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A fair comparison between the cost of a tramway and the cost of other modes is not as straightforward as proponents of the other modes would like to imply. As an example the relative costs of tram and bus are compared below. (This is not intended to decry the bus, but merely to obtain a fair comparison)

It should also be borne in mind that the cost of the private car to the population is far higher than any public transport mode.



 Tramways bear the full cost of the track, its planning, construction and maintenance. In addition they bear much of the cost of diverting other services and landscaping, reconstructing and maintaining roads.
New tramways are often taken as an opportunity for urban reconstruction and the costs of these ventures are not clearly distinguished from the tramway costs.
 Buses operate on public roads. They pay an annual license fee but are not expected to bear any special maintenance costs or to make arangements for other traffic inconvenienced by their operation.
The costs of incorporting buses into any new town planning project are not laid at the feet of the bus company.

 Trams have a very high initial cost but this is spread over a vehicle life of around 50 years (with probably one major refit).
The maintenance costs are low and fuel costs are very low indeed, giving good economy of scale.
The cost of a fleet of trams is always included in the cost of a new tramway project
 Buses are relatively cheap to purchase but have a much shorter life than a tram and incur much higher fuel and maintenance costs. Economies of scale are minimal.
When considering guided busways, the cost of the vehicles is often omitted from the estimates of the project.

 Tram stops are part of the tramway. To comply with the Disabilities Discrimination Act they have to be carefully designed to compliment the vehicles.
The cost of the shelters can sometimes be met by allowing them to be used for advertising
 Bus stops are regarded street furniture and have been exempted from the Disabilities Discrimination Act.
It seems likely that the cost of conversion, if they are ever required to comply with the Act, will fall upon the Local Authority.
The cost of the shelters can sometimes be met by allowing them to be used for advertising

 Tramway alignments incorporate underground ductwork to allow power to be distributed to remote sections of the track. These ducts can also be used for signalling, passenger information, security and other communications at relatively little extra cost.
The cost of these items is included as part of the cost of the tramway.
 Bus routes (unless they are along old tram routes) are not provided with ductwork. If passenger information displays and other communications are needed, they are far more expensive to install.
The cost of these extras, which have a big influence on public perception of transport mode, is not usually included in a bus scheme.


 A tram depôt needs special maintenance equipment similar to a railway workshop. This is expensive in first cost and occupies more space but it allows cheap maintenance over the lifetime of the vehicles.

The relative costs of bus and tram depôts will depend on land prices at any particular location.

 A bus depôt is more like a lorry repair shop. The equipment is cheaper and smaller but overall maintenance costs are higher.
Because more buses than trams are needed for a given frequency of service, the vehicle storage area of a bus depôt is larger than a tram depôt for the same sized town.


Possible sources of Funding

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