Return to Homepage

Third Report on Western Riverside development by 'TRAMS for BATH'





(9 June 2001)




The Bath Western Riverside site has the potential to become one of the biggest and most valuable developments in the South West of England. To fulfil this potential, it needs efficient transport links with the rest of Bath, the area surrounding Bath and the country as a whole.


'Trams for Bath' is primarily concerned with the quality of those links and their effect on the developments which might take place on the site. The desirability or otherwise of particular types of development is a matter for other groups and individuals.





The provision of large amounts of car parking and its access roads on the site will create an unpleasant ambience, waste valuable land space and increase traffic on surrounding roads.

Public transport holds the key to unlocking the full potential of the Western Riverside; and it must be considered as an integral part of the future development of Bath, not just on this site alone, but as a whole. People will not arrive at their destination by public transport if they have no access to it at the outset.


Rapid Transit Studies



Bath Interim Rapid Transit Study ( 19.05.98)

This recommended a bus-based rapid transit system but gave no grounds for preferring this to other modes. Such a system would be inappropriate for the Western Riverside:

1) The distances involved could be covered in a reasonable time by an effective local public transport system without the need for an exclusive Rapid Transit corridor.

2) The proposed corridor-based scheme does not serve the majority of the area of Bath or integrate with its transport needs. The use of buses does not per se guarantee any form of integration with other bus services.

3) A guided busway is incompatible with other road use and would cut the Western Riverside site in half, requiring access tunnels or elevated structures for other transport modes. Guided busway track is particulary unsightly and would be totally out of place in a prestigious environment.

4) Any system based on combustion engines will produce pollution which will destroy the ambience of developments on the site and add to pollution levels across the city

5) Busway track is very expensive to to install compared with a tramway, and it has a short life with a high maintenance burden. Experience in Greenwich and Nancy casts doubt on the operational safety of the guidance systems currently in use.

6) The vehicles are more expensive than trams, running maintainence and long-term replacement costs are all higher and this will be reflected in fares and subsidies.

7) Bus-based public transport has a poor quality image, inappropriate to a prestige development, and does not attract the motorist away from car use.

8) If a stadium or other large public venue were to be located in the Western Riverside area, a bus-based system would not have the 'crush capacity' to cope with large crowds. The economics of bus operation do not favour provision of late night services

9) The report did not shown any awareness of the alternative light tramway developments taking place in Britain during the previous 10 years.



The Hyder Report (19 June 2000)

This was intended to address tramway network proposals which had been omitted from the JMP Report. In the main, it failed to do so - repeating instead the bus corridor analysis of previous reports.

No account was taken of the findings of the Government 'Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Eighth Report', which recommended Central Government to fund well-thought-out tramway schemes because these represented good value for money in the long term.

Some tramway aspects were covered in the Hyder Report and these showed that, even given the restriction of a non-integrated corridor, certain routes through the Western Riverside had the potential to be viable.

The Report concluded that there was sufficient likelyhood of a tramway network for Bath proving viable and:
1) More research needed to be carried out.
2) The Local Transport Plan should contain a statement of intention to look into a tram network further.


Further Reports

Bath & N.E. Somerset Council PT&E Committee has included further research into a tramway network for Bath in the Local Transport Plan and has minuted the intention to carry out further detailed studies to assess the suitability of a tramway for the Western Riverside.




Statements of Support

University of Bath

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath has written in support of a tramway system and has stated that a suitable alignment will be included in the University's future plans.


Royal United Hospitals

The rebuilding plans for the Northern end of the hospitals site will include provision for a tramway route which is strongly supported by the hospital planners.



Benefits of a Tram Network Linking Western Riverside
to the Rest of Bath and Beyond:



The modern electric tram gives the best value for money of any public transport system. The tramway stands unchallenged as the most effective public transport mode for promoting modal shift away from car use.
The installation of a lightweight standard-gauge tram network would be the most cost effective solution to Bath's pollution and congestion problems.



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



Development 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. Regeneration of derelict land was a prime consideration in the decision to use tramways for Sheffield and Wolverhampton.



An electric tramway emits no fumes whatever.
It will assist in reducing pollution and noise levels and will ensure that the desirable high quality ambience of this prestige site is preserved.
To be effective, the transport links from this site will also have to pass through or near the City Centre, which must be protected from further pollution damage. Electric trams are the only non-polluting form of public transport already proven to work in Bath and to use them would be in line with the B&NES aim of sustainability in all new developments.



A modern tramway is compatible with other land use. It can be operated safely in pedestrian areas or run close to buildings without producing noise, vibration, or pollution.
Unlike a main road or a busway, a tramway in this area would not have the effect of cutting the site in half. It would run at street level without the need for any heavy infrastructure, underpass tunnels, bridges etc. and would be more accessible to users because of this. This would also enhance the 'people-friendly' image of the open spaces of the area by avoiding the concrete structures often associated with 'modern' car-based developments



The easy access and low travel costs of a tramway will attract industries to locate in the area and will assist them to recruit and retain their staff, thus reducing staff turnover and its consequent costs. For staff, the ability to arrive on time is a critical factor in deciding the transport mode for work journeys; the reliability of a tram service has been proven to reduce both perceived and actual car dependence. Tramways have the highest reputation for reliability of any public transport mode.
Modern Light Rail systems are used by all sectors of the community and will cater for the wide variety of personnel, from executive to unskilled worker, who will find employment on this site.



Housing developments which have access to good, reliable public transport are less car-dependent and more prestigious. If housing and schools are to be built on this site, reliability and accessibility of the public transport infrastructure both on this site and throughout the city will be a key factor in promoting its use.



Trams cope well with peak loads during 'rush-hour'. To cater for the business user, it is essential to reduce delays and overcrowding during the morning and afternoon travel peaks. Trams cope with heavy loading better than buses.

If entertainment premises or a sports stadium were built on the site, the 'elasticity' of a tram service would be a major factor in dealing with the transport problems which would otherwise arise.
Trams can carry at least twice as many standing passengers as they can seated ones. A tram with a rated seating capacity of 50, for example, will be allowed to carry over 150 passengers at 'crush loading' and will rapidly shift large crowds. The links this would give to virtually the whole of Bath and to all the Park+Ride sites will ensure that additional road traffic is not generated by these entertainment facilities in the built-up area.
The high-infrastructure and low running costs of a tramway favour extended operating hours which would allow patrons to return by public transport from late-night functions.


Successful projects depend on their intrinsic qualities and their "marketability". The presence of a tram network will enhance the marketing strategy of the site and underwrite financial viability. If 'Blue Chip' organisations in Commerce and Industry or Tourism and Leisure are to be attracted, Western Riverside will be competing with prestige sites across the country and will need trams to ensure a competitive position.



Tramway Proposals


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.

'Trams for Bath' has put forward proposals for a tramway network using lightweight vehicles and track. The cost of construction would be less, per kilometre, than a busway and the track and vehicles could be expected to have lifetimes of 50 years or more. Operating costs are much lower than for a bus-based system, allowing a cheaper and better service to be offered during a longer period of the day. The fact that such a system was in use in the city from 1904 to 1939, and ran entirely unsubsidised with very low fares, gives a strong indication that a similar system would be equally viable nowadays.

The proposed residential routes are in the form of a central circle with radials, covering approximately 75% of the built-up area of Bath within a 250 metre (each side) corridor and 90% within 500 metres. These will intercept the potential urban motorist at the correct point, on his or her own doorstep. All Park+Ride sites are served by extensions of the residential services, the speed of tramways making a separate non-stop service unnecessary. This will take motorists arriving from outside the city more directly to their required destinations than would dedicated corridor services to a central point.

All new tramway vehicles must be of level-loading low-floor construction to aid mobility-impaired people.

A detailed description of the proposal is available on our website:




A. Tuddenham (Secretary: 'Trams for Bath')

9 June 2001


Useful Internet Links




Trams for Bath website

The Hyder Report

TfB comments on Hyder

Other reports by TfB

Pictures of a Guided Busway

Select Committee Report on Light Rail

Bath Local Transport Plan

Bristol Local Transport Plan

Links to other sites