For those that know me, It is probably surprising that I have not written about trams before today. So here it is – Trams – the future?
I will be perfectly honest, I don’t like trams. Let me explain why!
I live in Nottingham where we are unlucky enough to have a tram ‘Network’. Well, I say network, it is one line with a branch on either end. The local operator manages to combine both my dislike of trams with a wonderful ability to deliver virtually no customer service. A double whammy!
So why don’t I like trams?
There are many reasons for my dislike of trams.
- For many years now, Network Rail in the UK have been attempting to separate cars and pedestrians from trains. They have been doing this as they have learnt from years of experience that the trains do not mix well with cars and people. They have spent many millions of pounds installing bridges, tunnels and enhancing crossings to keep them apart. So why then, do we think it is suddenly a great idea to run them down the middle of a road?
- Noisy. A tram running down the middle of a road in a residential district are very noisy. Especially on corners. I live just under a mile away from the Nottingham tram, yet I can hear the high pitched track squeal as they navigate the tight corners. What this must be like for the people on the route, heaven only knows.
- Ugly. The amount of street furniture, signage, poles and cables turn attractive roads into an ugly see of metal and concrete.
- Inflexible. Trams are very susceptible to disruption. In Nottingham, if one tram fails, the whole network stops! Not only that, when new demand appears, such as a new housing estate, the tram can’t move to service it.
- Cost. The cost of construction per mile is staggering. The HS2 line looks cheap in comparison.
- Commercially viable? According to published accounts freely available on the internet, the Nottingham Tram has lost 166 million pounds in the last 4 years. £166m!
As I have said, the Nottingham tram not only has all the traits mentioned above, it suffers from another issue; lack of customer service.
The tram operator, NET (laughingly known as Notoriously Erratic Trams) do not understand customer service.
Some time ago, they removed the conductors from the services. As a result, all their staff are now completely inaccessible at the point of service. The driver is locked away and there is no face to face interaction.
They do have a secret weapon to really make a persons day. They have packs of revenue protection officers hunting in groups. Whilst they do little to help you, they put a lot of effort into punishing you if you make a mistake (I have not been caught!).
So why use the tram?
For some, the tram will be of benefit. That is fantastic. However, if you consider a suburban centre to city centre journey where there are other options, It does not really make sense. The infographic below is a copy of one I have seen elsewhere. The journey times are from Beeston Centre to Nottingham centre on a weekday mid morning. It makes things no clearer to me!
NET = Nottingham Express Transit. NCT = Nottingham City Transport.
Some people will say the tram is better for the environment. That may be so now, however, it has much repair work to be done. The trams were shipped from Spain. The traffic chaos as the routes were constructed plagued the life of many.
The two main bus operators have invested heavily in modern fleets of vehicles. With the latest engine technology. From auto stop engines to the largest bio gas fleet in the country. They are ahead of the game.
Reliability and impact
As I mentioned above, 1 tram failing disrupts the whole network in Nottingham. This is a daily occurrence. There are so many other frailties. In January 2020, there was virtually no service until 9 o’clock one morning due to ice on the overhead lines. This was despite the weather being forecast.
If trams are the future of local transport, then I really do worry for the future. I am old enough to be able to appreciate reliability, convenience, flexibility and face to face interactions with staff.
I think I’ll stick to the bus or proper trains.
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