The Anonymous Widower

CAF Secures Tram Contracts In The United States

The title of this post is the same as this article in Global Rail News.

The sale of two batches of trams is not that remarkable, but this is an extract from the article, about the vorder for Seattle.

The trams will have a 100 per cent low floor and come with onboard energy storage to run on catenary-free sections of the network.

Trams with these characteristics are becoming increasingly common.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

CAF Rarely Do The Obvious, But It’s Generally Sound

This article on the BBC is entitled 300 Train Building jobs Created At £30m Newport Centre.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Three hundred “highly-skilled and well paid” engineering jobs will be created when a Spanish train manufacturer opens a production factory in Newport.
Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) is expected to open its £30m centre where Llanwern Steelworks once stood in autumn 2018.

Currently CAF are supplying the following trains and trams for the UK.

The trains alone add up to nearly five hundred vehicles.

If you look at the geography of the sea routes between the Basque Country and the United Kingdom, taking a cargo ship with a few trains to South Wales  is probably not the most difficult or indirect of voyages.

Newport too, is on the South Wales Main Line, which is well connected all over England, by lines that should be electrified and will hopefully be by 2019.

This Google Map shows the Celtic Business Park in relation to Newport and its docks.

The Celtic Business Park is part of the massive rectangular site to the North East of Newport, that is the Llanwern steelworks, which is being downsized. The South Wales Main Line passes along the North side of the site and the map clearly shows access to Newport Docks.

It raises the question that CAF may bring the trains in on their wheels in a specialist train ferry.

I know nothing about how much preparation needs to be performed on a foreign-built train, before it can run on the UK rail network, but it would be expected that just checking the five hundred vehicles must keep quite a few employees busy. I suppose too, that if certain parts of the train were sourced from the UK, that instead of sending them to Spain, they could be fitted in Newport.

It should also be remembered, that Hitachi build their body-shells in Japan and then ship them to Newton Aycliffe for fitting out.

Although, the Welsh and the Basques are two nations with strong cultural ties; rugby included, I think that Newport was chosen with another very practical reason in mind.

In the May 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, Ian Walmsley, wrote an article called Metroland Of My Fathers, which included these  paragraphs.

Back in the November 2013 issue of Modern Railways I raised the possibility of converting the Cardiff network to light rail. I was still working for Porterbrook at the time, which, like other rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), saw the Valleys as a retirement home for its old London commuter trains, so when the proposal met with the response it’s heavy rail and that’s that, I was quite happy.

The local press and BBC Wales showed more interest and now I am delighted to say that Network Rail has the Valley Lines electrification ‘on hold’ pending re-evaluation.

Consider the following.

  • Urbos trams come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Trams are getting better every year at climbing hills.
  • The Urbos family includes the Urbos TT, which is a tram-train.
  • Midland Metro’s trams are being fitted with energy storage using supercapacitors
  • How much marketing advantage for other places, is gained from having Edinburgh and Cardiff on the customer list?
  • Conversion could probably be done on a line-by-line basis.
  • Provision must be made for freight trains on some lines.
  • Cardiff and the Valley Lines were resignalled in the last few years and everything is controlled from Cardiff ROC

But remember that CAF are a very research and design-oriented company.

So what is the likelihood that the Cardiff Valley Lines will be converted to light rail using a CAF product?

I would say pretty high, especially after reading this article in Global Rail News, which is entitled Engineering Firm BWB Consulting Bought By Spanish Giant CAF.

I could see a design of rail vehicle with these features.

  • The ability to work on standard rail track.
  • The ability to give level step-free access to standard height rail station platforms.
  • The ability to use modern railway signalling.
  • The ability to climb steep gradients.
  • The ability to work on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead.
  • Automatic pantograph raising and lowering.
  • Supercapacitor energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.

I could see an energy-saving vehicle being designed, that made clever use of the gradients.

Would it be a train or a tram-train?

Increasingly, the difference is getting blurred!




July 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Seville’s Elegant Trams

Seville’s tramway; the MetroCentro, by the cathedral is powered without using traditional overhead catenary.

Each double-sided stop has a high electrified rail on each side.

When the tram stops, it puts up a pantograph and then for a minute or so, it charges the batteries.

Seville’s Urbos trams are the same as in Birmingham, so will the Midland Metro be using the same elegant system to charge the batteries, that are now been fitted, so trams can run to Centenary Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton?

|Edinburgh also has another version of Urbos trams, so if Birmingham battery trams are successful, will we be seeing them North of the Border?

There’s only one thing wrong with Seville’s trams. Every one is wrapped in advertising, which makes it difficult to see out and look at the outstanding buildings.

How Does The Battery System Work?

CAF , who built the Urbos trams, have this page on their web site, which is entitled Greentech Tram.

The system uses two methods of storing electricity.

Supercapacitor Modules

A supercapacitor has the advantage that it can be quickly charged and discharged.

So as a tram only takes perhaps fifteen seconds to stop from full speed, the fast charging allows the regenerative braking energy to be stored.

On starting again, this energy can be discharged quickly from the supercapacitor to accelerate the tram.

This charging/discharging cycle does degrade the supercapacitor  and they would have to be replaced periodically.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries can hold greater amounts of electricity, but their charge and discharge rate is slower.

They can provide smaller amounts of power to keep the tram going at a constant speed after it has been accelerated.

A Sophisticated Control System

The page talks about a sophisticated control system that optimised the driving of the tram and the minimisation of energy.

The System Can Be Licenced From CAF

It should be noted that CAF will licence the system to other manufacturers.


By using two different storage systems with different characteristics, CAF are able to drive the tram along its 1.4 km route, charging at each stop.




June 24, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Can’t A Train Be More Like A Tram?

This is the title of a two-part article by Ian Walmsley in the May 2017 edition of Modern Railways.

Part 1 – How Hard Can It Be?

In the First Part, which is entitled How Hard Can It Be?, he contrasts tram operation with typical heavy rail operation.

He starts the First Part with this paragraph.

After a career in trains, I wish they could be more like trams, at least for the short-distance commuting market. Big windows, low-back seats, super-cool looking front ends, terrific acceleration and braking, all at half the price. Meanwhile commuter trains are bogged down with legislation, defensive driving and restrictive practice.

He also compares trams and heavy rail with the London Underground, which has the frequency and speed of a tram to get the needed capacity. This is another quote.

Heavy-rail’s answer to capacity is to take a few seats out or declassify a First Class compartment, going faster is too difficult.

These points are also made.

  • A turn-up-and-go frequency is made possible by a continuous stream of trams doing the same thing, uninterrupted by inter-city or freight intruders.
  • Frequent stops on a tram mean rapid acceleration is essential, so a high proportion of axles must be motored.
  • In many heavy rail services, the culture of caution has removed any urgency from the process.
  • Separation of light from heavy rail is essential for safety reasons.
  • Trams can take tight corners which helps system designers.
  • Trams save money by driving on sight.
  • Lots of safety regulations apply to heavy rail,but not trams.

He also uses a lot of pictures from the Bordeaux trams, which I wrote about in Bordeaux’s Trams. These trams run catenary-free in the City Centre.

High-Cacapity Cross-City Heavy Rail Lines

It is interesting to note that cross-city heavy rail lines are getting to the following ideals.

  • High frequency of upwards of sixteen trains per hour (tph).
  • High-capacity trains
  • Heavy-rail standards of train and safety.
  • Slightly lower levels of passenger comfort.
  • Step-free access.
  • Several stops in the City Centre.
  • Interchange with trams, metros and other heavy rail services.
  • Separation from freight services.
  • Separation from most inter-city services.

Have the best features of a tram line been added to heavy rail?

Worldwide, these lines include.

There are obviously others.

Crossrail with up to 30 tph, platform edge doors, fast stopping and accelerating Class 345 trains, and links to several main lines from London could become the world standard for this type of heavy rail link.

30 tph would be considered average for the London Underground and modern signalling improvements and faster stopping trains, will raise frequencies on these cross-city lines.

All of these lines have central tunnels, but this isn’t a prerequisite.

Manchester is achieving the same objective of a high-capacity cross-city rail link with the Ordsall Chord.

Part 2 – Tram-Train, Are You Sure You Really Wnt |To Do This?,

In the Second Part, which is entitled  Tram-Train, Are You Sure You Really Wnt |To Do This?,

Ian starts the Second Part with this paragraph.

Anyone with a professional interest in public transport must have been to Karlsruhe in Germany, or at least heard of it.

He then wittily describes an encounter with the diesel tram-train in Nordhausen, which I shall be visiting within a week or so.

He was not impressed!

I like the concept of a tram-train, where the same rail vehicle starts out in the suburbs or the next town as a train, goes through the City Centre as a tram and then goes to a destination on the other side of the city.

But you could also argue that Merseyrail’s Northern Line and London Underground’s Piccadilly and Central Lines achieve the same purpose, by running at all times as a rail line, with the centre section in a tunnel under the City.

The Sheffield Tram-Train Project

Ian then goes on to talk about the Sheffield Tram-Train Project. He says this about the route extension from Meadowhall to Rotherham.

This route extension runs just over three miles and after a series of delays, it will not open until 2018, 10 years, after the first proposal, six after the scheme approval. The cost is £58million. That’s 21 million Rotherham – Meadowhall single fares, for which the existing journey time is six minutes. Bargain.

He also says that because Nick Clegg was a Sheffield MP, the project should stay in Sheffield.

I will add some observations of my own on the Sheffield -Rotherham tram-train.

  • The Class 399 tram-train is a variant of the tram-trains used in Karlsruhe – Good
  • The route, doesn’t connect to Sheffield station – Bad
  • The frequency is only a miserly three tph – Bad
  • The route is too short – Bad

Hopefully, the bad points don’t result in a system that nobody wants.

The Expert View Of Rotherham’s Problems

There is an article in the Yorkshire Post, which is entitled Rotherham could get new rail station, which gives detail from a consutant’s report of how to improve services in the town.

  • Rotherham Parkgate station should be developed as an inter-regional station, at a cost of up to £53.2 million
  • Rotherham Central station would be be more about local services.
  • Rotherham should have one tph to Leeds and Manchester, three tph  to Doncaster and six tph to Sheffield.

The consultant’s estimate was that this investment could benefit the area by up to £100million.

Ian’s Conclusion

Ian says this and I am coming to agree with him.

I, like many others, have been a fan of tram-train, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The more I think about it, the more I think trams and trains have their place and mixing them up is fraught with problems.

As I said earlier, I’m off to Karlsruhe ad I’ll see how they’re getting on with the enormous hole in their budget; the new tunnel on the Karleruhe Stadtbahn.

Imagine building a cut-and-cover down Oxford Street in London.

Train Like A Tram

Ian finishes with two further sections, the first of which is Train Like A Tram.

He says this.

Heavy rail needs to recaspture a sense of urgency and realise that more speed = more trains = more capacity. Risk analysis should allow the use of low-back seats and plastics; based on the lower average speeds. All axles need to be motored for tram-like acceleration and lots of regenerative braking.

I agree with what he says, but I’m surprised that he doesn’t mention Zwickau.

In that German town, an extension was built from the Hauptbahnhof to a new station in the town centre. I wrote about Zwickau’s unique system in Riding The Vogtlandbahn 

Standard two-car diesel multiple units, run alongside Zwickau’s trams on a dedicated route according to similar operational rules on the three kilometre route.

Surely, there is scope to do this in the UK, on existing and new branch lines or spurs.

  • The route must be short.
  • All stops would be built like tram stops.
  • Trains would be independently-powered by diesel, battery or fuel cell.
  • Signalling would be heavy-rail.

In my view this sort of system would be ideal for serving Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford and Liverpool Airports, where off main line running would be done across open country that could be appropriately fenced.

Tram Like A Train

Ian finishes his final section, where he talks about the likelihood of more tram-train systems following Sheffield, with this.

I suspect that the number of follow-on vehicles in the foreseeable future will be about the same as the number of battery EMUs based on the last research trial. 

Don’t feel too bad though; do we really want the national rail system full of 50 mph-limited trams?

I feel that Ian and myself would have different views about battery EMUs.

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Rotherham?

I mentioned a consultant’s report earlier and the easiest way to get their recommended frequency of trains through Rotherham would be to expand the electrification network, by wiring the following lines.

  • Sheffield to Doncaster
  • Leeds to Colton Junction
  • Leeds to Selby
  • Fitzwilliam to Sheffield

As some of these lines were built or rebuilt recently for the Selby Coalfield, I suspect electrification would be starting from decent documentatyion.

Until the electrification is complete Class 319 Flex trains could work the routes.




April 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Could A Class 172 Train Run As A Tram?

I am using a Class 172 train as an example, but it could equally well be any two or three-car train capable of running on the UK network.

This Class 172 train on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is probably only a tiny bit bigger than your bog-standard modern tram, that you’re starting to see all over the UK. This train is.

  • Modern
  • Diesel-powered.
  • Two cars.
  • Good passenger access.
  • The driver has good visibility.

But it could be better, if a train like this was to be built today.

Consider what an ideal rail line for a train of this type, perhaps to run between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh would look like.

  • Only one train would be allowed on the line at any one time.
  • Freight trans to Sizewell would be allowed under very strict rules.
  • Slow speed limit.
  • Single or double track.
  • Clear colour light signalling, that every passenger understands.
  • Platform-train access would be step-free.
  • Step-free ramp access to the platforms.
  • Passengers can walk across the tracks.

Imagine how Ipswich to Aldeburgh service would work.

  • The train would run to Saxmundham under normal rail rules.
  • From Saxmundham to Aldeburgh and back, the train would proceed at a slow tram-like speed, with the driver keeping an extra vigilant look out
  • Once back at Saxmundham, the train would return to Ipswich.

I can’t see why, it wouldn’t work on lots of branch lines.

It would of course be better with an electric train, so could we see a dual-voltage 25 KVAC/1500 VDC three car train, that could use tram style electrification on the tram-style section?

But it is effectively a small train, that can just run slowly like a tram.

The Class 172 train would do the job, but it would be better if it was a modern version

Something like Stadler’s train with the engine in the middle might do it.

Looks like a tram! Goes like a tram! o it must be a tram! Wrong! It’s a train!

Our small and sometimes annoying loading gauge has its advantages.

Who needs a specialist tram-train?


March 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Tram 18, Where Are You?

This article in Rail echnology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

It describe how Tram 18 is on its way to Zaragoza to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, so that the UK’s first battery tram can start running in 2019, after the track is laid to Victoria Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton.

February 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Route Of The Midland Metro Extension To Victoria Square

The extensions at both ends of the Midland Metro in Birmingham and Wolverhampton City Centres will be a first for the UK, in that they will be catenary-free and the trams will run on battery power.

This Google Map shows the area, where the initial extension will go in Birmingham City Centre.


Places of interest are.

  • The cathedral is in the North-East corner.
  • New Street station is in the South-East corner.
  • Victoria Square and the Town Hall are just to the East of the middle.
  • Centenary Square is towards the West side.

This description comes from this page on the Metro Alliance web site.

840m of twin track from Birmingham Grand Central at Stephenson Street, up Pinfold Street through Victoria Square, Paradise St, past Paradise Circus into Centenary Square at Broad St.There will be an intermediate stop outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square, and we will interface with the Navigation Street link.

One of the problems at the moment, is that the development of Paradise Birmingham, seems to sit in the middle of the route.

These pictures show the area of Victoria Square and the route up from New Street station.


  • The steep hill of Pinfold Street.
  • The route seemed to have been prepared ready for the track to be fitted into the road surface.
  • Utilities seemed to have been moved.
  • When I took the pictures, the Midland Metro had parked a tram at the limit of the current track at the bottom of Pinfold Street.

Climbing The Hill

You can’t accuse Birmingham of lacking ambition, as Pinfold Street is a proper hill.

But then!

  • It is the only steep hill on the route to Centenary Square.
  • The tram will start the ascent with full batteries.
  • There will be no problems coming down.
  • This extension is only 840 metres in length.
  • The MetroCentro in Seville has used similar technology on a 1.4 km. route since 2007.
  • CAF have technology that charges batteries fast.
  • Battery technology has moved on in the last ten years.

If in practice, it does prove a difficult climb, overhead wires could be put on sufficient of the lower part of the up-track on Pinfold Street.

These wires wouldn’t be visible from Victoria Square, so wouldn’t effect the architectural integrity pf the area.

Onward to Edgbaston

According to this article in Rail Technology Magazine, the further four kilometre extension to Egbaston, is also intended to be catenary-free.

As the trams could be charged at Edgbaston, I think this could be possible.

But I doubt CAF would propose the use of batteries, if they hadn’t already proven the range, which is not outrageous.

The Next Step

I looked at a lot of the route of the first section to Victoria Square today, and it would appear that the roadway has been prepared for fitting the track.

So could we see an accelerated development of the first part of the extension?

It would be a good test of the technology, with little risk to the Midland Metrolink!

If the trams can’t make the hill on baqtteries, it would need to be wired, but you could always blame Spanish engineering.


It is a very well-designed scheme.

I wonder, if we’ll see Edinburgh batteries on their CAF trams?




January 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost Of Tram Batteries

This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

One Midland Metro tram has been sent back to the factory in Zaragoza to be fitted with two roof-mounted lithium-ion cells and after testing it will be returned to the West Midlands in the Autumn, where more testing will be performed, prior to starting running on the catenary-free streets of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

After a successful completion of testing on the first tram, the other twenty trams will be converted.

This is said in the article about costs.

The total cost to the WMCA of fitting out the fleet will be £15.5m, but the authority says that it will save £9.24m on infrastructure costs on the first four extensions to the Metro network alone, with further infrastructure savings planned as future extensions take place.

So the savings can go a long way to help pay for the trams to run on the four extensions.

The cost of the modifications to each tram is £738,000, but if the infrastructure savings are factored in, the modifications cost just £298,000 per tram.

I also wonder if the layout of the Midland Metro, with a fairly long wired central section and a catenary-free section at either end is ideal for battery operation, as the trams will have a long section to fully charge the batteries.

But it looks like trams will reach Victoria Square and Wolverhampton station in 2019, Edgbaston in 2021 and the Eastside extension to Curzon Street will be completed in 2023.

Perhaps, the most interesting section in the article is this paragraph.

The WMCA is also evaluating a proposed Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension to identify the viability of catenary-free sections.

Could this mean that the South Staffordshire Line, which will be used for the extension will be without catenary? As the tram does small detours into Dudley and at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, then these sections could be wired to charge the batteries, leaving the South Staffordshire Line without any wires. I estimate that the distance the tram would travel would be about seven miles each way.

As Network Rail want to run both trams and freight trains on the South Staffordshire Line, this might allow both to share an unelectrified line, if they have the right wheel and track profiles.

There certainly seems to be some very innovative ideas around, when it comes to using trains and trams in City Centres.



January 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Were The New Merseyrail Trains Designed In A South London Pub?

In Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains, I postulated that the new Stadler trains could work as trams on appropriate infrastructure.

I looked at the pictures in The Design Of Tram Or Tram-Train Stations, which I wrote in March 2015 and came to the conclusion, that Merseyrail’s new trains might be able to run on the London Tramlink with some modifications.

  • The ability to run on 750 V DC overhead electrification.
  • Precise adjustment to the platform height.
  • Tram lights and signalling to make the vehicles comply with regulations.

So why do I say that the new Merseyrail trains were designed in a London Pub?

  • Both Merseyrail and South London have networks with third-rail electrification.
  • Merseyrail need a train to match their tunnels and platform heights, which are sized to the current Class 508 trains.
  • South London has the London Tramlink, which runs Stadler Variobahn trams.
  • The London Tramlink has strange infrastructure between Birkbeck and Beckham Junction stops, which could be improved if trams and trains could share lines and platforms.
  • The London Tramlink would like to extend to Bromley South station.
  • Merseyrail have been talking about running a tram-train to Liverpool Airport.
  • Stadler have experience of trams, trains and the very special experience of Zwickau, where Stadler DMUs share tracks with electric trams.
  • Stadler builds the tram-trains for Karlsruhe, Chemnitz and Sheffield.
  • Karlsruhe has a problem of two different sized tram-trains, which has been solved, by clever design of the vehicles and the platforms.
  • Every Stadler train seems to be different, with different car dimensions to fit the customers tracks and different power systems to give them the required performance.

I think that a Stadler engineer or perhaps more came over to look at both London and Liverpool’s problems and after riding round South London, they ended up in a local hostelry and lots of alcohol was added to the mix to see what would happen.

The result was a concept, which I think of as a train-tram with the following features.

  • The ability to run as a speedy commuter EMU train on either 750 VDC third-rail, 750 VDC overhead   or 25 kVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to run as a tram on 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to run on energy stored in an onboard energy storage device.
  • It could be built to fit any of the tram gauges and platform sizes in the UK and quite a few around the world.
  • Level access to the vehicle from platforms of the correct height at all times.
  • Signalling would either be using traditional signals or in-cab displays. The second would be preferable, as it could display the same format at all times.
  • The ability to run the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, in a city where Stadler are providing trains for the Subway.
  • The ability to run on the other tram lines in the UK, if the vehicle were to be built to the correct size.
  • The ability to run on standard heavy rail infrastructure.

If you see the Zwickau DMU in a train station, you think it’s a train, if you see it at the stops in the centre of Zwickau, you think it’s a tram.

Get the dimensions and the look of the vehicle right and no passengers will bother that it’s a train, when running in tram mode.

The big advantages come with certification.

  • As it’s a train, certification for heavy rail and lines without electrification is the same for any new train.
  • Adding the vehicles to a tram network, would be like adding any new tram type to any existing tram network.

Merseyrail have got in first with an order, but I wouldn’t rule out something similar used to extend the London Tramlink or vehicles for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.

Where could you run a train-tram with onboard energy storage on London’s third-rail network?

  • Extend Ttranlink from Beckenham Junction to Bromley South
  • Abbey Wood to Thamesmead
  • Grove Park to Bromley South via Bromley North and Bromley town centre.
  • Greenehithe to Bluewater.
  • Chessington South to Chessington World of Adventure.

These are just for starters.

I also didn’t include short branch lines and routes without electrification, but close to 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

December 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

How Can We Deal With Air Pollution In The UK?

This article on the BBC is entitled Green group wins air pollution court battle.

This is the start of the article.

Campaigners have won the latest battle in legal action against the UK Government over levels of air pollution.

A judge at the High Court in London ruled in favour of environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

The group called air pollution a “public health crisis” and said the government has failed to tackle it.

The ruling in the judicial review called the government’s plan “woefully inadequate”.

As my mate Brian would have said, the \government has been screwed, glued and tattooed, by the Judge.

Does Pollution Affect Me?

I feel very strongly about this, as in the 1940s and 1950s, I suffered badly from the pollution of the time.

Now pollution levels are cutting out the vitamin D producing UVB rays of the sun. Could this be the rason for my low vitamin D levels?

No Magic Bullet

So what can the Government do to meet the European Emission Standards?

There is no magic bullet, but I believe that a raft of measures can gradually bring the levels of pollution down.

Reduction Of All Road Transport

One of London’s problems is that the amount of traffic in the city, means that a lot of the vehicles are stationery and just causing pollution.

I suspect this is a problem in many other cities.

So measures must be taken to reduce the level of all traffic.

  • London needs more Park-and-Ride sites. Do other cities?
  • Differential congestion charging and residents parking, so the polluter pays.
  • More cycling superhighways to encourage cycling.
  • City centre parking must be taxed, with the money funding public transport.
  • Aggressive illegal parking control.
  • Automatic box junction enforcement.
  • 20 mph speed limit to make walking easier.
  • Area average speed control.
  • Reduction of the number of taxis and mini-cabs.

I particularly like the concept of having a grid of linked speed cameras in a city and then issuing a ticket automatically, if the limit is exceeded between two cameras.

Reduction Of Diesel-Powered Transport

As nitrogen dioxide from diesels is the main source of the pollution, we should aim to eliminate as many diesel-powered vehicles, as is practical.

  • Reduction of diesel vehicles will need legislation, probably backed up with government money.
  • Buses, taxis and local delivery vehicles will need to be hybrid or electric.
  • There must be progressive bans for diesel vehicles not meeting the latest standards.
  • Diesel scrapping schemes have been introduced in certain places.

I particularly like the idea, where in an experiment involving Sainsburys, supplies for the supermarkets were delivered by train into Euston at three in the morning and then delivered around Central London by low-emission vehicles.

Increase In Electrically-Powered Transport

This is the key to reducing a lot of pollution in cities.

  • Electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Trams to replace buses.
  • Development of electric rail lines.
  • More cross-city rail lines like Crossrail 2 and the Camp Hill Line.

I also think we’ll see some innovative solutions, like the PRT system, I wrote about in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5.

The problem of improving transport systems is well-illustrated in Chelsea, where some selfish locals don’t want Crossrail 2, as it might hinder them driving their tractors.

More Details

I shall now expand a few of those topics and add a few more ideas.

They are in alphabetical order.

Battery Trains

Battery trains are an alternative to full electrification, where one or both ends of the line to be electrified, already have electrification.

The Greenford Branch is an obvious possibility.

  • The line is only 4.3 km. long.
  • The bay platform at West Ealing station could be easily electrified to charge the trains.
  • Either a new train or a refurbished one with batteries could work the line.
  • Two trains would be needed to run the promised four trains per hour service.
  • Little new infrastructure would be needed.

I believe that battery trains are an affordable alternative to full electrification.

Battery Trams

Battery trams are being introduced into Birmingham to extend the Midland Metro. This article in the Railway Gazette, which is entitled Midland Metro trams to be converted for catenary-free operation, gives full details.

  • The only construction required is to lay the rails, build the stops and install the signalling.
  • Putting up overhead wires in a historic or sensitive city centre can be a legal and logistical nightmare and very expensive.
  • Battery trams work in Seville and Nanjing.
  • Trams charge the battery at either a charging station or when running under wires outside of the centre.

I can see a time, when in city centres, most trams will be battery-powered.

It will be interesting to see how Brummies take to their battery trams.

Connectivity Improvements

Compare arriving in Birmingham New Street and Euston stations, needing to go a few miles to say Centenary or Trafalgar Squares respectively.

At Euston, you go to the nearest bus stop, look up the spider map with all the destinations from Euston and it tells you how to get to about a hundred locations. Job done!

But in Birmingham, the brand new station doesn’t have that information on display in an easy-to-understand form.

Birmingham isn’t too bad and is certainly better than Manchester, but why can’t cities copy the London system.

You may get to these places easily, but the connecting and ticketing arrangements, tell you to bring your car next time.

Contactless Bank Card Ticketing

London now allows anybody to use their contactless bank card, as a ticket on all modes of public transport.

I don’t have the figures, but I believe that every time a new feature is added, like the new Bus Hopper, there is an increase in public transport usage.

After London’s experiences, I have no doubt, that contactless bank card ticketing increases the use of public transport and removes traffic from the roads.

Introducing contactless bank card ticketing, should be a condition of Central Government finance for public transport projects.

But every city in the world will introduce this form of ticketing!

Not doing it, will make sure visitors don’t come back and tell their friends what a crap place they’ve visited.

Cross-City Railways And Trams

A lot of cities and conurbations have a lot more traffic and the resulting pollution, as getting from one side of the city to the other is not easy, without driving through the city centre.

As an example, Crossrail will improve access to Heathrow from East and South-East London, where the alternative is a drive round the M25 or through the city centre, on congested roads. But Crossrail is only one of many successful cross-city routes in the UK.

  • The Central, District, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines of the London Underground.
  • The East, North and West London Lines and the Gospel Oak to Barking Line of the London Overground.
  • Thameslink in London
  • The Northern Line in Liverpool.
  • The Cross-City Line and Snow Hill Lines in Birmingham
  • The East and West Coastway Lines in Brighton.
  • The Metro in Newcastle.
  • The Nottingham Express Transit in Nottingham.
  • The Valley Lines in Cardiff

All of these lines are well-used and there are plans to upgrade those, not to the standard of the London Overground.

Efficient Deliveries

If I have my window open, I can sometimes hear several delivery trucks call at my various neighbours in a short period of time.

This is not efficient and surely something better can be done.

I was once offered delivery of a small parcel to my Local Sainsburys, which is about a hundred metres away.

Organised properly with enough drop points, that must be more efficient and convenient.

This is one we don’t need to worry about, as the big shopping groups will make it happen as they go for greater sales and more profits.


Park-and-Ride is a good way of keeping, passenger cars away from City Centres.

Nottingham may be a lot smaller than London, but it is a city that has designed the Nottingham Express Transit with several Park-and-Ride sites, at the edges of the city.

Compare that with the non-existent Park-and-Ride provision on Crossrail, which I wrote about in Crossrail’s Park-And-Ride Facilities.

Railway Electrification

Electrification of rail routes across cities and replacing diesel trains with electric ones, is always an option to cut pollution.


  • London is currently electrifying the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and this will also allow noisy and polluting Class 66 diesel locomotives to replaced with electric ones on freight trains on this route.
  • Lines in Liverpool and Birmingham are also being electrified.
  • Electric trains also seem to be passenger magnets as the Class 378 trains of the London Overground have shown.

But remember, that every passenger on an electric train, can’t be using their car and is rteducing their pollution footprint.

Rewards For Going Car-Free

I have met several people recently, who have given up owning a car in Central London.

So could those, who don’t bring their car into the congested area, receive some form of reward.








November 2, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment