A MODERN TRAMWAY SYSTEM FOR BATH

Introduced by Adrian Tuddenham on 13 January 1998

Trams have many advantages over buses: they use less fuel per km, none when they are stationary. When a tram slows down or runs downhill it returns energy to the overhead wires, saving over 25% of the system's requirements. They do not produce waste rubber tyres, asbestos brake dust, diesel fuel particulates, antifreeze or engine oil; when their tyres eventually wear out they are melted down to make new ones. They do not get into traffic jams, other vehicles should avoid their tracks, which show immediately where the routes are, and trams get priority at junctions. They are so quiet they have to have gongs to warn people they are coming.
They have very good acceleration and can climb a 1:6 hill (Lansdown is 1:8 in some parts) and can therefore run a fast and frequent service. A 7-minute service, 3 minutes in rush hours for some routes, is proposed.
Modern trams are comfortable, smooth-running and can carry two wheelchairs or some bicycles and provide level access from the pavement. They have a conductor as well as a driver to prevent delays at stops whilst tickets are purchased or checked.
They last 50 years and can have a safe 'crush' capacity of over 100 passengers in a double-deck 60 seat vehicle, which would be 10 m long and 2 m wide, weighing 10 - 15 tonnes. Single deckers are possible but require twice the staff for the number carried, unless coupled into a pair.
The tracks can be laid quickly in two parallel 14"wide x 7"deep trenches which do not generally interfere with services or affect the vaults under some roads
The proposed routes in Bath consist of a central one-way ring around Dorchester St, St. James' Parade (perhaps diverting to the Coach Station), Sawclose, Upper Borough Walls, Bridge St, Grand Parade and Manvers St on which passengers would travel free of charge!!
Express services would radiate from the ring to each Park & Ride site with the route looping round the ring and returning to the same P&R site.
Residential services would also run on the P&R routes and on routes radiating similarly: 1) via Larkhall to Batheaston and perhaps Bathford; 2) to Weston & Newbridge; 3) to Twerton; 4) to Oldfield Park, Southdown and Whiteway; 5) to Odd Down and Combe Down; 6) a loop to Walcot and Bathwick.
The system is not like the Manchester and Sheffield tramways, which use much bigger vehicles mostly on disused railway lines. It is designed for Bath's narrow streets. The overhead wires with pantograph pick-ups are much less obtrusive than the old mast & wheel pick-up system.
During the discussion it was noted that Bristol is proposing to install a system in 2002 which might be linked with a Bath system eventually, and 50 other towns are investigating the possibilities. The pre-war system was dismantled because the 1870 Tramways Act authorised local authorities to compulsorily purchase the vehicles and track at scrap metal price, which resulted in no investment to upgrade the system from its installation in 1903.
Buses would still run circular routes outside the city centre and provide feeder services to the trams.
The total cost of the proposed system is estimated at £60-70 million and a Day Conference on April 25th at Green Park organised by Mr Tuddenham will present more information on the technical aspects and on methods of financing the construction and operation of a system.
Don Lovell