Future of Urban Transport

Learning from Success and Weakness:Light Rail

Success rankings of urban light rail systems:

British systems in 3rd ranking group, held back by bus deregulation and lack of fully integrated tickets.

This book by European transport expert Professor Carmen Hass-Klau gives detailed figures for the relative success of light rail systems in 24 cities There are three groups: the most successful ones are the light rail systems in seven cities, namely five cities from the top-ranking group – Freiburg, Zürich, Basel, Köln and Strasbourg – and two cities high in the second-ranking group, Rouen and Calgary. This gives two from Germany, two from Switzerland, two from France and one from Canada.

By contrast, the three British light rail systems included (Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham) are all in the third group. Professor Hass-Klau said:

‘There is no point whining on about Britain having the worst rail system in Europe. The point is to understand what makes for success. On light rail, the British systems have great potential, but they have so far not managed to establish levels of popularity and growth in demand anywhere near the best European networks. This is not mainly because of defects in the systems themselves, but because the transport planning is less integrated – they are faced with uncoordinated competition from buses, only limited integration in tickets, and timid policies on town centre pedestrianisation and traffic restraint. These lessons must be learned if light rail is going to meet its full potential in the UK’.

The book finds that the most important conditions for success are

* The use of integrated ticketing such as travel cards;
* Complementary use of car restraint measures
* Population densities along the light rail corridors

By comparison, operational attributes such as speed seem to have less influence. High population densities, though helpful, are not always necessary.

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