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

Memorandum by TRANSDEV (RT 32)



  The Group operates public transport networks in a number of countries. In particular, in France TRANSDEV has been at the centre of the re-introduction of light rail systems, starting with Nantes, then Grenoble, Toulouse (automatic metro) and Strasbourg. Currently, the company is working on the introduction of new systems in three cities where construction has already started, and two more systems have reached the project stage.

  In all these developments, TRANSDEV works in joint venture companies with the Local Authorities. These companies run totally integrated urban public transport networks.

  In total TRANSDEV runs some 70 networks in France. Of these, nearly half are jointly owned with the Local Authorities and the remainder is owned 100 per cent by TRANSDEV.

  In the UK, TRANSDEV plc was a member of the Croydon Project Development Group, the Nottingham Project Development Group, and has advised Hampshire County Council on operational matters during the studies for the Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth light rail scheme. The company is a shareholder in Arrow Light Rail—the Nottingham Express Transit preferred bidder and in the Nottingham Tram Company. The latter is the company, which will operate the Nottingham system once construction is completed. Nottingham Tram Company is a 50-50 joint venture between TRANSDEV and Nottingham City Council.

  TRANSDEV owns London United Busways, which runs 600 buses, mostly under contract to London Transport. Through London United Busways, which is a member of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (UK), TRANSDEV supports the CPT submission to the Sub-committee. However, TRANSDEV by virtue of its experience in light rail and public private partnerships, considers that it has a contribution to make, which justifies making a separate submission.


  Despite the fact that the bus fleet in France is still somewhat younger than that in the UK and subsidies are used to support both investment and operations within a fixed fare strategy, there has been a continuing decline in the use of public transport by bus, and it has long been recognised that the solution to congestion and environmental pollution cannot be found in the sole use of buses in the urban centres.

  This decline has been reversed in those cities and conurbations, which have reintroduced the tram. In cities like Nantes and Grenoble, use of the network as a whole including buses has gone up by up to 50 per cent within five years of the first lines of the new systems being opened.


  It must be said, however that there is a fundamentally different approach to light rail in France. It is not seen as simply a better way to move more people from A to B, and it is not viewed in isolation from the rest of the urban landscape. Light Rail is a tool to free the city of congestion and to bring an improvement to the quality of life. To this end the whole of the tram corridor is reviewed to see what improvements can be brought to the area. By and large the line route is segregated by creating a separate alignment or by excluding other traffic including buses. In Grenoble, the tram has replaced 180 buses per peak hour with 60 trams. Bus routes cross the tramway, and connect with it at purpose built inter-modal exchange points, but they do not follow the tram, other than for a few hundred metres before turning away from the tramway to follow a different route. In Strasbourg, the same policy is followed, and additionally park and ride sites are located at the bus/tram interchanges so that the car driver can use the facility to take a tram or a bus to different destinations.

  The bus networks have been restructured and improvements made to bus quality, frequencies, information systems and stops to bring bus services as close as possible to tram levels. Needless to say, ticketing systems are common to both tram and bus. Growth in use has ensured that the number of buses in operation is approximately the same after the new systems have been introduced as before.

  It has been noted that French cities have a higher density of population than those in the UK, however, it is also reasonable to point out that travel-to-work distances in the UK are greater than those in France. Perhaps more relevant to the argument is the fact that in France the community as a whole—represented by all the organisations concerned by the need to solve transport problems, to improve the quality of urban life and to tackle problems of social exclusion—are involved in the light rail projects. Additionally, local businesses, which provide funds for transport, are represented through the Chamber of Commerce.


  As pointed out above, TRANSDEV has been involved in the evolution of three of the UK's light rail projects. The company was also a bidder for the Midland Metro. The main differences between the UK and France are:

    —  funding and the pressures of cost which limit the scope of the project to matters related solely to the project for a DBFO tram system. For example, the Nottingham project does not include for the cost of intermodal exchanges, and the Croydon Tramlink project (at the time of the PDG) did not embrace park and ride even though the private sector members of the PDG argued for its inclusion.

    —  the lack of network integration from the outset in the UK has an adverse impact on the estimation for revenue and hence on project funding and the private sectors contribution. In the Nottingham Project the next best thing has been achieved by including the local bus company (Nottingham City Transport) in the project, but even here the impact is limited by the need to observe the competition laws. It is not possible to observe in all schemes that the local bus operator is part of a winning consortium, of course, as this would nullify any competition between consortia for the concession, nor is it sensible to leave selection of the operator until after the consortium has won as this would leave the winning consortium in an impossible negotiating position. Furthermore it is essential that each consortium has an operator as a member to prepare the operating requirements.

    —  reworking the tram corridor to maximise patronage by tram and to minimise all other traffic is an important feature of French schemes. It is not so in the UK where a much more conservative approach is taken to traffic direction and the authorities have much less influence over bus routes and the location of bus stops.


  By viewing the concept of light rail in a much broader sense with a wider range of objectives, incremental revenue can be created to make a more significant financial contribution to the project and the new mode of transport can bring an improvement to the urban environment which has not yet been realised in any project in the UK. The commercial framework within which the industry operates in the UK, with the freedom to set fares and the need to operate at a profit in order to facilitate investment by the private sector will ensure that subsidies are minimised.

  However, it is important to find a method to integrate local public transport which will still ensure that the needs of the market—the travelling public—are constantly monitored and services evolved to meet the demand.

  Similarly, local transport strategy must have a much higher priority in the eyes of the organising bodies, and this sense of importance needs to be communicated to the general public.

N C Buckley,


5 October 1999

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