Are trams a good substitute for 'proper' trains

Discussion in 'Other Public Transport' started by Ken H, 27 May 2019.

  1. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    I got a man Vic - Rochdale tram - just for the experience

    Not very comfortable, lots of stops (Think they put in a few when they converted it from heavy rail)
    and the journey through Oldham seemed to take yonks. Bit the tram was busy, lots standing. But not sure how many went that far.

    Of course, I should have used a Northern train to Rochdale but I wanted a tram ride.

    1. Do you think trams should take over from heavy rail? Do you think there are circumstances where trams are not acceptable?

    2. is there a limit mileage/time wise where a tram is acceptable?

    3. is it right places like Oldham and Bury have lost their heavy rail service.
     
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  3. geoffk

    geoffk Established Member

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    I live near Rochdale and often use the tram but rarely all the way to Manchester. The issues with replacing trains with trams include loss of through ticketing, slower journey times, inability or unwillingness to carry bikes and lack of toilets. The first of these is not insurmountable but it is still not possible to buy a ticket from Metrolink stations to a national rail station outside Greater Manchester (e.g. Bury to London). National rail tickets routed via Manchester originating or finishing outside Greater Manchester and involving a change of station Piccadilly - Victoria do not include travel on Metrolink.

    Slower journey times were an issue with Oldham rail users, who used to have a non-stop train to Victoria, even though it started at the inconvenient Oldham Mumps and was often a Pacer. Now there are more stops but penetration of central Oldham and Manchester is much better and frequency much higher - but fares are higher than the old train fares. So some swings and roundabouts.

    The current interest in tram-trains will likely lead to other rail routes being looked at for possible conversion.
     
  4. Mathew S

    Mathew S Established Member

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    I agree the current breed of trams (M5000) is very uncomfortable for anything longer than 30 mins or so. They're just not built for longer journeys, and are totally unsuitable for commuter rail, as opposed to inner-city metro, services.

    I don't have a problem with extending the Metrolink *network* to places like Wigan or Heywood. But, I do think that the vehicles themselves need replacing/upgrading if that's going to happen. High-back seating, tables, WiFi, air conditioning, and plug sockets/USB charging are - for me - the minimum acceptable standard for a journey of 45-60 minutes or longer. Most Northern trains don't meet those basic standards either, of course.
     
  5. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    What if they bung in a few extra stops. and a bit of heavy curvature to get off the classic rail line and onto the street, maybe somewhere near Salford Crescent, then a trundle through the streets into Manchester? or would the fact the tram dropped you nearer to work make you in favour. (Lots of assumptions there about your journey - sorry)
     
  6. VT 390

    VT 390 Established Member

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    I think that trams without the facilities that a Train has (such as toilets, tables...) should not be used on journeys which most people would use for more than around 45 minutes. However I think longer journeys are acceptable for services which cross cities, such as East Didsbury to Rochdale on Metrolink or Hucknall to Toton Lane on the Nottingham trams, this is because most passengers will only be going as far as the cit centre an not the full route. One of the main issues with tramways (and other light railways), especially converting train services, is the lack of through ticketing which can be especially unhelpful when you have an advanced ticket on a train service as you have to allow extra time to make the connection as if there is disruption on the tram then your ticket would not be accepted on a later train.
     
  7. Mathew S

    Mathew S Established Member

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    If it took me right into the city centre then, yes, that would be a bonus. Frankly the pootle from Salford Crescent into Victoria feels like it takes half a lifetime already. If I could get on the team/train in Wigan and get off at St Peters Square - and even better do the same in the other direction - that would be brilliant.
     
  8. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    It depends on the length of journey.

    I doubt many people choose to go all the way between Rochdale and Victoria by tram, though some people will prefer to get a direct tram if their journey was from Rochdale city centre to somewhere the other side of Manchester, but that's their choice.

    The vast majority of people will be doing shorter hop intermediate journeys.

    I think overall the tram has been good for places like Oldham but if I lived there I would be concerned about the loss of comprehensive through ticketing, the loss of ability to carry bikes and slower journey times. But some of those issues could have been avoided.
     
  9. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    This thread should have a poll with it!
    My take is that places like Rochdale, Bury and Oldham (and Altrincham etc.) need heavy rail links within (and outside) the conurbation for quick limited-stop connectivity. They also need good bus or preferably tram services to serve the routes and traffic needing the intermediate stops.
     
  10. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Rochdale and Altrincham still do.

    As for the other two, I don't see how this could really be provided in addition to the Metrolink service, but feel free to create a thread in the Speculation forum of you can think of something.
     
  11. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    nottingham sort of did that with the tram line and the worksop heavy rail running side by side.
     
  12. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    True but this does involve single line sections. The same happens for a short stretch north of Altrincham.
     
  13. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    We have trams down our way. I have never considered them a replacement for trains. They are very very good at local short hops and ours take you directly into the town center, something trains struggle to do.

    I've always seen them as a replacement for buses.
     
  14. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I think the Oldham loop was a conversion too far for tram. Yes, it's better for short hops, but a large area of metropolitan Manchester has lost a swift link to the centre.

    I certainly don't want any longer routes converted to tram - particularly the Atherton line and (heaven forbid) the Cheshire Lines Committee route to Liverpool via Warrington.

    In a lot of cases there isn't much of a benefit to getting rid of the decent rail link - it just makes it easier for the PTE to control things - which is an administrative issue about how our railways are managed.
     
  15. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    This is true; from a customer point of view they are more comparable with buses, but in some cases (especially in Greater Manchester) they have completely replaced heavy rail provision.
     
  16. billio

    billio Member

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    With regard to Bury I do not think there is any chance of speeding up services on the Metrolink line due to the frequency of the service,something likely to increase in future especially on the southern end of the line.
    The problem with Bury not having a heavy rail service is not just a question of getting to Manchester quickly (about 10 minutes faster 50 years ago) but also having services that go beyond Victoria to other Manchester stations and further afield. The only practical solution to that is to open a Victoria-facing connection from the Rochdale line through Heywood to Bury.
     
  17. CanalWalker

    CanalWalker On Moderation

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    Quite agree. Trams should be compared with buses not trains. If you do that trams usually come out ahead.
    Though i have never grasped the advantages of trams over trolley buses. A modern incarnation of the trolley bus with batteries to give it even two mile range could be much more flexible in routing (yes I know that metrolink trams are flexible :)
     
  18. DavidGrain

    DavidGrain Member

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    I think most of us think of trams as an urban transport system especially if we remember the old tramway systems. In many countries trams were also an interurban system. Modern tramway systems in the UK seem to be developed as a combination of urban and interurban systems with lines in the cities with stops close together then going out of the city boundary to other towns with the distances between stops opening up. I am thinking particularly of the Manchester system with trams out to Oldham Bury Rochdale. etc. Also the northern line of the Nottingham system. The West Midlands Metro is in a slightly different category in that the original line was almost exclusively on a long disused railway line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton only coming out originally onto a street tramway in Wolverhampton city centre. We are now seeing extensions of this line on the streets of Birmingham.

    I regularly use the Stourbridge railway line into Birmingham and I often change from the train to the tram at Jewellery Quarter especially if my onward journey is by train from New Street Station as my local line uses the other Birmingham city centre stations.

    In the past year I have travelled on trams in Switzerland, Latvia and France and I admit to being a fan of the trams possibly a little more than trains in I dare say that. In my defence I would point out that trams also run on rails.
     
  19. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    in my original post i said
    Where do you see that limit?

    And Bury and Bolton are about the same distance from Manchester. Which gets the better service? Which town is doing better?

    And why no orbital routes. Bolton - Bury perhaps? A route in Nottingham from Wilkinson St to the QMS via Radford and Lenton? or in the W Mids from Walsall to Wolverhampton?
     
  20. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    I have mentioned the trolleybuses in Bradford that i rode occasionally as a kid. Excellent and clean, and able to cope with the gradients in Bradford.* Why ever did they scrap them?

    *I bet a modern trolleybus could regenerate much braking energy back into the overhead. Doubt the old ones I rode did!
     
  21. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    In my opinion, Bolton gets the better service to Manchester and beyond. Plenty of good fast services to a good range of destinations.

    As far as a limit is concerned, it's difficult to say. It depends how much longer the replacement tram takes. The Bury route has the advantage over the Rochdale one of at least being nice and direct.
     
  22. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    But it never had that as a heavy rail system either, with the unique third rail electrification rlesulting in self-contained EMUs that could only go as far as Victoria.

    The rickety 142s were many thing but they were certainly not a "swift link to the centre", especially in autumn when the leaf fall timetable was 2tph all shacks. From Shaw a tram in 33 minutes isn't very different to the heavy rail, with the added bonus of not having to walk up to the shops. The M5000s could be bigger and have better ride quality, but compared to an asthmatic 142 wheezing up the hill to Derker they're brilliant.
     
  23. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I've done the scenic route around the streets of Oldham, and its quite time consuming, compared to the previous run through the tunnels.

    Just because the Bury route had a self contained system of electrification, there would have been nothing stopping a train operator running a service through Victoria towards Liverpool for example, even if it wasn't an electric.
     
  24. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    A trolleybus can generally be no bigger than a motor bus because of the need for it to be manageable on the road without guidance. That means that driver costs, the main part of operating costs, are no cheaper with a trolleybus and where numbers are big enough to justify a large tram, providing the same services with trolleybuses means more drivers and more congestion. There are also extra costs for the overhead line, which needs two wires so is more visually obtrusive than for a tram. Bombardier and Lohr came up with rail-guided trolleybuses which could be as large as trams, but turned out to use about 50% more energy due to the poor efficiency of rubber tyres. So at high passenger numbers the economics favour trams.

    At lower passenger numbers motor buses are a competitor, with the same driver costs and no need for overhead wires. Batteries give the trolleybus some competitive advantage, but in time are likely also to allow diesel buses to be replaced by more environmentally-friendly alternatives and thereby eliminate one of the advantages of the trolleybus.

    So the trolleybus is a niche product and that niche is so small as to be non-existent in many places. The sorts of places where they might be favoured are likely to be very hilly cities (rubber tyres are better for gradients) and those with particular pollution problems.

    On the original question, it's very much a case of horses for courses. All the current tram designs in the UK are designed for fairly short journeys, of a similar time duration to a typical bus journey although the tram is probably faster on a segregated track so can cover a greater distance in that time. Tram-trains in places like Karlsruhe can cover routes of about 120km, though typically the city is in the middle so few people will be on board for longer than an hour. These vehicles typically have high-floor centre sections with more comfortable seating for longer distances, leaving the lower-floor areas round the entrances for short-distance passengers as well as those who can't manage steps. I imagine if TfGM or some other authority goes for tram-trains in a big way then they will do something similar with the interiors.

    As mentioned, Altrincham and Rochdale do have heavy rail alternatives which are quicker but less frequent, though Altrincham's services is set to double at some point. There have been discussions elsewhere on the forum about serving Bury via Heywood. With hindsight it's a shame that another of the several railways serving Oldham didn't survive - a loop from Ashton re-joining at Greenfield could have given that town easy access to Yorkshire as well as a fast Manchester service. But unfortunately most of that closed before Beeching when the railway geography of the area still seemed stuck in the pre-grouping era.
    For passengers to/from Oldham itself this is a benefit, and those closer to Rochdale wanting central Manchester can interchange at Rochdale station. So only a fairly small number of journeys are penalised.
    Historically there were steam services between Manchester and Bury too, most of which I believe went via Clifton and joined the current route at Radcliffe. I think the frequency of the electric service at its most popular made it impossible to run a non-stop service by that route more than a couple of minutes faster.
     
  25. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    Was the cost of converting the Oldham loop better value than a set of decent high powered heavy rail diesels? OK you would have lost the street running in Oldham, and penetration of Manchester city centre, but the vehicles would have been better for the long journey.
    or was it converted so the council had control, rather than a cost effective heavy rail solution involving BR?
    (I am in 2 minds about this. I see the advantage for short journeys, but also see the disadvantage for longer journeys and through ticketing.)
     
  26. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    Except they *didn't*. It was self-contained to Victoria and had been for 80 years.

    The all-stops from Shaw to Manchester used to do it in 29 minutes, it is now 33 minutes. The fast did it in 24-25 minutes, when it wasn't canned for leaf fall. Not a huge difference, really. And there are 10 trams an hour daytime now from Shaw to Manchester, rather than 4 trains an hour, and in the evening it's six trams an hour rather than one train, so it's swings and roundabouts.

    Metrolink is by no means perfect, but it's better than what was there before.
     
  27. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    It's 33 minutes from Shaw to Victoria, more like 23 from Oldham. It's not a "long journey" by any stretch of the imagination. And having trams in Oldham town centre *is* worth it. The walk from Mumps, through that nasty underpass under the bypass and then up the hill, was horrible.
     
  28. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I wouldn't go quite that far, however, I do agree that modern trams seem to be mostly "standee trams" and have highly inadequate seat provision. The very modern ones with independent articulated sections are by far the worst.

    The design I think is best for the UK application of trams (which tend to be for longer journeys than classic European style low-speed street tramways) is that used in Sheffield (repeated and improved on the tram-trains by being low-floor too) of end vehicles with lots of doors, standing and wheelchair/pram areas, then a centre section without doors with lots of relatively well-appointed seats.
     
  29. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    Well put - the fastest journey time may be longer, but more than compensated by frequency. Plus the extra stops added reduce the travelling time of those previously more remote from stations.
    (e.g. South Chadderton)
     
  30. TravellingPhil

    TravellingPhil Member

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    The trams around here aren't really a train replacement at all, more connecting the dots for people who are a bit too far away from a station. Places such as West Bromwich, Bilston and soon, Dudley. They also have other purposes, the extension through Birmingham city centre has proved very successful and should see further growth when it continues on towards Centenary Square. As already been mentioned on here, since the extension opened, Jewellery Quarter has become quite a busy little interchange as people come off the Snow Hill lines so they can get further into the city. The transfer there is incredibly easy too compared to Snow Hill/Bull St.

    It's taken a while, but the trams are finally starting to find their purpose in the West Midlands.
     
  31. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    Manchester has converted more live rail into trams than anywhere else
    I think the only other live railway converted was the addiscombe branch for Croydon Tramlink.
    Unless you count Nottingham Hucknall ranch - but the railway is still there - just single track.
     

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