CROST: on the track of affordable tramways

Talk by Lewis Lesley

UCL 4th March 2009


If the Government had not withdrawn funding in May 2008, Transport for London would now be progressing the construction and opening of their Cross River and Oxford Street tramway proposals. The arguments for these are strong. Firstly the air quality in London is so bad the EU Environment Commissioner has begun enforcement proceedings and is threatening unlimited fines. Separately the UK is also required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These would be helped by switching from diesel buses in London to electric trams. Trams use operational staff more productively and have lower operating costs than buses. Electric trams can be powered by renewably generated electricity, whereas for the foreseeable future, buses will need imported oil, with a variable but historically increasing costs.

By reducing the capital costs to those needed just for tramway operation, it is possible to use the operating surplus from tramway operation, to service commercially raised capital funds. A privately promoted tramway could reduce the need for subsidy (CROST by about 40m pa), which might then be used for important public expenditures. A privately funded tramway would also reduce the burden on public resources by not adding to the PSBR, important at a time when public expenditure is under strain.

Finally electric trams in Oxford and other central London streets will make these healthier for workers and visitors alike. A fixed track tramway, would permit complementary civic space enhancements on an incremental basis, and can be used, as in many Continental cities, as part of traffic restraint and calming measures, to reduce the volume of motor traffic, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and congestion.

From a core network, other busy bus routes can be identified for a rolling programme of conversion to sustainable, environmentally friendly and affordable tram services, proven in areas of high car usage to attract significant car commuters.


Lesley, L, Sustainable Light Rail, Claverton Annual Conference, 24-26th October 2008, Bath

Lesley, L, Affordable Light Rail, Rail Future Conference, 15th Nov. 2008, London

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