Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by John Bygate, Esq (RT 15)



  A Light Rapid Transit System (LRTS) will only succeed in transport terms and commercial terms if it is planned and operated as a part of a public transport network.

  An LRTs is a sensible option for a route demanding a passenger capacity of 2,000 to 8,000 passengers/hour in each direction for on street services or up to 12,000/hour for off-street services.

  In London an LRTS would be a sensible choice for a distribution system like DLR or the planned cross-river tramway.

  Elsewhere in the UK an LRTS would be a core route carrier in a city or conurbation public transport network. It would link with and distribute from the National Network. It would link with and collect from local feeder services.

  The fundamental problems are:

    —  outside London transport planning is based on "the through journey"; not network interchanging;

    —  the public by and large do not even consider network travel; the car serves door to door;

    —  transport legislation favours a mass of competing through services and renders network implementation difficult;

    —  public funding management has concentrated on construction cost rather than operational life cost, with the result that the functionality of the system and the passenger appeal of the system have suffered.

  If the LRTS is to have a future in the UK, Cities must adopt Network public transport with frequent core route services, supported by frequent feeder route services, that have priority over all other transport.


Home to Office or Shops

By Car
        20 miles at 15 m.p.h. 80 mins
        20 miles at 35p / mile £7
        Car Park £4
By LRTS Network
        Walk to Bus Stop 5 mins
        Wait (ave.) 2½ mins
        Bus 2½ miles at 15 m.p.h. 10 mins
        Interchange (ave) 5 mins
        Tram 17½ miles at 25 m.p.h. 42 mins
        Walk to Office 5 mins

69½ mins
        20 miles Ticket £3
Return trip x 5 days / week
        Car = 800 mins at £90
        LRTS = 695 mins at £30

  The Bury to Manchester Tramlink might approach this level of performance for some Bury residents. The service is successful.

  The Hillsborough to Sheffield Supertram was designed to provide this quality of performance but was not allowed to do so following deregulation.

  In short, if an LRTS is to be successful, the time conscious potential passenger must "know the bus/tram is coming" without worrying about a timetable, and the journey time must be quicker and cheaper than the car.

(a)  Examples


  Core routes from the outskirts to the city centre with major bus interchanges on the outskirts.


  Similar to Nantes—so successful the fleet size is being doubled after about 4 years in operation.


  On street like Nantes—no priority; no through ticketing; no feeder services; competing through services running parallel. Performs like a competing bus serving a walk-in-catchment.


  Off street core route system, changing to on street in the city centre. Popular—being extended. Relationships with buses not all it might be!


  Opening soon will be a much needed east—west link between urban centres and north south main line railways. Will succeed because it is a priority distribution route in a network.


  Approved, announced, partner companies identified, staff on site—planned to be a core feeder to keep Motorway traffic out of the city.


  A vibrant expanding city wants to keep Motorway traffic out of the City with an LRTS but cannot secure approval.


  Designated priority regeneration area. Just had a public authority LRTS turned down after four years planning! Has a private LRTS proposal on the table but isn't quite sure how to progress to credibility and funding.

(b)  Problems

  The ET & RA Committee Brief refers to construction and operation. It is assumed Construction includes Planning. In fact Planning must define Construction.

  Recent systems in UK have been required to involve construction contractors at the pre-approval stage. Contractors are "do-ers" and are very good at saying "how to do things". They are not land use planners, nor transport planners, nor transport operators. The LRTS should be planned with the Passenger in mind by the Operator and Transport Planners together with the Land Use in mind by the Land Use Planners. Once they have decided the Network and the LRTS that is needed, contractors should be told what to build, but invited to say how it should be built, as a part of their bid.

  Financial planning must be a part of the Network plan. Appropriate financial planners must be a part of the team planning the network. The extent to which private sector participants might be reasonably expected to take risk should be identified and the relevant project criteria be identified and be made to occur.

  Sheffield supertram was to be a fully integrated system when it was approved;—but it never happened and the financial results show the consequence.

  Planning a Network with an LRTS as a core route carrier involves transport planning, traffic management planning and particularly adoption of network journeys with appropriate restrictions on competitive through journeys. Such thinking is beneficial to the environment and the overall public journey making. It is perhaps a political minefield especially for the local council. Deregulation may have promoted competition but has not improved city transport networks nor city centre environments!

  Network travelling requires feeder bus services to core LRTS systems at high fequency. Of themselves such services will probably be uneconomic and must be seen as part of a viable network if they are to attract operators and passengers. The public and indeed transport industry prejudice for the through journey bus competing with the network must be countered.

LRTS Core routes should remain core routes and not branch out into several infrequent services in the suburbs. Hong Kong MTR runs 2 minute frequency services with no junction working but cross platform interchange. This enhances reliability; the passenger knows a train "is coming", and knows the next train is "his train". DLR have now terminated Stratford trams at Canary Wharf thus improving reliability and frequency on both the City—Island Garden route and the Stratford route. Sheffield Supertram has five terminae and four junctions none of which can have a maximum frequency service. On London Underground District Line, Wimbledon trains travel across London. If they terminated at Earls Court and allowed interchange, both the District Line and the Wimbledon Line frequency/regularity would be perceived to improve.

  Public Transport is notoriously unprofitable if capital cost is included. In many cases even operating costs are not covered by revenue.

  Sheffield Supertram is a much publicised prime example at a capital cost of £240 million, an annual operating cost of about £8 million and an annual revenue of about £7 million.

  Against this supposed background it is not surprising that the private sector are slow to promote LRT systems.

  However these numbers are very misleading.

  The costs refer to a system of very high technical quality in difficult topography designed to be a core route operation in an integrated network. The revenue refers to actual operation of a stand alone bus equivalent competing for walk-in catchment in an almost totally unintegrated and deregulated environment.

  A fundamental problem is that LRTS capital cost includes many items which are associated with creating the new route. These are not included when comparing the cost of providing a flock of ordinary inferior bus services along existing routes.

  If environmentally friendly integrated network public transport is to be made available a complete review of how costing and funding is considered is necessary. Also it must address full integrated system costs and not just the stand alone LRTS as do the Sheffield figures above.

  Two more of the facets of the Planning stage must be addressed.

  The legislation involved in obtaining approval for an LRT System on its own is complex, expensive and lengthy. To achieve approval for an integrated Network will certainly be more complex, more expensive and at least as lengthy but must be pursued. To pursue the core route and anticipate the remainder will fall into place, ignores the short term expedient thinking of many local political organisations. A procedure is required which:

    —  expedites in principle political approval;

    —  removes approved projects from the political arena;

    —  expedites detail approvals, consultations etc;

    —  is staged so that fundamental or major problems are identified and addressed early, and are not allowed to fester until all the time and expense of dealing with the minutiae of the detail design is complete.

  Secondly the planning of a Network system must involve all the parties who are affected. It is not good enough for one official department to work in isolation and expect everyone else to fall in line. (no examples quoted but.....!) A major project requires a team spirit, and each member of the team must generate some ownership. The team should contain representatives of all who will be seriously affected by the network project.

    —  The Councillors Rep.

    —  The PTE Director.

    —  The LRTS Operator.

    —  The Bus Operators Rep.

    —  The Council Officer Rep.

    —  The Highway Engineer.

    —  The Financial Adviser.

    —  The Police.

  This will be further addressed under item (d).

  Moving on to problems identified from the construction stage.

  Once a project is defined and a programme agreed with the contracts in place it is too late to introduce variations. The project management structure must ensure this does not happen. Unexpected problems will arise and these must be resolved expeditiously with appropriate advice, at Board level. To often have projects in this country omitted the Operator from crucial decisions during construction. To often also, have projects been changed or delayed by local political whim or indecision, or by tortuous time consuming process. It is appropriate to draw attention to the take over of management of Railtrack Projects by American Consultants!

  LRTS projects have invariably required construction contracts to be separate from ongoing maintenance contracts, usually at the bankers insistence. This reduces construction costs, but ensures lucrative maintenance contracts, and is not by any means the best way of ensuring a minimum whole life cost. The Lewisham Extension of DLR has attacked this problem by leasing the infrastructure from the contractor. Some contractors are beginning to develop maintenance areas which is a good sign for the future, but contracts must combine construction with ongoing maintenance in one contract if the Contractor is to be persuaded to "think whole life cost".

  LRTS projects have usually involved trams, built to specific project requirements in a limited edition. In consequence they have been expensive £1.5 million—£2.0 million per vehicle. Vehicle costs must be reduced. The Tram currently proposed privately in Liverpool would cost no more than £1.0 million for an 80 seat 200 capacity version.

  LRTS projects must go on street in city centres. Some like Sheffield, and the Liverpool proposal, run on street from the suburbs. To be effective the LRTS must have absolute priority at junctions etc. over other road traffic. In Europe this is understood and is made to happen. In UK the appropriate restrictions on other traffic are controversial and objected to by business groups and residents groups. The local politicians must have the will to rule in favour of the LRTS for the common good. They have not always had that will.

  LRTS projects involving trams have to lay slab railway track in the street. This is bound to be disruptive but little effort has been made to reduce the disruption. Motorway construction thinking produces slip form paving over half mile sections. This takes weeks and the effect on business or residential neghbourhood is awful. An alternative shallow depth rail in a shallow trough which can be laid one rail at a time in 100 yard lengths is being considered for Liverpool. This will be little more disruptive than laying a new kerb stone and will cost only half as much as slab track.

  LRTS slabs for rail track, or guideways for buses demand a significant number of utility diversions. The shallow slab, shallow rail track referred to above minimises the need for utility diversions and reduces disruption and cost substantially.

  Utility companies insist on diverting their own utilities individually thus increasing the period of disruption in the street. An arrangement is required whereby all utility diversions at any location are done at once, by one contractor, and in a common trench as far as possible to reduce the period of disruption.

  Accommodation works for any LRTS will be needed. However these should be necessary works. Some recent projects have been compelled to include "highly desirable" accommodation works which were not strictly necessary but could not otherwise have been afforded. Perhaps they should be done—but not at LRTS cost.

  Testing and Commissioning is a crucial period at the end of construction; it takes time; it costs money; it must be built into the project. The Operator takes over responsibility for the system at this time as well. It is essential that the Operator is part of the project planning unit to ensure that this is adequately catered for. Some UK schemes have failed to involve the Operator adequately and have got it wrong.

  Railtrack liaison can be difficult, expensive and subject to significant variation. Safety is crucial and must be ensured; that is not in question. Railtrack's overall co-operation with complementary public transport systems which will benefit Railtrack's own passengers through interchange and is thus to their benefit, is less than might be expected. If LRTS systems and networks are to be promoted then the relationship with Railtrack should be explored at DETR level as many systems will run close to, or actually on railway property. Indeed a number of redundant or little used railways might be beneficially converted to LRTS use, as at Manchester and Croydon, at less cost than adopting an in street route.

  Major Bus Companies have shown a willingness to liaise with LRT Systems but current competitive legislation discourages such liaison (No more can be said as a legal case is outstanding in Manchester).

  Through ticketing with other modes is a huge advantage in London for DLR and Croydon Tramlink. It is clearly imperative for Network travel. While it is allowed in the deregulated non-London UK, it is easily undercut by independent through service operators running parallel services. This was blatantly the case in Sheffield and the PTE were unable to do anything about it. The Supertram Operator being subsidised could not indulge in a price war. Through ticketing was ineffective.

  The absence of the Operator at the planning design and construction stages has resulted in a number of passenger unfriendly features in LRTS schemes in UK. Typically, at Sheffield CCTV coverage of stops was deleted from the project. This resulted in widespread vandalism, destruction of ticket machines, assaults on passengers and a bill for £½ million in the first 12 months of operation. Less spectacular but thoroughly unfriendly to the customer is the location of shelters on stops. Geometrically sited at the centre of the platform they are not where the tram doors stop at the ends of the platform. If it's raining the passenger gets wet. The blind passenger follows the tactile tiles which lead to the door and never finds the shelter so he has to stand in the rain for 10 minutes till the tram comes!

  The LRTS and a network, depend on frequency and regularity for customer appeal. The old story of "no bus for half an hour, then three came, together" must be consigned to history. In Sheffield in excess of 75 per centdelays to Supertram are caused by events outside the control of the Supertram operator. The obvious solution of running off street on old railway or old tramway formations is adopted where possible. This manifestly helps on Bury—Manchester, Meadowhall—Sheffield and will do so on Wimbledon—Croydon. But to be customer friendly the LRT must go where the people are and so must go on the road in city centres etc. Not having continental style priority at all road junctions is the first problem. Being held up with all the other traffic in tail backs is the next. A radical traffic management solution must accompany an LRTS if it is to succeed. The Political Will must be strong. Public objection will be substantial; but so it is against pedestrianised shopping areas as well and yet no-one would go back on these after they are introduced! A major marketing exercise is called for to sell the overall benefits of such systems and reach a position where city residents complain if their city hasn't got an LRTS based network, as loudly as they currently call for a by-pass.

  A difficult problem of passenger security exists on all public transport. The perceived insecurity problem is even greater. The best deterrent is a conductor on the vehicle. Supertram was obliged to introduce conductors because the on stop ticketing machines were wrecked. The public response was positive and immediate and not just from ladies. In addition revenue rose 7½ per cent immediately indicating that fare avoidance was double the estimates. On tram vandalism became very small because the conductor was present thus saving on operating costs. Similarly, the one piece of integration affected in Sheffield was Car Parks at several stops. The Car Parks were fenced, CCTV monitored, and staffed. Cars were safe when left; car owners were safe walking alone; car parks were used.

(c)  Successes


  Integrated, priority service, orders placed to double the tram fleet after some 4 years service.

Docklands Light Railway

  After a bad start it is now reliable, frequent and integrated. It carries about 100,000 passengers/day. The roads in the area could not handle another—say—20,000 cars/day.


  The Bury line service is reliable, frequent integrated, and quicker than the parallel road. The system is crowded despite relatively high fares. The system is being extended as Manchester has now realised LRTS is the way forward.

  Sheffield Supertram is improving following privatisation as there is now some through ticketing. It is reliable technically but does not have the frequency or priority or feeder services required to be a success. Also it is an on street system with rival competing buses running parallel to the city centre. In short Sheffield is not yet making best use of an excellent asset which could reduce city centre congestion and pollution largely caused by buses.

  Cities across Europe retained trams, have renewed the systems, have given them priority against the car, have provided feeder services and integration facilities and have thus made best use of the network and core route facility.

  Docklands Light Railway is a core distributor, in an integrated network. A well used asset.

  Sheffield is a bus equivalent in an unintegrated system and is not a well used asset.

  The technical ability of an LRTS is not in doubt. To succeed however it must be:

    —  properly located at the core

    —  properly supported by feeders

    —  properly used by being given priority

(d)  Growth of LRTS in the UK

  Many cities in the UK require to reduce traffic congestion and attract more people to their city centres.

  Most cities have out of date public transport systems based on through journey buses all of which go as near to the city centre as possible.

  Each city must determine to concentrate on public transport and downgrade car access in principle.

  A public transport network plan must be developed with priority core routes using old railway routes, existing railway routes, and main roads.

  The road based core routes can be buses except that when patronage demand reaches 2000/hr the LRTS becomes a candidate.

  The network plan must give public transport priority, allow journey times to be 20+ mph, and reduce other traffic to facilitate the public transport.

  A major feature will be cost which will include:

    —  the LRTS;

    —  the buses, interchanges, and traffic management to create the network;

    —  the cost of terminating some existing unwanted through routes.

  Fares must cover the cost of operating the LRTS and the feeders and the leasing of vehicles for both.

  Fares should cover the cost of leasing the track or guideway, the power supply, the stops and interchanges and the depots. This may well require funding support initially until patronage and revenue build up.

  Revenue is unlikely to cover the capital cost of land acquisition, structures, utility diversions, railtrack accommodation works, traffic management measures, accommodation works and public security measures. In the case of Sheffield Supertram this was about half of the infrastructure capital cost ie about £90 million. For a fully integrated network it would have been more. Many cities like Sheffield and Liverpool can attract substantial grants which should contribute substantially to these costs which essentially "create the route", which becomes a public asset.

  The second major feature having established the network concept is to determine an organisation.

  In Hong Kong the Government created the Mass Transit Railway Corporation as a "fully independent wholly owned" company "working to prudent commercial principles".

  In the special circumstances of Docklands the DLR now holds the rights to the system but leases the new infrastructure and the operation.

  Neither arrangements suits a city in UK but do give a lead.

  An outline network plan must be prepared by the PTE with the Council together.

  They should then create a joint Project Enabling Group (PEG) to be their interface with their second creation the Integrated Network Company Ltd (INC).

  This is not dissimilar in format to the Nottingham City Council proposal for their tramway but is proposed much earlier in the process and the PEG will be much more involved.

  The INC would:

    —  be a commercial company;

    —  have a private sector dominated Board but include Council and PTE ex-officio members;

    —  prepare detail plans for the Network;

    —  project manage implementation;

    —  let contracts for vehicle and infrastructure construction and maintenance with payment on whole life lease;

    —  operate the system or contract operation;

    —  arrange commercial finance where appropriate;

    —  agree grant finance with PEG;

    —  issue equity to PEG to cover early eg planning costs;

    —  issue equity to contractors in return for loans.

  The PEG would:

    —  be a professional public body;

    —  liaise and co-ordinate with Council/PTE;

    —  ensure the INC detail plan conformed with the Council/PTE outline;

    —  run working groups for:

    —  land acquisition;

    —  transport integration;

    —  traffic management;

    —  utility diversions;

    —  safety and security;

    —  secure and manage available grant finance.

  The above description is ultra superficial and simplistic but is intended to provoke thought, on an organisational structure to handle a major project, with major political ramifications, major cost implications and requires as much private finance as possible.

    —  The structure worked in Hong Kong;

    —  INC will have clout in the commercial world;

    —  PEG will have clout in the official world;

    —  INC and PEG will depend on each other and will generate project orientated team spirit to the benefit of the customer, and all the partners.

  It is suggested three or four cities are studied and consulted quickly to assess the overall problem.

  It must be on the basis of "how would you create a public transport network to substantially reduce congestion and pollution in your city."

  Cities might be

Leeds—  a busy expanding city who want trams.
Liverpool—  a city in need of regeneration.
Edinburgh—  a busy city who want trams.
Cardiff—  a busy city who want trams.
October 1999

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