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Author Topic: Electric buses: Why were trolleybuses ever scrapped?  (Read 12641 times)
grahame
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« on: January 11, 2020, 02:27:50 pm »

Electric trams ran in Cardiff from 1904 to 1950 - 46 years. Electric (trolley) buses ran in Cardiff from 1942 to 1970 - just under 30 years. How long will there be electric trains there?  Will they last longer than the trolley buses (i.e. beyond 2048)?   Will they last longer than the trams (i.e. beyond 2065), or will the electric trains be phased out once the vehicles and / or infrastructure wear out, as happened with the trams and trolley buses?

From BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page) Wales

Quote
Electric buses: Why were trolleybuses ever scrapped?

They were the original electric buses but 50 years ago today saw the plug pulled on the last trolleybus in Wales.
Environmentally friendly and cheap, they finally succumbed to car ownership and fossil fuel on 11 January 1970.
Yet half a century later - almost to the day - local councils now see electric public transport as an answer to congestion and air pollution.

Some experts and enthusiasts even believe that shift could spark a revival for the forgotten trolleybus.
Known as the "trackless trolleys" when they first appeared on UK (United Kingdom) streets in 1911, trolleybuses became the workhorses of the public transport network.

Freed from the restrictions of tracks, taking their power from overhead cables, they provided clean, affordable and quick transport for the masses.

In Cardiff alone, more than six million journeys were taken in the first 12 months of the system opening on St David's Day in 1942.

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stuving
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2020, 03:55:21 pm »

May I refer you to my recent post about resilience and flexibility? Trams lost out to motor buses because they were so easily blocked, and trolleybuses come somewhere between the two but still lost out. Since most companies would want to "borrow" town buses for other jobs   - almost bound to be off the wires - that would also count against them.

Electrifying trains gives two obvious losses of flexibility and resilience. Being restricted to electrified lines can be reduced in its importance by electrifying more, but it will be some time before wires reach almost everywhere. The issue of power cuts can be mitigated by an energy reserve (batteries), which can also help with some off-wire movements. So I think you can say it's a smaller effect here, and will get smaller still. Being easily blocked is inherent to being trains, wires or no wires.

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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2020, 07:37:35 pm »

Trams are probably more likely to be blocked than trains as they share a greater length with other traffic. This leaves them vulnerable to general congestion and to the effects of car crashes.
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2020, 09:24:07 am »

Many buses are now powered by electric batteries, so why go to the expense and hassle of putting up wires?
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bobm
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2020, 10:27:07 am »

The cost of re-routing wires in Reading to accommodate the then new one way system spelt the end for trolleybuses there in 1968.  There was also an increasing problem getting spares.
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2020, 11:38:48 am »

Now I would disagree with many here. I believe trolleybuses to be the missing link in transport in the U.K. Not the standard type of bus routes we saw in the past with trolleys, but tram like routes with large recognisable stops.

Electric battery buses are just different motive power. It's the same untrusted form of transport we have now that is subjected to last minute diversions, parked vehicles and counted as just another part of general traffic, not to say that they wouldn't be useful and desired for particular routes, I just don't think that they should have the job of providing main routes in urban areas.

Now I'm going to use the example of Reading's number 17 route here, as it's a successful corridor established for well over 100 years. The 17 was a trolleybus route up until 1968 and before that an electric and horse tram route across the town centre from east to west. Since the end of the trolleybuses, nothing has particularly changed about the bus route save for two short one way sections in the town centre, nothing has also changed in the style of how the route is operated either it's still a standard one person operation bus route. Now the way I see it, 50 years of fossil fuels have been burnt at the point of operation since the end of the trolleybuses for the sake of perceived flexibility on a route corridor that never changes. Yes, it's been diverted for RTCs and roadworks but should we be basing reliable transport on the potential for things to go wrong? Or should we make them permanent and obvious? Roadworks should be arranged around the public transport not the other way round, even though it is convenient for authorities. RTCs are also something which we should be aiming to have less of, not building the potential for them occurring into public transport, and more public transport could potentially mean less of them. As far as public transport running in regular traffic is concerned, the 17 route in particular has a lot of dedicated lanes and Britain's first bus contraflow lane (designed to avoid rerouting the trolleys) which helps it be a successful corridor, but there are still some areas where it sits in traffic such as the Oxford Road. This regular traffic that holds buses up is the exact thing that we are trying to get rid of, so if we get it right, my thinking is that this traffic will no longer hold the transport up in these locations.

If our transport routes are supposed to stay fixed and permanent, why not make the power feed permanent too. Now you could put battery buses on the 17 tomorrow and have the same thing, right? I disagree. Whilst emissions at the point of use will be the same there are three advantages of providing a permanent power feed. One is the obvious public transport corridor provided by the overhead (similar to a street with tram tracks), two is avoiding unnecessary continual replacement of batteries and the disposal of their waste products (something which is only going to increase), three is the vehicles location can be accurately placed and, perhaps not considered before, signal controlled for the benefit of busy stops. Permanent feed also decides what type of vehicle an operator can use and standardises design. Modern trolleybuses do have batteries for off wire running to garages and to extend routes into other areas and this makes sense, but I personally think that the main continually used corridors should have permanent power feed available. Batteries aren't the solution, just part of it.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 11:45:27 am by Reading General » Logged
Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2020, 01:38:16 pm »

Good points but I can't help thinking, in that case why not put down rails and run it as a tram? It would be more efficient and more permanent and easier to avoid in terms of roadworks etc.
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broadgage
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2020, 02:32:08 pm »

I favour the reintroduction of trolley buses.
No pollution at the point of use, and less pollution in total since a significant and growing proportion of UK (United Kingdom) electricity is from renewables.
Modern batteries would permit of some miles of battery operation, but to keep the cost, weight, and bulk of the battery within reason, then the majority of the route would have to be wired.
Limited battery operation permits of passing under bridges too low for the overhead, allows trolley buses to cross electric railways at level crossings, and greatly simplifies the overhead at complex road junctions.

Trolley bus infrastructure could be used by approved delivery trucks and other vehicles, thereby further reducing pollution.

Trams are in some respects preferable but are more costly and less flexible.

IMHO (in my humble opinion), we need a national standard for trolley bus infrastructure, to stop each local authority developing their own unique type that is not inter operable. The VEHICLES can be different if required but a trolley bus, or a truck from one town should be able to utilise the overhead in ANY town.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
TonyK
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2020, 02:37:19 pm »

Good points but I can't help thinking, in that case why not put down rails and run it as a tram? It would be more efficient and more permanent and easier to avoid in terms of roadworks etc.

Indeed so. We tried the internal combustion engine, it brought flexibility to the table, but at enormous environmental cost. Routes that haven't changed in decades should have rails put down and the single overhead cable needed for the job. Where space permits, the route should be segregated. This would take advantage of the economic advantages of trams - fewer parts, lower friction, longer lifespan, higher passenger loads - with buses going where they can't or where it isn't economic to run trams.

We tried diesel, it worked reasonably well, but time to move on. Leeds submitted plans for trolley buses when their plans for trams were binned by the government, to be told that the costs far outweighed the benefits when compared to Euro VI standard diesel buses. The mind set that downgraded modern trams to diesel buses needs to change. Trolley buses are a middle ground solution.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2020, 03:00:56 pm »

Interoperability of trolleybuses from one town to another isn't really necessary unless we anticipate services from one town to another, which would then necessitate the wiring of interurban main roads. But it's clearly advantageous in terms of keeping costs down to have a national standard, and not just national, the larger, the more effective. Several countries in Europe use trolleybuses; I don't know if there's any kind of EN for pick-ups and so on but we already have pan-European standards on electricity distribution so it should be possible to develop on. Well, maybe.  Undecided
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broadgage
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2020, 03:06:31 pm »

I was suggesting inter operability partly to keep costs down, but also in case interurban services are required in the future.
I also hope that trolley bus infrastructure could be used by delivery trucks. Persuading logistics firms to buy trolley trucks might be a struggle, persuading them to buy a different design for each town seems unlikely.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2020, 03:22:42 pm »

Trolley-trucks have been used in a couple of places. I think, off the top of my head, Sweden and California. Clearly you need somewhere that the same vehicles are used on the same routes and no others for it to work (just like trolleybuses, really).
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ellendune
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2020, 06:48:09 pm »

I was suggesting inter operability partly to keep costs down, but also in case interurban services are required in the future.
I also hope that trolley bus infrastructure could be used by delivery trucks. Persuading logistics firms to buy trolley trucks might be a struggle, persuading them to buy a different design for each town seems unlikely.

I agree - standardised components would keep costs down.
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Reading General
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2020, 10:39:32 pm »

Interoperability of trolleybuses from one town to another isn't really necessary unless we anticipate services from one town to another, which would then necessitate the wiring of interurban main roads. But it's clearly advantageous in terms of keeping costs down to have a national standard, and not just national, the larger, the more effective. Several countries in Europe use trolleybuses; I don't know if there's any kind of EN for pick-ups and so on but we already have pan-European standards on electricity distribution so it should be possible to develop on. Well, maybe.  Undecided

What is entirely plausible though is for an interurban bus to run as a trolleybus to the edge of one town, run diesel or battery between, then join the wires of another towns system at the edge to run to the centre. It would depend of the frequency of your service on whether a route would be worth wiring between two towns. Reading to Wokingham for example would probably be a reasonable distance to wire all the way if the popularity of public transport rises.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2020, 09:00:01 am »

Sounds feasible if the batteries have enough capacity. And in practice such a standard should enable interoperability (which again in practice is going to depend on local politics and commercial decisions).
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