For most Bathonians, traffic jams are a part of daily life. As reported in the November issue of Bath Time, there are also illegally high levels of pollution that have been detected in the centre. Although diverse parties have strong opinions on the matter, one solution that has stolen the spotlight: Dave Andrews’ tram implementation.
Bath Trams is an initiative that aims to solve the city’s traffic problems by introducing steel wheel trams within the city and between Bath, Bristol, Bristol airport and Chippenham. Although the presence of trams would not eliminate bus services on all routes, it would be a big push towards increasing public transportation usage. Today, 94% of Bath journeys are done in private cars, which generates immense levels of pollution and blocks access to the city. Trams would help reduce pollution and the city’s carbon footprint as well as increase transport efficiency, as they have been shown to be superior in capacity and reliability in comparison to buses.
If trams were introduced, it is stipulated that Bath’s economy would benefit for two main reasons: residents would start to rely more on this mode of public transportation, which would be reflected in low ticket prices, and with increased transport facilities, tourist numbers would rise, as well as their expenditure.
During the early 20th century, Bath actually had a functioning tram system, which could now serve as a starting point for the development of a new one. Therefore, the initial investment would not incur high prices. This, together with the fact that operating trams cover their running costs and yield 13% profit (while buses acquire a 52% loss), would account for favourable economic collateral from the project.
There are also non-monetary benefits to this: trams would reduce the use of cars and buses, promoting the protection of cleaner air. There have been debates regarding the best procedure to reduce pollution, one of which suggested the introduction of a £9 congestion charge. Politicians decided to rule this one out, dismissing its benefit in fear of losing electoral support in the subsequent elections. The feasibility of the tram project was assessed by different entities, both governmental and private, and have concluded that it is viable to proceed with the venture.
Although the project makes big promises, there are some negative aspects to consider. For instance, tram implementation would need overhead wires, which would distort the scenery of the UNESCO world heritage city. Considering that some of Bath’s popularity and social wealth relies on its views and landscape, this is an aspect of the project that should not be dismissed. However, a cost-benefit analysis clearly portrays higher returns from the investment as it would be traffic-easing, cost-effective and low-contaminating.