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Author Topic: Trams for Bristol (again) and Bath?  (Read 672 times)
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2021, 06:51:07 pm »

There is a Webinar on this subject on Thurs 25th Feb, by the way; it's open to all:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/west-of-england-mass-transit-transport-webinar-tickets-140056999255

Worth noting the distinction WECA make between rapid transit - which we can take to mean MetroBus - and mass transit, which (according to JLTP4) usually runs on rails... we'll see what they have to say!
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TonyK
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« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2021, 07:49:41 pm »

Would a WECA tram system work? The simple, truthful answer is no-one knows for sure; it would depend on how it was implemented. But many other European cities of similar size (and smaller) have decided that it makes sense to use light rail, and have found ways of funding it. I agree that we shouldn't make assumptions that one mode (be it tram, light rail, bus or some other solution) is the right way forward, though there is a lot to be said for specifying tried and tested off-the-shelf technology. Trams work.

I am not aware of anyone advocating running trams along a current or former heavy rail route between Bristol and Bath - as discussed upthread, there might not be much point in that. JLTP4 talks of four mass transit routes, one of which is Bristol to Bath along the A4 corridor.

Once again I see the claim that 'the good residents of Bath, for example, already have form in objecting to OHLE in their neck of the woods'. Do they? They will quite rightly insist that any wires are put up in a way that doesn't spoil a Unesco World Heritage city. The only person I can find on record objecting to wiring in Bath in principle was...Chris Grayling (who, as I understand it, lives in Surrey).

I don't know Bath particularly well from a transport point of view, but I have long experience of getting around Bristol, using public transport or otherwise. I can say that Bristol has tried all manner of ideas to improve bus services, but it still isn't easy to cross the city at peak times. MetroBust has speeded up some journeys, but in normal times leaves people waiting at intermediate stops on the routes, gets stuck in Bedminster or on the M32, and joined a bus network that saw a decline in passenger numbers overall before the pandemic. The changes in fare payments, from "Have you change of a twenty, Drive?" paper tickets through mobile apps to contactless has probably had as much of a positive impact on services as the quarter-billion quid attempt at overkill.

Bus services are run by private operators. If there was a real demand for more buses, and if they can be run without losing lots of money, there would be fierce competition in Bristol and cities like it, but there isn't. MetroBust is officially open access, but has attracted only one operator, and that at the cost of the access charges that were supposed to be paid by buses using the infrastructure to repay the capital cost. The answer surely isn't more buses.
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Now, please!
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2021, 09:31:00 pm »


And my response to that would be that whoever the "Some might say" are that Robin is referring to, they really dont know campaigners like grahame and myself at all, and certainly havent studied our ethos or how weve conducted ourselves over the past couple of decades.

I see that further clarification is needed yet again! I must try to get the hang of making all my points properly the first time and nor have to come back with explanations and clarifications!

I meant no disrespect or insult to anyone on this forum in my paragraph dealing with “agendas.” Most people have them, especially politicians, and having agendas that they would like to progress is no bad thing in itself. However, how those agendas may be seen by others in the opposing camp may be very different.

 I had in mind a sentence in Lee’s post that I quoted that ran: “those who have an agenda to keep the Melksham line as the "lightly-used passenger backwater" and that is why I quoted it. This seems to be one person’s interpretation on the matter and it might not be the intention that the holder of these views actually had in mind (or it could be of course – I wasn’t at the meetings so all I have is this statement to go on).

Who, I wondered, would have the desire or more importantly the motivation to keep a low-frequency service if a more frequent service would not only be beneficial to the local residents but could also turn a profit for the TOC concerned? It is not as though any expensive infrastructure work was needed; only some extra trains and the crews to man them and provided they were available there seems to be no reason why the idea could not be tried. If it didn’t work the trains could have been taken off again

Those criteria would not apply to trams for Bristol and Bath. If multiple billions are spent on a service that doesn’t attract sufficient business, then those who authorised it would be stuck up a proverbial creek without a paddle...






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Lee
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« Reply #33 on: Yesterday at 01:31:46 am »

I had in mind a sentence in Lee’s post that I quoted that ran: “those who have an agenda to keep the Melksham line as the "lightly-used passenger backwater" and that is why I quoted it. This seems to be one person’s interpretation on the matter and it might not be the intention that the holder of these views actually had in mind (or it could be of course – I wasn’t at the meetings so all I have is this statement to go on).

Who, I wondered, would have the desire or more importantly the motivation to keep a low-frequency service if a more frequent service would not only be beneficial to the local residents but could also turn a profit for the TOC concerned? It is not as though any expensive infrastructure work was needed; only some extra trains and the crews to man them and provided they were available there seems to be no reason why the idea could not be tried. If it didn’t work the trains could have been taken off again

In order to answer that question, I first need to provide you with some background. The best way of doing that would be to ask you to read the quote below:

Part of the fight campaigners such as myself fought against the Closure Guidance changes of the mid-2000s was the associated neutering of the TUCC system. I wasn't hugely enamoured with TravelWatch SouthWest either during that period which also encompassed the battles against the December 2006 Draft FGW Timetable - They were pumping out some very heavily pro-FGW material, which was hardly surprising given the prominence of their bus and rail company sponsorship.

As those who know me will be aware, I do extensive research before I come to a definitive view on something, which means it generally takes an awful lot to convince me to change that view once I've formed it. However, I can honestly say that TravelWatch SouthWest is one of those rare examples of where my view has been changed.

When the TransWilts rail service was reduced to near-extinction in 2006, I uncovered significant evidence in Network Rail plans that part of the reason that TransWilts got nothing at all while others got at least some concessions was that the paths needed to be kept clear for a projected big increase in freight traffic. I detailed all this in my "The Freight Angle" series of articles at the time, but was generally dismissed as a conspiracy theorist by those higher up. However, at pretty much all of the public meetings I attended at the time, one such "higher-up" would always back me to the hilt when I raised the freight issue. His name was Chris Irwin, and he was the head of TravelWatch SouthWest during this period. He had taken the time to read all my articles, assessed them in depth, and was convinced that I was right.

His backing made a big difference to the credibility of how my case was viewed officially, and I'm sure helped to lead to Network Rail admitting their intentions in 2008. Since then there has been a far better level of open engagement between all the relevant parties, and policy to accommodate projected future passenger and freight growth is now increasingly focussed on the kind of necessary infrastructure enhancements that grahame and others have always advocated.

TravelWatch SouthWest as an organisation, and in terms of its output has definitely become more balanced over the years since as well, and that I'm sure is partly due to the inclusion of people like grahame on the board who you certainly cant consider to be bus/rail company yes-people.

I can also confirm that, whether as an individual or as a representative of an organisation such as TransWilts, CoffeeShop etc, I have always been granted an invitation to TravelWatch SouthWest events when I've requested one, and always been made to feel welcome at such events.

We all wish that there had been a more diplomatic way of achieving this, but I am afraid there simply wasnt. NR were determined to reserve the Melksham line for freight, and if we hadnt have exposed their intentions in the way we did, then we wouldnt have been able to unlock the paths required for an appropriate TransWilts passenger service, and the route would most likely still have a couple of pseudo-parliamentary trains each way per day that were of little use to anyone.

The current Melksham line capacity situation is best summed up by recapping the excellent recent post by grahame below:

So ... how did they do?  "Pretty Well".




How it was run

Hourly train from Westbury at about xx:12 into Swindon at xx:54, and from Swindon at xx:24 arriving at Westbury at xx+1:02. Times varied by a few minutes (but only a few minutes) in any hour; 38 minute running time achieved in the example quoted includes stops at Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge. Without other trains getting in the way (key comment!) the service daily could be run clockface, hourly, using 2 x 90 m.p.h. Turbos, hourly, to these timings, on current infrastructure.

Time for passengers, Freight Paths, etc

4 minutes slower in my example Westbury to Swindon; 1 minute perhaps accounted for needed by slow approach to Platform 2 at Swindon. The two trains pass each other at or very close to Chippenham station, and an extra 5 minutes in the "cycle" from there to Swindon and back, and from there to Westbury and back (leaving turn arounds of 21 minutes and 5 minutes) would work. That five minutes allows for pathing, and for extended passenger operations at stations that will happen from time to time. The closeness of the two trains at Thingley - short gap as the up train comes off the single line before the down train takes it - leaves a path open for a freight or other working each hour. You can see this used at Melksham with none-passenger services passing at 12:08, 13:14, 16:00 and 16:14 (managed to get 2 in that hour!!)

Robustness

Service robustness of passenger trains generally good yesterday. The 17:28 call (at Melksham, northbound) was 13 minutes late, due to a delay (don't know why) to the train south of Salisbury, and that meant that the pass at 17:47 of the southbound train was 8 minutes late as it had to wait at Thingley. At first glance, it looked like an early running freight got in the way of the 17:28 as it swept through Melksham at that time, but in practise good signalling control took advantage of the gap and sent it through ahead of time.

Infrastucture improvement

We talk / look / see the need for the ability for trains to pass each other between Melksham and Thingley Junction and indeed for robustness in a fully running timetable this makes huge sense; for passengers trains, redistributing the short turn around at Westbury and the longer turn around at Swindon to be more even, and allowing a pair of freight services to similarly pass in the hour with a degree of robustness in there too.  In my view, the loop would need to be fast running and long ("dynamic") to avoid slowing / stopping trains in one or both directions to the substantial loss of positive effect from the loop by prolonging journey times.I also note the run (round trip time) of several minutes from Thigley Junction to Thingley East junction, where the single line traffic on "the Melksham Line" is sharing the main down London to Bristol via Bath line.  Prior to the singling of the Melksham line, a double junction at Thingley meant this pinch point did not exist; I understand that restoration of that, or a crossover at the junction, is complex/impractical/impossible due to the cant on the main line tracks to allow fast running.

Calling additional (new) stations?

Timings seen yesterday would appear to allow passenger calls in both directions at Royal Wootton Bassett. More difficult (and it's where the dynamic loop becomes needed) to call at Staverton and/or Ashton Park as in the Systra / SWLEP report of 2019 (mirror ((here))).

P.S.  and bit off the immediate topic. Passengers for South Wales yesterday from Trowbridge and south thereof were encouraged to change at Swindon.  Must have been frustrating (though not many long distance passengers in lockdown) with a 40 minute wait at Swindon towards Wales, and the trains at almost exactly the same time in the other direction - so a 0 or 60 minute wait.  I noted one or two where people probably made it, one or two where the train from Swansea was a few minutes late and the Portsmouth train left before it arrived, and one or two which might have repeated my memory of a couple of years ago of doors on the IET only opening after doors on the Westbury train had been closed!

However, NR have only ever grudgingly accepted that they will always need to provide 8-ish passenger paths each way per day on the Melksham line, and they still wish to reserve as much of the rest of the capacity on the Melksham line for freight as possible.

So that's the background - On to my answer:

You have actually essentially read my answer already, as including the bit of my quote that you chopped off would help make clear. I have reinstated and highlighted the relevant section in bold below:

Ive always believed that you could manage 2 passenger paths and 1 freight path on the existing Melksham line infrastructure per hour, but I also accept that providing a dynamic loop or similar would make it that much more robust. However, the cynic in me also worries that framing the debate in that direction hands the perfect excuse for inaction to those who have an agenda to keep the Melksham line as the "lightly-used passenger backwater" they always believed it should have remained - "Sorry folks, it will be a long time before funding is available  for that kind of enhancement, so you will have to make do with what you've got".

So to summarise, Ive always believed that you could manage 2 passenger paths and 1 freight path on the existing Melksham line infrastructure per hour, but I also accept that providing a dynamic loop or similar would make it that much more robust. However, I believe that focusing on additional infrastructure as providing the solution to provide additional passenger services would risk giving NR an excuse to kick the whole thing into the long grass due to what I am sure would be a genuine lack of funding for such schemes, thereby allowing them to reserve the lions share of Melksham line capacity for freight for the foreseeable future.

It would be far better, in my opinion - respectfully and in the spirit of open engagement that now exists - to secure the extra paths required for additional TransWilts passenger services by challenging NR's view of how paths should be distributed between passenger and freight services on the existing infrastructure, as this would be far more likely to succeed in a way that allowed such additional passenger services to be provided within a reasonable timeframe.
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