The rise of the MetroBus

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Giugiaro, 7 Mar 2019.

  1. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    Due to a severe lack of money, political issues with possible displaced residents and a usual distaste to railways, the idea of Metrobuses replacing railways is becoming more and more popular in Portugal.

    An old branch between Coimbra and Serpins, in Portugal, which was closed for refurbishment and adaptation into a light rail was abandoned for years with half the construction works done. The empty corridor will now be replaced with a Metrobus system, that requires the demolition of the centenary railway central station of Coimbra and the end of direct connections between the city centres of Porto and Coimbra.

    Today, concerning both North and South branches of the Vouga line, it has been announced that a Metrobus solution is also being considered since this is cheaper, more practical, flexible and politically safer than any other rail-based solution.

    Unlike the Metrobus infrastructure in Adelaide, Australia, the idea is to simply replace the railway with a simple sheet of asphalt, with no interventions done to the layout of the track. Because of its flexible nature to work on normal roads as well, the size of the vehicles is capped to the values expected on the law, namely 13,5 to 18,75 metres.

    It is becoming an increasing trend to consider building Metrobuses in place of rail or light rail in Portugal. Is the same also happening elsewhere?

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  3. MarcVD

    MarcVD Member

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    At least two tramway lines that were foreseen to be built in the north of Brussels will have the same fate...
     
  4. Shinkansenfan

    Shinkansenfan Member

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    Unfortunately this type of rot has also spread to East Japan Railways, along the coastal lines where former tsunami damaged lines have been converted to BRT at seemingly the same cost as just restoring the damaged railway line.

    BRT ride quality is poor, travel speeds slower than former train and much of the travel route requires buses to operate in mixed roadway traffic. And the BRT operates on long hourly or two hourly headways. Another issue: no toilets aboard the BRT buses.

    Meanwhile the nearby Sanriku Railway Line also damaged had been rebuilt. The contrast in journey experience is very different and far better.
     
  5. RT4038

    RT4038 Member

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    It's the way to go - gets rid of reliance on specialised staff, specialised track and signalling systems. Not suitable for high speed lines, nor those carrying very large volumes.
     
  6. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    Funny you mention that because they've went the extra mile to defend the conversion of the Cascais Line into a BRT line. That would be the same as adapting the London to Brighton Mainline all the way to London Victoria into a MetroBus, with included demolition of both Victoria and Brighton stations, just to compare in terms of scale.

    Does that feel like something sane even a politician would say? I know the situation with Southern was becoming very concerning but I haven't read British politicians claiming that converting the line into a glorified coach motorway was an excellent idea!

    Thank you for sharing your experience! The political mass in Portugal has pointed the Japanese implementation as a role model to follow, since they claim that "even the land of trains are adopting the revolution that is the BRT", though there's never mention of how comparable is the quality of the service to that of the railway, or even straight lied about it.

    The documentation is lacking in comparative data but putting the expected BRT service side-by-side with current or past railway service reveals a downgrade in speed and passenger commodities and, in the abomination of the Cascais Line's case, a reduction in capacity and increase in timetable complexity.
     
    Last edited: 10 Mar 2019
  7. higthomas

    higthomas Member

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    I feel duty bound to mention when people in the UK had exactly the same idea... https://www.londonreconnections.com/2014/near-terminal-case-saving-marylebone-rail-road-conversion/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 14 Mar 2019 at 13:02
  8. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    There is probably something similar somewhere on here ... http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/
    I do not endorse the above quote.
     
  9. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Most railways do carry large volumes. Those railways which don't are typically things like rural branch lines, which could be replaced, if you were so minded, by a conventional bus - none of the BRT baggage is needed there, possibly just a few priority measures at the town end to avoid traffic.

    Really, BRT only works well in countries with low wages where having to provide 8 buses and drivers to move the people that one 8-car metro train with one driver (assuming DOO) would do this. In that case combining it with a saving on infrastructure costs you get a benefit.
     
  10. LOL The Irony

    LOL The Irony Established Member

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    I'm having a hard time believing this data
    upload_2019-3-11_11-54-17.png
     
  11. squizzler

    squizzler Member

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    Transport Watch (Whoever he is) shows readers a particularly nasty trainwreck when it comes to his use of the English Language...
     
  12. MarkyT

    MarkyT Established Member

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    I don't dismiss the idea completely and there are probably some applications where a rubber tyred vehicle on a largely segregated alignment beats a rail solution, but the rails are not that expensive in themselves and there are research projects going on to make rail 'lighter' and cheaper that could produce similar results. New, more modular rail-based packages could thus emerge that leverage road technology developments and are quicker and easier to deploy than traditional rail solutions. Part of the problem today is you usually have to go to the same suppliers for your rural railway as you do for a high speed system and the price is slanted accordingly. The human resources available are often the same people involved in the big prestige projects, so that's also likely to put any minor projects at the back of any rail expertise queue.
     
  13. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    The Cambridgeshire busway is an interesting one here. Had it been rail it'd almost certainly have been an hourly 2-car DMU, something like a Class 170. But when demand turned out to exceed even the most optimistic predictions, it was quick and easy to draft in more buses and upgrade frequencies - additional rolling stock for a rail solution would have taken years.
     
  14. MarkyT

    MarkyT Established Member

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    The dramatic drop in rail passenger fatalities is very well understood by safety professionals. It can be explained by the widespread rapid introduction of better train protection systems at risk assessed locations and a serious attention to improved driving standards and training. There is no statistical mystery to this so that leg of his argument is complete gibberish. In fact he seems to have chosen to compare figures immediately before and after implementation of these measures to make his point. That's not just gibberish. I'd go so far as to suggest it's deliberately misleading.
     
  15. LOL The Irony

    LOL The Irony Established Member

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    You said it better than I could.
     
  16. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I had a conversation with Mr Withrington some years ago and found a couple of major flaws in his safety logic within a few minutes (I think the casualty rate on the roads would go up if every vehicle had 50 passengers...). He was very courteous and said he'd get back to me, but never did.
     
  17. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    To be honest I'm not exactly against the idea of replacing rail with a BRT, as long as the implementation meets the following requirements:

    1 - The buses used are purely electric (they can use overhead lines, which may in the future be adapted for light rail if demand rises);
    2 - The implementation recovers service that has been lost to the area and doesn't cut the service currently provided by rail;
    3 - The network doesn't destroy property of public or cultural interest.

    In this case, I'm okay with the project being targeted for Coimbra since it recovers a transport connection that has been lost. But I'm not okay with the plan for bulldozing the current central station and force trains to terminate service outside of the city limits, forcing passengers to use the BRT to reach the city centre.
    In the Vouga Line, I'm against the implementation of the BRT, since the region covered by the Vouga line is the last one without a direct rail connection to Porto, and replacing rail with a BRT will hinder any chance of improving transportation connections to and from the southernmost point of the Metropolitan Area, which currently relies mostly on private cars to move northward
    And speaking of the Cascais Lines... do I even need to say anything???
     
  18. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I wonder how that would actually have compared for e.g. the Cambridgeshire or Luton busways? I'm assuming tram here rather than heavy rail.
     
  19. LOL The Irony

    LOL The Irony Established Member

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    Tram was the best option for Manchester (but heavy rail was still better (and most likely quieter!) than tram).
     
  20. MarkyT

    MarkyT Established Member

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    Agreed. Could be discontinuous electrification + batteries, like they're planning for tram-trains in South Wales.
    In UK we seem fond of kerb guidance which other BRTs worldwide don't generally use. Guidance of some form is required clearly, to fit in our narrow ex railway alignments, but the standard mechanical method is rather crude and doesn't permit backing. I'd not discard it perhaps, but merely retain it as a backstop with an electronic system in charge that normally worked without contact, and allowed easy reversing on the guideway. Double ended buses/rubber-tyred trams could reverse easily and quickly in narrow corridors without requiring turning loops or wyes.
    Is the Cascais Line a serious proposal? They run 7-car metro trains every few minutes! To match the passenger capacity with buses would be an absurdly high frequency and cost a fortune in drivers. Or is the intention to tag a load of directly served bus branches onto the converted rail trunk route? This would be an alternative to a tram-train solution I suppose, as such branches might alternately be built as roadside light rail, feeding a segregated rail trunk. Don't tell Transport for Wales about this idea!
     
  21. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    Yes... yes it is.

    The reason? It's more flexible, more eco-friendly and less expensive to implement and run than rail.
    https://www.publico.pt/2018/07/25/l...isponivel-para-gerir-linha-de-comboio-1839141

    Yeah, it's like the Hyperloop craze in America. BRT seems to be the solution for all mobility problems and a miracle of a system in all aspects.

    They want to create two highspeed corridors, one on the current M5... *ahem*... A5, and another through the current railway line. The railway line conversion would allow the current India and Brasília Avenues to merge into one super Avenue with a total of 12 lanes while simplifying the problem of the Alcantara intersection... by just making one HUGE intersection.
    As for the motorway corridor... does the M4 ring a bell?
     
  22. MarkyT

    MarkyT Established Member

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    So every carriage of every train replaced by a big rubber-tyred bus is better environmentally? Seven times as many drivers more economic? WTF.?!!! Sounds like they're proposing to saddle the public transport operator with inflated operating costs just so they can save money on a major road enhancement. Usually when BRT is being promoted in emerging economies, they always say one day the city will be able to convert the new segregated alignments to heavy rail metro to keep pace with demand. Here we have a major developed western nation proposing to convert a major suburban metro system (think of say one branch of London's District Line) to bus! That mayor has been heavily 'lobbied' by someone! I'm not against the new A5 route obviously, but in any sensible city that would also be a new rail based metro. I smell World Bank consultants and dodgy US think tanks.
     

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