The views of the Trams for Bath group




One of the key transport factors emerging from the Western Riverside consultation process has been a strong determination that the site should not be overrun with cars.

  • From the public's point of view, car-based development is seen as polluting, congesting and ugly.
  • From the developers' point of view, cars waste valuable land space which could be used more profitably.
  • Even from the motorists' point of view, there is a strong deterrent effect from the congestion surrounding this site and the problems of parking when you get there.

Attempts to reduce car traffic elsewhere in the city have shown that just banning the car is no solution. Unless you provide a genuine alternative transport system, people will simply drive themselves away.


Of course there are some alternatives to the car for some people and for some journeys, but for the majority of car users these are not seen as real  alternatives. If they really were alternatives, the recent anti-car measures around Bath would have resulted in a huge increase in bus and bicycle use, rather than a drop in city-centre trade.

At present, about ten times as many people travel into Bath by car as by any other mode; so a one-percent decrease in car use should result in roughly a ten-percent increase in other modes.

The latest figures show just a one-percent increase in bus passengers after years of steady decline and rising subsidy. Hardly a convincing argument for making the Western Riverside a low-car-use zone.


Across the country, there has been only one significant switch away from cars in recent years. Surprisingly, this has been the result of the re-introduction of a transport mode which had been almost forgotten in this country .

In Manchester, Sheffield, Wolverhampton and Croydon, the word "Tram" is once again on everybody's lips. The rattling clanking trams of yesteryear have become just a faded memory, displaced instead by the reality of a sleek, quiet dependable and hassle-free way of getting around.

This is not just a 'bus replacement', people in these cities are actually switching away from cars in large numbers because they are finding the tram is better than a car or a bus in a congested city centre. Plans for dozens of tramway extensions are being pushed through, to cope with the huge demand.


Since the days of Avon, there has been a background idea of some sort of
'Rapid Transit' corridor in Bath. From time to time it gets dusted off, assessed as unworkable - and put back on the shelf. No-one has really looked into the underlying reasons why it would be unsuitable:

  • It is a disruptive single corridor, in isolation, with few stopping places.
  • It does not interact with its surroundings or the local travel needs of Bathonians
  • It has been assessed as if it were just another (rather specialised) bus route

This is still the underlying concept behind the B&NES plans for public transport on the Western Riverside site - but the original reasons why it was declared unworkable have not been dealt-with and it is still unworkable.


First and foremost, the Western Riverside needs a transport system which people can use and will use. It has to be:

  • A network which links the Western Riverside with the rest of Bath and beyond
  • A reliable system which you can take for granted and which is there when you want to catch it
  • Integrated with its surroundings
  • Suitable for an historic city in the 21st century
  • Well proven for regenerating brownfield sites and increasing prosperity in Bath
  • A real alternative to the car for as many journeys as possible.

This is why Trams for Bath has been advocating a modern tramway network.
The present plans will link about 90% of the residential and employment areas of Bath including the Hospitals and the University of Bath. They have tramstops at all the existing and proposed Park+Ride sites, Bath Spa Railway Station, the Bus Station, the Coach Station and all around the city centre.  
Click for larger map

Trams have the best record of any type of public transport for reducing car traffic whilst simulaneously regenerating brownfield sites by promoting trade and commerce. Bath needs to 'get a quart into a pint pot' if business is to continue to flourish and trams will allow better use of valuable land resources.


The Western Riverside would be served by
3 routes simultaneously, resulting in a 2-minute service at peak times with no more than one change for access to anywhere in Bath.

The value of the site will be enhanced, so developers can provide good quality development and employers will want to locate their businesses there.

Electrical power ensures that no fumes or noise will be generated anywhere on the site. The trams can even go through buildings so that passengers do not need to wait outdoors.
 A tram route should be at ground level for ease of access and does not have to follow a straight line. This allows greater flexibility for planning and favourable location of the other types of routes. It should, whenever possible, have its own right of way but must not be isolated from the places people want to use it. The route to Newbridge should not be isolated in an old railway cutting.



Central Government is looking very favourably upon well-thought-out tramway proposals at the moment. It has already pledged large amounts of money to new schemes across the country. If Bath is to succeed in a major bid like this, it will need to do a large amount of research first.

European money is available for research into significantly new public transport schemes. Trams are not new, but building a new tram network in a town the size of Bath, with all its special architectural heritage, could be considered particularly innovative. To apply for a European Grant will need money too.

Some of the developers of the Western Riverside site have stated very strongly that they are in favour of a tram network and are prepared to back developments in this direction. With their backing and the research which B&NES already needs to do in order to keep the viability of the city centre, an application for European money should be feasible.


B&NES is now commissioning a "20-year Vision for Bath". The Authority has at last shown a willingness to consider other alternatives to the corridor concept. This is the opportunity for B&NES to tear itself away from the muddled thinking of the past and to come up with something which will be of long-term benefit to the whole of the city and its surroundings.


TRAMS for BATH October 2001



 'Trams for Bath' proposals

"Connecting the Western Riverside"

The route to Newbridge P+R

Developers' Notes on tramways

Alphabetical index of tramway topics

Light Rail Transit Association website

Other tramway websites

B&NES website