Memorandum by AEA Technology Rail (RT
AEA Technology Rail has considerable experience
as consultants to Light Rapid Transit (LRT) systems, in particular
concerning interface issues with heavy rail and the application
of the "shared track" concept. We consider that LRT
will be extremely successful provided it is properly planned and
applied in situations where it is appropriate.
We believe that fixed track systems have distinct
advantages which make them a significantly more attractive form
of public transport and that LRT is a particularly cost effective
way of creating them in typical UK contemporary urban conditions.
We also believe that many of the advantages claimed for more flexible
systems make these less attractive in practice.
In the past decade, significant developments
have taken place that have the potential for reducing the cost
and increasing the value of LRT. These include "Track sharing",
the interworking of heavy rail and LRT on the same tracks, and
"Ultra Light Rail", the concept of using much smaller
lighter vehicles and considerably cheaper systems where demand
is less. There is also scope for making much more intensive use
of existing urban rail networks by conversion or track sharing
and extending them into city and town centres as LRT.
We believe that LRT has a major role to play
because it can use existing road and rail systems, unlike more
novel systems that require all new infrastructures, and it can
have a significant impact on travel behaviour. It enables other
measures that improve city life, such as extensive pedestrianisation
and car restraint to be introduced.
Our experience suggests that to encourage private
investment in schemes it will be essential to remove significant
barriers that add cost, risk and time delays. In particular the
Transport and Works Act Order process must be reviewed for LRT
applications and the issues associated with the high costs and
uncertainties of diverting statutory undertaking services also
need to be tackled. We consider that it would be in the national
interest to give more protection to potential LRT alignments,
which can so easily be blocked by short-sighted developments.
1. AEA TECHNOLOGY
1.1 AEA Technology Rail is one of the 10
businesses of AEA Technology plc, one of Britain's leading science
and engineering companies. Main markets are oil and gas, rail,
defence, pharmaceuticals, utilities and infrastructure, processing
and manufacture, and the nuclear industry together with government
and public sector organisations. It operates in over 30 countries
and had a turnover of £358 million in 1998-99.
1.2 AEA Technology Rail incorporates two
former BR businesses, namely BR Research and TCI Ltd. (Transportation
Consultants International). We have over 400 employees. Our expertise
derives from over 30 years experience serving the British railway
1.3 Our activities in Light Rapid Transit
(LRT) are relatively small but not insignificant. In 1998-99 we
undertook around £0.5 million of consultancy work for LRT
clients, mainly in the UK. We have taken a leading role in issues
at the interface between conventional rail and LRT such as shared
track and ensuring the safe operation of the Railtrack system
where electromagnetic compatibility is an issue. Our earliest
significant role was in the "Light Rail for London"
study of 1986, a joint LT and BR activity which contributed to
the Croydon Tramlink scheme.
1.4 We undertake feasibility studies, technical
consultancy and safety case work. We are also a member of the
Citylink Consortium that is planning to form a joint venture with
Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils to create a LRT system.
We are members of UITP and give presentations at conferences on
LRT topics. Our overall experience has therefore given us a first-hand
awareness of the critical issues, which will influence the future
of LRT in this country.
2.1 LRT is a relatively modern term that
we believe orginated in the USA to describe transport systems
that some European cities had developed from tramways in the post
war era. The term means different things in different countries,
even in the UK there are considerable differences between existing
systems constructed. We understand the essential features of a
LRT system as being (so far as the UK is concerned):
A passenger rail system where the
vehicles have the capability to operate in a street environment
and on unfenced tramways.
Street running is confined to locations
where the increased access it provides justifies the reduced journey
time compared with running on a segregated route. Operation in
streets mixed in with general traffic is kept to the absolute
2.2 The characteristics of LRT systems are
well known and follow from these fundamental definitions.
2.3 There has been steady development of
LRT systems worldwide over the past 30 years, both as a much cheaper
option than full scale metros and as a means of providing public
transport that can effectively combat congestion.
2.4 We believe that the varied success of
LRT has everything to do with how it is applied, the design process
in particular, rather than the mode itself.
OF LRT COMPARED
3.1 LRT is a fixed track system. The track
provides both guidance and support. We see the attractions of
fixed track systems as:
People like them and use them in
preference to buses. This is difficult to quantify or explain
but critical for effectiveness and modal share objectives.
Fixed systems do not change very
often. Users get to know them and understand the system easily.
Permanence encourages people to plan
their lives around the system with ocnfidence, they will make
transport choices based on its use. It also encourages businesses
to develop along the routes, which in turn concentrates development,
so that it can be more effectively served by public transport.
Easy level access is possible. Prams
and buggies can be eaily pushed on board as well as wheelchairs.
This is very difficult with non fixed track systems.
The system can be seen (unless it
is underground) and advertises itself.
Ride comfort depends on the track;
the vehicle is constrained to curve smoothly and there are no
sharp jerks. Elderly people do not have to grip handrails to avoid
being thrown about. Comfort is assured by the system, not the
skills of the driver.
Electric traction is easier to provide,
with its advantages of low pollution.
3.2 LRT has attractions over other forms
of fixed track systems, the principal ones being:
It is considerably cheaper and much
easier to access than underground railways or various forms of
elevated or underground automated railways and people movers.
It is also much cheaper and significantly
less environmentally intrusive than building new conventional
railways in urban areas. It can serve a greater number of stops.
Compared with monorails it will be
easier to access, far less intrusive and more cost effective in
moving large number of people. Stops will be much cheaper.
Compared with conventional tramways
it will be of a higher quality, in particular in terms of journey
time, as a result of greater segregation from other road traffic.
The infrastructure may be cheaper
than guided busways in certain circumstances.
Various novel systems that also provide
street running on fixed track systems, such as GLT/TVR, Electronic
Guided Bus systems and STREAM have the disadvantages of being
at an early stage of development and the lack of choice of suppliers.
There may be no guarantee that one will be able to replace equipment
in the future. Track costs of novel systems often ignore the support
function of the track, i.e. assume that the road is provided free,
this is not always appropriate.
3.3 There is an upper limit on LRT system
capacity, but when this is exceeded it will be worth considering
building two or more routes in the same broad corridor rather
than say an underground railway.
3.4 An important advantage of LRT is the
ability to serve pedestrian areas safely and effectively since
it allows city centres to be pedestrianised to a greater extent
with LRT providing access and internal transport. "Flexible"
routed transport systems run into difficulties matching this capability.
The existence of large pedestrian areas and other traffic constraints,
enabled by LRT, is a positive encouragement to a mode shift away
from private transport.
4.1 Clearly LRT is not appropriate for all
transport needs and we only consider here the disadvantages which
apply in situations where a system might realistically be considered:
"It is expensive compared with
buses, even though it is much cheaper than metros etc." This
is true, but cost effectiveness is what matters. Costs can be
reduced from what has been experienced so far (see our later comments).
The cost of providing road space for buses, in order to achieve
an equivalent quality of service, needs to be considered.
"Buses are more flexible".
True, but this can also make them unattractive. People need to
find the bus, know where it will take them, how long the journey
will take and that it will be there tomorrow.
"Buses can provide a more door-to
door service". To achieve this one needs complicated networks,
which are difficult to understand and will tend to offer low service
frequency and reliability. Knowing where to catch a bus to reach
a specific location becomes a major problem in city centres. Interchange
between routes will still be required to reach most destinations.
Good modern bus networks provide a mix of "express"
and more flexibly routed services with interchange between. The
express routes are the equivalent of LRT.
"Guided buses and busways only
needed to be provided where congestion occurs". This is true
and the same claim is made for various novel system that can operate
in either guided or unguided modes. The difficulties are that
partial segregation loses many advantages in outer areas, it introduces
unreliability into the guided sections (which bus will arrive
first?), and the problems associated with "flexibility"
and "door to door service". The option of people interchanging
to LRT from connecting buses may be better.
"Spending on buses spread the
advantages wider". Cost effectiveness is what matters. If
LRT is provided on core routes most public transport users should
benefit some journeys may become faster and more attractive even
with interchange. Reduction in congestion will benefit everyone
as will reduction in traffic movement and pollution in the central
areas where they work or shop.
5. TRENDS THAT
5.1 Track Sharing
5.1.1 Track sharing is the operation of
LRT services over railways that also carry conventional trains,
either at different times or mixed. The German city of Karlsruhe
pioneered the concept, increasing its network from about 100km
of tramway and LRT in 1991 to about 400km now, with a high proportion
of operation over the national rail network. The German city of
Saarbrücken has built an entirely new 18km LRT system of
which only 5km is new infrastructure, the rest is shared track.
5.1.2 Key advantages are that it is possible
to create a LRT system at significantly less cost and with far
less environmental impact. The quality of alignment that an early
rail route provides in a suburban environment is often much better
than could be achieved today with new infrastructure. Most suburban
railways have railway services on them, hence the need to consider
track sharing. Track sharing also facilitates creating integrated
rail/LRT networks as has been demonstrated successfully in Karlsruhe.
It is a tool for rejuvenating rail as well as creating new systems.
5.1.3 There must be a railway to share,
its alignment may not be ideal. Sharing may restrict flexibility
and capacity but studies have shown that it is often possible
to replace train services that the LRT service make unnecessary.
5.1.4 In the UK, Railtrack provides the
rail infrastructure and numerous train operators use it, this
favours track sharing. The publication in February 1999 of two
Railway Group Standards provides the methodology and means by
which the principle can be applied to the Railtrack network. The
Sunderland Metro will introduce shared track into the UK, and
the implementation of Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS)
to the Railtrack system will also facilitate it.
5.1.5 Shared track has been considered as
an option for LRT projects in Nottingham, Bristol, Kent, Hampshire
and Strathclyde and for extensions to the Midland Metro, Sheffield
and Manchester systems.
5.1.6 One particular attraction is the scope
for combining LRT and rail investment projects, so as to reduce
overall costs. This is relevant both to the Bristol scheme and
Midland Metro Line 3. In both cases most of the track to be shared
is either lifted or disused at the moment and new rail services
are planned as well as a LRT system.
5.1.7 The shared track concept has been
a major development of LRT in the 1990s, influencing strategic
thinking in many countries; its role in the UK could be significant.
5.2 Merging of the LRT and railway modes
5.2.1 The traditional barrier between the
light and heavy rail modes is breaking down in Europe, because
of the emergence of the track sharing concept. This opens up many
5.2.2 Development of new standards in Germany
to allow shared track, also allowed the operation of secondary
lines with much lighter rolling stock with certain LRT characteristics.
Bombardier developed the "Tram Train" concept; a vehicle
that is neither a train nor a tram but is specifically designed
for shared track operation.
5.2.3 The Karlsruhe network has routes 50km
long, these have the characteristics of a local rail service,
except that they penetrate the city centre by means of street
operation. One route was extended this year to the neighbouring
city of Heilbronn which has plans for its own shared track network,
so we are beginning to see short distance "intercity"
5.2.4 The Railtrack network represents a
significant historic infrastructure investment and it needs government
support to Train Operators to sustain acceptable levels of service.
Its value is reduced by the fact that so many stations are badly
sited and new developments are not served at all. Shared track
may provide an affordable means of providing short links and detours
to allow local rail to penetrate new markets. The effectiveness
of extending a local rail service into a city has been demonstrated
in Karlsruhe where the patronage on the Bretten local rail service
increased by over 500 per cent.
5.2.5 There is scope for some short links
and conversion of certain urban rail routes to LRT in a number
of UK cities.
5.3 Ultra Light Rail
5.3.1 The typical LRT vehicle will have
a capacity of around 150-250 people and this dictates the scale
of the system. Large vehicles are only justified where flows are
high and this in turn has resulted in relatively expensive systems.
5.3.2 For smaller flows, smaller vehicles
operating at the same service intervals would be a more economic
proposition. Smaller vehicles do not require such heavy infrastructure.
They can use energy storage systems as the basis of the traction
package, which allows a significant cost reduction and eliminates
the need for overhead electrification. This is the concept of
"Ultra Light Rail", an affordable small scale LRT system,
which retains most of the advantages of LRT but costs significantly
5.3.3 Our calculations, based on industry
experience, suggests that complete systems can be built for between
£1 million and £2 million per track km, which is equivalent
to the costs of a good quality bus priority scheme, and at least
a fifth of the equivalent cost of a conventional LRT system. The
concept has immediate value in serving pedestrian areas, new developments
and providing short links. In the longer term it could provide
smaller towns and cities with complete systems and provide feeders
to rail, LRT and metro networks.
5.3.4 The concept is under development but
has created significant interest in the UK; over 50 local authorities
have made serious enquiries or undertaken studies of its potential.
For the past year, an experimental service in Bristol has carried
over 30,000 passengers.
5.4 Other developments
5.4.1 Other developments that are increasing
the potential value of LRT include:
Simpler, standardised and modular
vehicles to reduce costs.
New forms of shallower track to reduce
need to divert services.
Diesel-electric vehicles to avoid
need for electrification.
Hybrid vehicles to limit extent of
Perfected low floor and partial low
Improved information technology.
Advanced ticketing systems to increase
efficiency, facilitate interchange, make using systems easier
and encourage loyalty.
6.1 Public transport in the UK will probably
be based on the two fundamental modes, rail and bus, for the foreseeable
future, and it will maximise use of the existing infrastructure
ie the road and railway networks. Any totally new solution is
immediately disadvantaged by the need to create new infrastructure,
which must interact and interchange with what is already there.
LRT, in its various forms, has a potentially unique advantage
in that it can use existing infrastructure and yet achieve a step
change in modal transfer provided it is properly planned and implemented.
6.2 There is no one solution for all cities
and towns. LRT will be more attractive where travel demand is
fairly concentrated, where usable rail infrastructure exists and
central areas are being pedestrianised. Bus based solutions will
find favour where development is more disperse, the terrain is
hilly and central areas have convenient thoroughfares. Bristol
is a good example of the first category and Edinburgh of the second.
6.3 The scope for application is quite extensive;
especially if shared track and Ultra Light Rail develop as trends
suggest. LRT has the potential to play a significant and important
role in national transport.
7. BARRIERS TO
7.1 If the potential value of introducing
LRT is to be exploited then three important issues must be faced:
1. Systems must give value for money.
2. Schemes must be attractive for private
3. Implementation time must be reduced.
7.2 These three issues are inter-related.
We know, as prospective partners in the Joint Venture to provide
a LRT system for Bristol and South Gloucestershire, that private
sector investors need to minimise risk, know how long processes
will take and how much they will cost.
7.3 The two great uncertainties are the
Transport and Works Act procedure and liabilities towards statutory
undertakers. They only apply to fixed track systems.
7.4 The Transport and Works Act Order process
covers the whole range of transport infrastructure projects. While
in theory simple processes can apply to smaller schemes, the promoter
has no way of knowing how much it will cost to get the Order until
he embarks on the process. The timescale and end result are also
7.5 The process is intended to protect the
public and yet it is possible to run vehicles in the street which
are noisier, more dangerous and intrusive than LRVs, and create
kerbs and steps that are more hazardous than tram rail, without
going through such processes.
7.6 A simpler process based perhaps on obtaining
planning permission initially, but which gives the same level
of statutory protection, is urgently needed. It would also be
preferable if smaller schemes were approved at regional or local
rather than national level. The processes used in other countries
may provide models.
7.7 Where overhead electrification is required,
the powers should include the right to attach overhead supports
to existing buildings and other existing structures for a pre-determined
fixed compensation fee. This would reduce environmental impact
as well as reducing costs.
7.8 The costs of diverting underground cables,
ducts, pipes etc can be extremely high (around £2 million
per route km) and uncertain until the process of negotiation begins.
A review is required of the legislation, compensation and powers
applicable to this issue. The review should include consideration
of the scope for using temporary diversion tracks when access
is required to buried services.
7.9 A further concern is the fact that Her
Majesties Railway Inspectorate now charge time based fees for
approving LRT systems. These costs will also be unpredictable.
Alternatives would be either a fixed fee based on route km, or
an annual vehicle licence fee.
7.10 Developers can take over vacant land
without regard to its value as a potential route for LRT or other
guided transport application. Local transport authorities should
be encouraged to identify these for inclusion in Local Plans.
Where a developer submits proposals for a use that would adversely
affect or block such routes then the submission should automatically
be weighed against the value of the route to the area by the authorities
involved without any "Rapid Transit" interests needing
to lodge an objection or justify a case. Permission for temporary
use of land identified in this way should automatically rule out
any objection by the user or anyone else to its change of use
if it is eventually the subject of a rapid transit scheme.
8.1 We would like to see:
Recognition that LRT has a significant
role to play in improving local transport, relieving congestion
and improving the environment in the UK.
Emphasis given to planning systems
so as to maximise their effectiveness. This means that the planning,
approval and funding processes all need review with this in mind.
Encouragement given to implementing
more diverse and potentially valuable forms of LRT such as shared
track and Ultra Light Rail.
A review of the Transport and Works
Act Order Process in relation to LRT, including the issue of attachment
of overhead to buildings.
A review of the processes involved
in re-locating statutory undertakers installations so as to reduce
the risks for promoters.
More vigorous protection for potential
Such measures would not only benefit the LRT
industry but also the nation as a whole.