CROST: on the track of affordable tramways

Talk by Lewis Lesley

UCL 4th March 2009

Track laying in Manchester 1990

Track laying in Manchester, 1990

Reducing costs


Not relocating utility plant would not only save considerable disruption (3.4km of utility relocation in Central Manchester in 1991 took over a year), but also costs (utility diversion for the Leeds Supertramway would have been £100m out of a total of £400m). The cost, time and disruption of diverting utilities in Central London would be very high.

The low impact street tramway system proposed for CROST does not disturb under street utilities and maintains access to them, as the foundation trough is only 180mm deep and 380mm wide. It has been in maintenance free operation on the Sheffield Supertramway since March 1996, where it replaced the original track that had failed after just one year.

LR55 track in Sheffield

The LR55 track in Sheffield; 14 years maintenance free

3-D view of LR55 track

The LR55 track in 3-d

Trampower OHL system

TPL OHL compared to WCML at Carnforth

Electric trams need a power supply. Traditionally this has been via an overhead line, supported from lamp posts, traction poles, or directly from adjacent buildings, without poles. In the UK another source of complaint is that OHL has got heavier and uglier. This commentator likens the Tramlink OHL, to the West Coast Main Line plonked down in the streets of Croydon. There are elegant solutions to OHL. Indeed the tram OHL through the Vienna World Heritage Site, is supported directly off the Opera House, without a mast in sight. Not only are such designs less intrusive than say the Regent Street decorations but they also are very economical and quick to install. This still leaves the need for substations, needed every 2km or so. These have reduced in size and can now be incorporated in existing substations, or included in the basement of an adjoining building.


Trams are not proprietary products and there are many manufacturers who can supply suitable trams to carry the expected patronage safely and comfortably. As the NAO Report noted the main tramcar builders have costs that are much higher than other public transport vehicles, like buses. Many trams are effectively reduced versions of main line trains, and on a per passenger basis, are heavy.

Table 6 Comparison of vehicle weight per passenger

Type of Vehicle Unladen kg No. of passengers Kg per passenger
Single deck rigid 9000 53 170
Double deck 12000 84 143
Articulated 18000 140 129
Trolleybus 13000 100 130
Metro car (electric) 32500 150 216
Suburban (diesel) 35400 120 296
Tatra T5C5 19500 100 195
Manchester Metrolink 46000 200 230
Sheffield Supertram 54000 220 245
City Class 22000 200 110

After Lesley 1994

More weight means higher power consumption. The table below shows the comparative power consumption of some different trams in the UK

Table 7 Power consumption of different UK tramcars

Tram typeWeight (tonnes) Power use (kWh/km)
Blackpool Centenary 18 1.5
Manchester Metrolink 46 4.1
Croydon Tramlink 38 3.9
Sheffield Supertram 54 4.5
City Class 22 1.0
from University of Manchester Dept. Electrical Engineering).

The City Class tram has been extensively tested in Birkenhead and Blackpool.

The TPL City Class tram

TPL City Class tram

Picture by Alan Robson ©2006
Centenary and City Class trams in Blackpool

TPL City Class and Centenary trams at Blackpool

Picture by Alan Robson ©2006

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NAO Report
Costs Too High
Reducing Costs
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