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A Master Plan at Foxhill, Bath



The damage being caused to our natural and built environments by unrestricted use of the motor car is now a matter for major concern.
Attempts to restrict this damage by improving vehicle standards can cause more environmental damage, during manufacture, remanufacture and disposal, than they prevent. Encouraging sales of 'improved' vehicles increases manufacturing pollution and, ultimately, pollution and road congestion from increased car use.
Public transport would make a great many car journeys unnecessary if it were more 'user friendly'. Unfortunately, the only form of public transport known to most people in this country is the bus and this has become the transport of last resort. Even if bus services were improved to the extent that they were able to fulfil the role of a good public transport system, they would do so at the expense of further increased pollution congestion and road damage.
Local Authorities all over the country are now painfully aware of the detrimental effects of increased traffic and their attempts to control it have become urgent and time-consuming matters. Public transport is seen as holding the key but bus-based schemes do not fulfil their apparent promise.
A form of public transport which has been shown to work is the modern electric tram. It is a proven solution to the problems caused by the downward spiral of Public Transport in Britain. In America, many tramways are being reinstated to regenerate city centres devastated by excessive car use.
Recent new tramways in Britain have been constructed to a very heavy standard and would be unsuitable for Bath. Ultra-light rail makes many interesting claims but has yet to demonstrate long-term robustness.
A modern equivalent of the 'traditional' tramcar of around 15 tonnes weight would be the ideal compromise for Bath, requiring only a lightweight track structure and yet capable of handling the passenger numbers needed to give commercial viability. The fact that such a system was in use in the city until 1939, and never made a financial loss despite unbelievably low fares, gives a strong indication that a similar system would be equally viable nowadays.
Trams for Bath has put forward proposals for a tramway network using lightweight vehicles and track. The routes, in the form of a central circle with radials, intercept approximately 75% of the built-up area of Bath within a 250 metre (each side) corridor and 90% within 500 metres. The vehicles would be of level-loading low-floor construction to aid mobility-impaired people and could include provision for cycles. A detailed description of the proposal is available on computer disk and will soon be placed 'on line' as a website.

The Foxhill site would stand to benefit in many ways from the installation of a tramway.

1) Urban land values increase following an irreversible improvement in the public transport infrastructure. Tram routes are in a similar category to railway stations in this respect, they represent a high level of infrastructure investment and give confidence that they will not be removed at the operator's whim.

2) The land area occupied by a tramway is less than for any other form of motorised transport, allowing better use to be made of land which would otherwise be wasted as roads and parking space. An estimated 15% more land could be made available for other uses when not taken up with vehicle parking.

3) A tramway generates no fumes whatever, modern trams are also considerably quieter than other road vehicles. This makes the tramway compatible with pedestrian and residential areas. In view of the distance from the main road of some of the housing on the Foxhill site, a public transport corridor through (rather than past), the site should be considered; a tramway would be the least disruptive way of achieving this.

4) Experience shows that the reliability of a tram service is effective at reducing both perceived and actual car dependence; this would reduce the amount of extra road traffic the Foxhill development will otherwise generate.

5) A great deal of effort has been put into ensuring sustainability in the built infrastructure proposed for this site, a tramway would be the ideal public transport mode to complement this. If an internal-combustion-engined form of public transport, or worse, no public transport at all is proposed, it will compromise the sustainability of the whole project.

6) Successful projects depend on their intrinsic qualities and their "marketability". The provision for a future (or the presence of an actual) Tram network will enhance the marketing strategy and underwrite financial viability.

A. Tuddenham (Secretary: 'Trams for Bath')
4 March 1999