Questions in The Guardian we can answer

Edinburgh tram project: a right royal mile

How did a city famed for its citizens\’ prudence and excellent buses come close to disaster over its tram network plan?

By allowing the politicians to plan something.

22 thoughts on “Questions in The Guardian we can answer”

  1. And it thus becoming a battle-group between the two groups of thieving statist scumbags.

    They needed something to differentiate themselves in the minds of the voters other than a yellow versus a red rosette.

  2. Can anyone explain what are the supposed benefits of trams? My grandfather’s generation got rid of them, and replaced them with buses, which seem to me are a better form of public transport as they are more flexible, can have multiple competitors (not just on routes but also for the equipment).

    What are the supposed benefits of trams?

  3. When I lived in Edinburgh many of the bus routes had originally been tram routes. And the buses worked very well, by and large. They even soared up The Mound in icy weather, courtesy of its electric heating. Anyway, if you want a natural comparator of the Edinburgh Tram fiasco, google the Cambridge Guided Bus fiasco.

  4. Tim Almond. This is a complex subject but put simply modern trams or light rail as they’re usually called, have a number of advantages over both buses and heavy rail, they have greater capacity than buses, can operate on street unlike heavy rail but also on reserved track which allows for faster running. They essentially work in the same way as a tube or metro system ( integrated metro/tram systems are used in some cities ) but are cheaper to construct and operate, if they are planned and built correctly that is. Trams are a very good way of dealing with the movements of large numbers of people in cities but due to our politicians and bureaucrats being even more useless than everyone else’s they have not had a good history in this country recently. Incidentally getting rid of all the old tramways was a mistake, some of them, Leeds and Liverpool for example, had a lot of reserved track and modern vehicles they could have been upgraded and been a very useful contributor to the transport systems in those cities.

  5. dearieme. The Cambridge guided busway is a classic example of what’s wrong with public transport planning in this country, it hasn’t had the same exposure as the Edinburgh fiasco probably because it isn’t as politically useful but if anything it’s a far bigger scandal. Millions wasted on a pointless system that was already known to be technically flawed. The original proposal was to build a light rail line on the old Cambridge – St. Ives railway formation, a common practice now but because that was considered too expensive the guided busway was sold to gullible local politicians. Why no one pointed out that if you wanted a busway a simple stretch of tarmac road would do I have no idea, except that what the average politician knows about transport could be written on the back of a stamp with room left over for an expenses claim form.

  6. Edinburgh had a (completely pointless, as far as I could see) guided busway too. All they needed was a ‘bus only in the rush hour’ lane added to the side of that road.

    IIRC, it is one of the things that has been ripped up for the trams.

  7. Thornavis,

    “what the average politician knows about anything practical could be written on the back of a stamp with room left over for an expenses claim form.”

    Fixed that for you. Of course, local politicians are worse than national ones (hard though that may be to comprehend). You also need to make sure that ‘average’ is modal or median, rather than mean, because the one or two who do actually have more than the usual feral instinct for marketing and collection of dodgy prejudices do bias the distribution.

  8. roger thornhill. I don’t know which trams you’ve been listening to but modern ones are no noisier than buses and often quieter, depends largely on how well the track is laid and maintained, as with any rail system. Trolleys were introduced as a substitute for trams because the trams and their infrastructure were getting old and due to the particular conditions of the time ( immediate pre and post war ) had lost some of their advantages over buses, however they also have fixed infrastructure and their loading capacity and speeds were generally no better than motor buses.

  9. @thornavis: thanks for the explanation. Better than the Edinburgh cooncil approach of “shut up and take it”. Still not convinced that they would be appropriate for here, even if the project had gone perfectly. Outside of a pretty short rush-hour period Edinburgh used to be fairly easy to get around either by car or bus. Congestion problems now are almost entirely due to the Council messing around with 1-way systems etc and now the tram works.

  10. What are the supposed benefits of trams?

    They are twee, an expensive implementation of “old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist” style nostalgia.

  11. Why no one pointed out that if you wanted a busway a simple stretch of tarmac road would do I have no idea…

    Good grief! I’ve just looked that up, it appears they have replaced an ordinary road with miles of reinforced concrete so the driver can rest his hands.

  12. Tim Newman. Can’t see why trams are any more twee than any other transport mode, they never actually went away you know, it’s not as if someone went to Crich tram museum one day and said wouldn’t it be nice if we could run some of these charmers again.
    GlenDorran. They may not be appropriate for Edinburgh, the whole thing has been so bedeviled by party infighting that it’s never really been possible to tell. That’s the main problem with public transport provision in this country, there has been very little stepping back from advocacy to take a dispassionate look at what is actually needed and the best way to provide it.

  13. trams v buses – both can work but it depends on the implementation. Compare oxford Street in London with the Damrak in Amsterdam. oxford Street has been narrowed and there is a set of traffic lights every 50 feet. A number of bus routes go along this street and it inevitably turns into a slow-moving buspark, taking probably 30 minutes from end-to-end. The Damrak is wide and haas a dedicated trackway for trams. End-to-end in 5 minute in one of the trams – slightly longer by bus. The trams carry many more passengers than the buses and they do not pump out clouds of black smoke. Cities with trams – Brussels, Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague etc – just tend to seem more pleasant to travel around on public transport compared with cities without trams – eg LA and Santiago with their chaotic, slow-movin,g seemingly random bus services.

  14. diogenes. All good points, the obsession with traffic calming and general littering of the streets with obstacles that is rife in this country are another reason why our cities are so difficult to move around in.

  15. Another thing ( I shall stop in a minute I promise ), it’s a great mistake to see transport modes, particularly public ones, as X v Y, a zero sum game in which there can only be one optimum outcome. It depends on all sorts of variables and different modes often complement one another – buses acting as feeders for metros for instance – as ever more choice will ensure the best result in the end.

  16. We could have petrol/ electric buses with power lines over the roads in city centres and a rooftop connector. Buses run on power or run on petrol and recharge batteries from the overhead. When the overheads end the buses run on batteries /petrol or they could run on batteries only all the time while the on-board petrol engine tops up/recharges the batteries.

  17. Also if you want more on corruption in transport and Scotland see blogs “E U Refferendum” and “A Place To Stand”

  18. Mr Ecks. Your idea has been looked at in some places but so far no one’s come up with a workable system that is as cost effective as ordinary buses. The problem with any bi-mode system is that you have duplication of power sources for the same job, witness the loony IEP train for the East Coast main line, where an electric train will drag a diesel unit all the way to Edinburgh ( that place again ! ) just so it can run on diesel to Aberdeen. All because the DfT is convinced that attaching a locomotive where the wires run out is just too 20th century for words.

  19. Tim,

    If the past four years have taught us nothing else, it’s that Edinburgh’s reputation for prudence deserved rather more scrutiny than it got.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *