed as a national tramways forum to allow the tramway industry to develop a coordinated and unified front in dealing with government and statutory bodies. It seeks to develop national standards, reflecting an earlier recommendation made by the Committee,[23] and best practice guidelines for the design, construction and operation of tramways and to provide a pool of technical and operational expertise that can be drawn upon at local, national or international government level. TfL (London Trams) is a founder member and administrator of UKTram. It is hoped that it will help to ease or remove some of the barriers that currently exist in developing light rail and tramway schemes, particularly those identified in the NAO report. DfT is supporting the work of UK Tram, and is a board observer.

  34.  A major barrier to the development of light rail outside London is the inability to integrate tram and bus networks but this does not apply in London where TfL has powers to fully integrate all public transport modes. This is common practice on the Continent where investment in public transport over the last 35 years has led to a sustained, or even increased market share, unlike most UK cities.

  35.  A potential barrier is posed by proposed changes to the rail safety regime. During 2004, HSE launched a consultation on its proposals for changes to the way in which safety on light rail systems, particularly tramways, is assured. Elements of these proposals, formalising the requirements for tram systems to implement formal safety management systems are welcomed within the industry. However, the critical proposals regarding safety authorisations envisage the responsibility for providing public assurance for safety being transferred from government to private consultancy firms. It is the view of TfL and of the industry that this proposal is unworkable and that it will present a real and significant risk to the future safety, affordability and deliverability of tramway systems and that it may present an uninsurable risk to those responsible for safety approvals, operators contractors and promoters.

  36.  The European Commission has recently launched it proposals for an Urban Rail Directive (URD) that seeks to harmonise the approaches to safety assurance and subsystem standards and certification across the EU. TfL has been actively involved in EU harmonisation projects for the tram industry and considers that, whilst the detail of the URD and its implementation in the UK will need considerable development, the basic intent of the URD is consistent with its own vision for tramway development as well as the recommendations of the NAO. The HSE's proposals for change to tramway safety regulations appear to be contrary to the URD proposals. If adopted, the URD may well lead to a reduction in the cost and risk associated with tramway development and implementation.


  37.  There is a wide range of financing arrangements which have been used for light rail schemes in Britain, usually linked to the method of procurement for the design, construction and operation of the system. The traditional approach of wholly public sector funded and procured projects was adopted for most schemes until the 1980s when new approaches were sought. Concerns about cost overruns, extended construction programmes and lack of availability of public funding encouraged new methods which could attract private sector contributions. It would be difficult to determine the effects of the different methods on overall project costs because the financing arrangement is only one of many variables but some comments and conclusions can be drawn from experience to date.

  38.  There are two basic approaches: franchising and track separation. Franchising involves a concession agreement between promoter and contractor. A consortium of suppliers covering construction, rolling stock and operations provide and operate the system for a fixed term, usually between 15 and 30 years (99 years in the case of Tramlink), through a form of DBFOM (design, build, finance, operate, maintain) contract. Several UK light rail projects (in Manchester, Birmingham, Croydon and Nottingham) were procured using this arrangement. However this form of contract has proved to be very complex resulting in extended timescales for tendering and high costs. Concession arrangements have not always been effective as construction companies have little interest in the long-term operation of the system. It can prove inflexible when extensions have been built requiring the initial contract to be terminated and a new contract for the whole network to be procured, again adding complexity, lengthy timescales and additional costs. In the case of Manchester Metrolink the cost of refranchising alone was £80 million. Concessionaires have been faced with heavy bidding costs and unreasonably long tendering periods. In addition, substantial risk premiums have been imposed with the passenger revenue streams associated with these arrangements. Although it would be difficult to determine what the effect has been on overall costs, it is now generally recognised that this approach has severe limitations. We strongly believe that more efficient methods of procurement must be found if any new light rail schemes are to be built.

  39.  The second basic approach, track separation, has been used for the Lewisham, London City Airport and Woolwich Arsenal extensions to DLR. A private sector consortium builds and finances the infrastructure and then "rents" it to the operator. Separate operations franchises can run in parallel with the track construction contracts. Initial indications are that this form of contract has worked well and that separating construction from operations is likely to offer more cost effective solutions. A variety of innovative procurement methods related to this system are presently under development for UK light rail schemes.

  40.  One major factor in determining costs is the approach to risk allocation. In the late eighties and early nineties a key Government objective was to maximise risk transfer to the private sector. There are major risks with tramway projects which are inevitably complex with many interfaces with other authorities, public bodies and the public in general. Revenue risk is a key factor particularly where bus competition exists. It is now becoming accepted that a more realistic form of risk sharing between public and private sectors needs to be adopted. TfL is currently studying options for procurement and funding of TfL's future tramway projects. UKTram will be working with the DfT to develop a consistent, attractive and economic set of models for procuring, funding and risk management on future tramway schemes.


  41.  Light rail and tramways are two modes in the range of public transport modes, as illustrated in the Table in Appendix 3. They are complementary to buses and not competitors. The Committee previously recommended that the Government should adopt a "horses for courses" approach.[24] This is still the case and this philosophy underpins the programme of transit projects which form TfL's strategic plan including rail based and bus based schemes.

  42.  Light rail and buses must be part of an integrated network, each performing the role to which it is best suited. As demand patterns change and growth in public transport demand continues, changes to the network are needed to meet this demand in the most cost effective way. In developing all the transit projects to date, TfL has undertaken extensive research to determine the most appropriate technical solution. In some cases this has resulted in light rail or tram schemes (Tramlink extensions, WLT, CRT) and in some cases bus based schemes (Greenwich Waterfront Transit (GWT), 12 km linking Greenwich with Woolwich and Thamesmead, and East London Transit (ELT), 11 km linking Ilford, Barking and Dagenham). It must be noted that whatever tramway schemes may be developed in the future, the majority of surface public transport passengers will always travel by bus.

  43.  London has the largest planned bus network in the world with over 7,000 buses. Bus patronage is growing at the fastest rate since 1945 and buses are carrying the highest number of passengers since 1969. This is in marked contrast to the situation in the rest of Britain where bus use is still generally declining. Table 4 shows the patronage trends for buses and light rail in London and the rest of England for the last seven years. Bus patronage in London and light rail patronage in London and the rest of England have grown almost continuously over this period while bus patronage in the England outside London has continued to decline. In London bus patronage increased by over 10% in the year to March 2004. Accommodating this growth presents a particular challenge, especially in major urban corridors, and is one important reason that TfL is developing light rail, tramway and other intermediate capacity transit systems.

Table 4



% change
England outside London
% change
Light rail
% change
England outside London
% change

  (p) = provisional.

  44.  A key factor is the level of priority that can be provided to achieve competitive journey times and good reliability. While buses can benefit from reserved lanes and other forms of priority, tramways can utilise a wider range of alignment types including street track, railway track, grassed tracks, pedestrian areas, tunnels and viaducts. Reserved tram lanes on streets are more easily "self enforcing" and must usually apply 24 hours per day compared to bus lanes which are often peak period only. In all cases rigorous traffic enforcement is the only way to guarantee effectiveness.

  45.  The capacity that buses can provide is adequate to meet existing and future demand levels on most parts of the bus network. Where demand is very high, as on some major urban radial routes, then larger capacity vehicles may be needed. Articulated buses have now been introduced on many routes with a passenger capacity of 120. The maximum permitted length of a bus is currently 18 metres but 24 metres double articulated buses are operating in some European cities with a capacity of about 150. Trams can operate in lengths up to 60 metres and can therefore have much higher capacity than a bus, up to 400 passengers (Croydon's 30 metres vehicles carry 208), and offer substantially higher productivity.

  46.  At demand levels of 2,000 pphpd or less, buses will usually be cheaper (as a total of capital and operating costs). Above this level trams may be cheaper in lower construction cost corridors. In higher cost corridors, such as Central London, the threshold is nearer 4,000 pphpd. This is illustrated in the diagrams in Appendix 4 which show the total capital and operating costs per place km against capacity in places per hour for buses, buses with priority and street trams. While buses can provide capacities well above 4,000 pphpd, their speed and reliability rapidly decreases at higher bus flows.

  47.  A new tram route provides a major step change in performance compared to an incremental approach with upgraded bus routes through bus lanes and other measures. A tram route must be engineered over the whole route. The level of benefits that can be achieved is significantly higher than can easily be achieved with buses including speed, reliability and consequent modal shift. A tramway can complement congestion charging and help to maximise the benefits of a package approach.

  48.  For any highway based public transport route, priority can be given at traffic signals to minimise delays and help to maintain reliability. However high levels of priority can generally only be provided in London if the public transport vehicle flow is not more than 20-25 per hour. For buses this is equivalent to 2,400 pphpd and for trams around 7,000 pphpd. Above this level regular bunching of trams or buses will occur with a decrease in service reliability. Therefore trams can offer a higher capacity with high priority than buses. This is an important factor in determining the most cost effective mode for projects such as West London Tram and Cross River Tram.


  49.  In its earlier report,[25] the Committee made 17 recommendations for the development of light rapid transit systems. These are still valid today. Some progress has been made since then with the opening of Croydon Tramlink in 2000, the Sunderland extension to Tyne and Wear Metro in 2002 and Nottingham Express Transit in 2004. Elsewhere in Britain progress has been slow with many schemes stalled. No more light rail lines will open in London before 2010 apart from the DLR extensions to London City Airport, Woolwich Arsenal and Stratford International.

  50.  Light rail can bring a wide range of benefits to urban areas as shown by the success of Croydon Tramlink and DLR. Projects currently being planned by TfL: WILT, CRT and Tramlink extensions, could bring similar benefits to many more Londoners. While capital costs are high, they are much lower than the cost of new underground or heavy rail lines. Operating costs per passenger place km are significantly lower than for buses at high passenger volumes, as shown in Table 2.

  51.  To be successful light rail needs a high level of priority and it must be fully integrated with other modes such as bus and underground and with the urban development that it serves. It must have strong political and stakeholder support.

  52.  In London, light rail systems are effectively part of the integrated public transport network. This is a key reason for their success. However only London benefits from this level of integration and the Government should seek to extend it to the rest of Britain to maximise the benefits from the major public investment that light rail schemes require.

  53.  There are many barriers to light rail development. Key factors are the timescales for authorisation under the TWA procedure, costs and timescales for securing funding, issues regarding risk transfer, high capital costs including statutory undertakers' diversions, the need for stakeholder support and disruption during construction. Some of these barriers can be overcome by the promoter but many need intervention by Government to ease or assist the smooth and efficient progress of projects to fruition.

  54.  The financing arrangements, coupled with the method of procurement, remains the single most important issue. Methods used to date have successfully achieved construction and operation of light rail but with lengthy timescales and complex forms of contract. Separating construction from operation is a more attractive approach but further investigation of options is needed to achieve lower costs and shorter timescales and a more realistic allocation of risk.

  55.  The role of light rail or tramways is as an intermediate capacity mode. They fill the wide gap between buses and railways and as such are not an alternative to buses. Buses will continue to serve lower density corridors where demand levels do not justify major investment and they will always remain the mainstay of the surface public transport network. Buses can be complemented by tramways and light railways in key corridors of demand which cannot justify investment in heavy rail lines.

  56.  The Government should support local economies by investment in light rail where appropriate. This is consistent with policies to combat congestion, pollution and global warming and urban regeneration.

  57.  TfL will appreciate continuing support from the DfT for UKTram which will assist the future development and resolution of issues for light rail and tramway projects.

February 2005

21   Improving Public Transport in England through Light Rail. HC 518 (April 2004). Back

22   Light Rapid Transit Systems. Eighth Report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. HC 153 (May 2000). Back

23   Light Rapid Transit Systems (paragraph 64). Back

24   Light Rapid Transit Systems (paragraph 56). Back

25   Light Rapid Transit Systems. Back

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