In the comments following part 1 of The Future of the London Bus we saw how controversial just about every single aspect of a London bus can be. Size, style, configuration, means of procurement and many other aspects are hotly debated. Given that these aspects are interrelated it is not entirely surprising that it seems no two people can agree on what the London Bus ideally should be like. Nevertheless we will take a bold attempt at looking at the new technologies that might be underneath a future new bus for London.

Possibly one of the few things that can be agreed on is that there is no single bus design that is ideal for all routes in London, and that we will continue to see a variety of single and double deckers of different designs and different lengths with different numbers of doors supplied by different companies. We can probably identify little in common on the outside other than they will all be predominately red and all have the same style of blinds.

Even the history of London’s bus service clearly has different interpretations and the reasons for why we are where we are seem to be disputed. If what happened in the past is hotly disputed then it is almost inevitable that a look at what the future either will, or should, look like is going to ensure almost complete disagreement. In attempting to just look at one aspect of that – future technology and how the London Bus of the future will be powered – one can immediately see the traditionalists being pitted against those who want to embrace new technology, even if it hasn’t yet proved its worth.

The limits to growth

One surprising thing about the predicted growth of bus services in this time of rapid population increase is that there seems to be virtually no growth in the centre and only limited growth in the suburbs. Financial austerity and lack of road space in central London have been seen as possible explanations. One partial solution is to make buses bigger but people have recognised the downside in that solution because of the way buses struggle with our relatively narrow roads and the way they block junctions. Even the issue of long dwell times was raised. In a Oystercard society one would have thought such an issue would have been banished from a discussion about buses – but clearly not and it must be a genuine potential problem otherwise why go to such trouble to introduce a bus with three doors?

It comes back to air quality again

One reason given for the lack of any increase in bus service in central London is the concern over air quality. This does seem to be focusing the minds of TfL and the mayor and it is certainly the case that hybrid buses aren’t cheap and would have to save an awful lot of fuel to justify their existence purely on an economic basis. If one assumes that a London bus burns around 50,000 litres of fuel per year, takes into account that bus services don’t pay tax on fuel and that hybrid batteries only last for a few years anyway, one can see that the accountant does not have a particularly easy job producing a financial case for the hybrid bus. So one could argue that the money that one would expect to be spent on improving bus services is actually being spent in improving air quality.

Non-electric alternatives

When you are responsible for a fleet of over eight thousand diesel buses it is only right and proper that you investigate alternative options and this TfL has done. At one stage hydrogen looked very promising. In the past few years TfL have experimented off and on with hydrogen buses on route RV1 but, whilst the latest buses are still in service, there does not seem to have been any effort made to extend them beyond this one route. This is probably because they are very expensive indeed. It is also the case that, although hydrogen can be seen as a solution for getting rid of tailpipe emission at the point of use, it does not solve any energy issues because more energy in the form of electricity is required to extract the hydrogen from water than can be obtained from burning it as a fuel (and creating water). As such, hydrogen is merely an alternative to the battery.

There are of course various other gases apart from hydrogen that can be burned. The problem with these are that they are still hydrocarbons but in gaseous rather than liquid form. The main attraction of these fuels for taxis and other vehicles is that they don’t attract fuel duty – something that bus operators don’t pay anyway.

The answer’s electric

It does seem that the only current viable alternative to the diesel-engined bus is an electric, or a partially electric, vehicle in some form or other. There are various methods of getting electricity to the electric motor but ultimately it either comes from a battery aboard the vehicle or from a wire or two dangled above the vehicle or, exceptionally in the past, from an electrified conduit buried in the road.

MleEndLook no wires! This is Mile End tram change pit where trams changed over from an overhead wire to a conduit system in the road. The conduit system might have been aesthetically more pleasing but was not maintenance free and work to repair or renew the conduits would have been enormously disruptive. It would be hard to envisage such a system being installed today.

The Diesel-Electric Spectrum

One feature about the modern debate is that it should no longer be polarised as a diesel bus v trolleybus/tram debate. In the past they were the only options available. There was a very early attempt to introduce an electric bus in 1906 but sadly it was mainly done as a fraudulent scam to fleece investors.

Diesel Heater Fill

It might be an electric bus without a diesel engine but it may still need diesel fuel!

Today we have the non-hybrid diesel bus at one end of the spectrum and include the current hybrid in both its forms. Nowadays we can also put the battery bus very near the other end of the spectrum as something that is almost pure electric. However, it seems that one still has to have a diesel storage tank on board to provide heat in winter as the batteries aren’t up to the task of heating the interior and probably never will be. One could probably make a case in London to argue that passengers will already be wearing a coat when it is cold and the bus quite warm with the heat of the passengers aboard but even then one has to consider the driver and give him/her a reasonable working environment.

The diesel bus

The diesel bus uses a diesel engine to power the bus and an alternator to generate what electricity it needs which is then fed into a battery (generally lead-acid) which provide electricity for electrical functions such as powered doors, lights and possibly some kind of air-conditioning. The diesel bus is actually fairly energy efficient providing one does not have to brake a lot. Obviously in central London one does brake a lot so it is not ideal here being both the worst polluting form of fuel at the point of use and one where a lot of energy is wasted.

The diesel bus with regenerative braking

The trouble with hybrids is that they are expensive. The large battery is expensive and the revised power train with electric motors is also expensive. At the same time capturing the energy from regenerative braking is not such a cost liability and a bus tends to use a lot of electricity just in ancillary functions – air-conditioning, powered ramps, lights, doors, CCTV, iBus and even (not in London) Wifi. A fairly obvious thing to do for urban routes is to add regenerative braking and a reasonably sized battery, and use the regenerative braking to provide all the electrical power required. This is really a case of picking the low-hanging fruit and generally produces fuel savings around 10%.

Wrightbus market the idea of using regenerative braking to power the electrical requirements as “micro hybrid”. Of course it is not a hybrid anything but the term is less of a mouthful than a more correct name as well a convenient marketing term that helps position the product in the marketplace.

It is probably the case that if the objective was to reduce air pollution by buses in all of London then it would probably make far more economic sense just to specify that each new bus in London must be a “micro-hybrid” or better. Or rather specify maximum emissions permissible that require at least a micro-hybrid to achieve compliance. Of course a blanket reduction of emissions isn’t the objective, the objective is to get air pollution down in central London so this neat simplistic solution isn’t good enough.

The Parallel Hybrid Diesel Bus

The Parallel Hybrid Diesel Bus is a bit of a curious beast. It has additional weight and design restrictions compared to its series cousin but really comes into its own when largely used in conventional mode because, as it can behave like a conventional diesel bus, there are no electrical transmission losses and no needless charging/discharging of the battery. The problem is that, if it is used in conventional mode most of the time because there is limited braking going on, the need for an expensive hybrid is in fact questionable as the traffic conditions don’t really warrant it.

The Series Hybrid Diesel Bus

As stated in part 1 the series hybrid bus runs on pure electricity. The downside is that it has to lug around a diesel generator to create that electricity. There is clearly going to be a limit to its potential efficiency saving. Some expenditure of energy is just not recoverable – air resistance, tyre resistance, air-conditioning, door opening and closing – as well as losses within the system itself converting diesel energy into electrical energy. Around 40% energy saving is currently supposed to be achievable but it is hard to see how this really can be improved other than by a few percentage points.

The Conventionally Rechargeable Battery Bus

The fairly obvious dream situation is the battery bus. It runs all day on batteries and at night in a few hours it is plugged into the mains and completely recharged. The basic problem today is that the batteries are either heavy and/or expensive and/or liable to catch fire and take up a lot of space. One can trade off one against the other but right now there is not a perfect solution. To provide a bus with the most lightweight batteries available that would last all day would probably cost in the order of £500,000. In other words, for the price of three New Routemasters you could by sufficient batteries for two electric buses. It is entirely possible that a large part of the difference in price between an ADL Enviro 400H and a New Routemaster is largely down to the more generous battery capacity on the latter.

What does look promising is that there are multiple areas of technology development that appear to suggest that battery development is not only improving rapidly but will continue to do so for many years to come. This includes the battery’s close cousin, the supercapacitor which achieves the same function by different means. One must not forget that the proposed new trains for the Piccadilly Line due in service from 2022 onwards are relying on battery development to be sufficiently advanced to get a train to the next station in the event of a power failure.

Energy Live News report on the electric buses in London. For a more critical report there is this alternative.

Despite an ideal battery not yet being available, the battery bus is already present and operational in London as TfL is now running two electric buses in service. They run on lithium ion batteries but not the most expensive and energy dense type. At least with the conventional engine gone there is more space for these to be located. The batteries are the Lithium Ferrophosphate type which have the alleged advantage of being able to last for up to ten years. Like the New Routemaster, there have had to be design sacrifices made to fit in equipment necessary to provide propulsion.

The bus is loaded with an incredible 3 tonnes of batteries. This reduces its passenger carrying capacity. It is also difficult to find sufficient storage for this quantity of batteries and as a result the passenger forward view is rather limited due floor-to-ceiling battery storage and, like the New Routemaster upstairs, there is no rear window.

It is perhaps telling how little publicity TfL have given to the electric bus. They do not provide a timetable for their operation or even what route they will be on what day so they are difficult to try out. From the comments on the youTube clip above it appears that TfL are investigating all their options with an open mind but do not yet feel that with the current product available they are onto a game-changer. It is notable that there has been very little said about the initial cost of the vehicle which is not known.

The Trolleybus Battery Hybrid

Included for completeness in a look at what is technically possible is the the Trolleybus Battery Hybrid. This would probably not be quite like a diesel hybrid in that it makes little sense to store electricity in a battery when one can connect it directly from the overhead wire to the electric motors that power the vehicle. For that reason it would be a trolleybus and not an electric bus recharged using two overhead wires. This would be a very attractive proposition if one had an existing trolleybus network and wanted to extend its range without having to build a lot of new infrastructure.

It is difficult to see how this would be attractive in London, which would have to start again from scratch with overhead trolleybus wires and all the opposition that is likely to encounter. It would be expensive and an planning nightmare to implement – almost certainly needing a Transport and Works Act Order.

It should be noted that having a dual-mode trolleybus is nothing new either with batteries or an appropriately sized diesel-engine. It is obviously fairly simple to switch from wired to unwired. In reverse it currently requires the vehicle to be stationary and accurately positioned with the trolley poles below guides attached to the wire to ensure correct contact.

A youtube video showing a diesel hybrid trolleybus in Solingen switch to and from trolleybus mode. Thanks to Graham Feakins for providing the link.

With technology in such a state of flux it is hard to be sure that this would not rapidly become obsolete. If the technology had been around a few years ago it might have been an attractive proposition for East London Transit with the trolleybus charging the batteries on the reserved sections and running off the wires in places like Barking town centre. As it is, with money tight and this not yet being a cheap solution – remember those batteries are still extremely expensive – it is difficult to see how this would be attractive to TfL or the mayor.

The Induction Charged Bus

Finally we come to what many see as the most promising development yet for the future bus. Whilst it is recognised that the battery-powered bus is considered the ultimate goal, currently a requirement for a battery to power a bus all day is just not practical for various reasons, the most significant of which is the current cost of the batteries.

Electric Bus MKElectric inductively rechargeable bus in Milton Keynes. Note that lack of space on the low floor bus means that one of the three batteries is on the roof. Although clearly not in public service on this occasion, one route is normally entirely operated by eight of these buses.

It is long been recognised that if, by some means, one could recharge the bus either by small but frequent recharges at busy stops or a bigger recharge at the terminus stand then one could ensure that the drain on the battery was more gradual. The goal would be to keep the battery sufficiently charged so that it could run all day without the battery getting depleted to the extent that the life of the battery was reduced. An electric bus is typically recharged at around 20kW and it needs six to eight hours overnight to fully recharge it. Clearly, even ignoring all the Health & Safety implications, the idea of plugging in a bus to a conventional recharging point at the terminus wasn’t really going to be very practical as the benefit would either be tiny or the time required to recharge would make the bus very unproductive.

The perceived solution to the recharging problem on buses is the induction recharger. Think of a wireless recharger for an iPhone but on a much larger scale. A coil in the road rapidly creates a magnetic field and then collapses it. Meanwhile a similarly size coil on the bus takes advantage of this to create electricity to recharge the batteries. The technology isn’t really new. It is basically what happens in a traditional transformer except that the coils are intertwined for maximum efficiency. By separating the coils there is energy loss – but not that much providing the coils are close together. Clearly, getting the coils close together is not a major problem if designing an iPhone recharger but a bit more difficult if designing a bus recharger.

recharging plateAt the time of taking this photo this must have been the most photographed bus stop in the world. The charging plate is quite substantial but there is little to show for it at the bus stop itself

One might have intuitively thought that an induction recharger for a bus just would not be practical given that it takes six to eight hours to fully charge a battery bus. Here the advantage of an induction charger comes in. Instead of charging at 20kW it potentially recharges at 120kW. Or to put in in simple terms, if one ignores energy transmission losses, ten minutes charging at the bus stand is equivalent to an hour’s recharge at the bus garage. In
the induction chargers recharge at 200kW.

There are energy losses in induction recharging but these are reported to be well under 10%. Unfortunately this is actually more of a problem than might initially be thought. The energy lost is given out as heat and though it is small in as a proportion of the total it still amounts to a few kilowatts, which means that cooling has to be built in to the charger so that it is dissipated. Of course, if an induction charger is only used for a short time, such as at an intermediate bus stop, one may be able to avoid the need to provide cooling but then one has a big investment for a very short period of use.

Roadside cabinetsRoadside cabinets for recharging plate

Induction charged buses are certainly not new but most implementations so far have been fairly experimental. South Korea even does induction recharging on the move but it is notable that reports indicate that they only have two buses.

Of far more interest to us is a route in Milton Keynes that is running today with induction recharged buses. It shows that it does work but it also shows that there are potential problems that might not be such an issue in Milton Keynes but may be more of one in London.

Space is needed for the batteries and that is not easy to find in a bus. In Milton Keynes, with its single door single decker buses, two of them can be hidden under a step leading to the rear of the bus, but such a solution would probably not work well in London with the vast majority of routes operated by buses with separate entrances and exits. Worse still, in Milton Keynes they have resorted to putting a third battery on the roof. Judging by the pictures it looks as if the same is the case in South Korea. The unsatisfactory situation probably comes about because they are adapting a bus chassis and body for use as induction recharged bus rather than going to considerable expense of designing a few buses for what is still only a long-term trial.

Positioning markersPositioning markers on the bus door and the kerb to enable the driver to position the bus accurately over the recharging plate. Crude but effective.

A lesser issue with induction charging is that one has to position the bus pretty accurately over the recharger. This means that one has to select where this is done quite carefully so that the bus can be parked exactly where it is required (and not blocked by conventional buses for example) and it can stand there for around ten minutes. The latter condition would mean that somewhere like Victoria bus station, where buses pull forward as the one in front leaves, would not be ideal even if it was equipped with multiple chargers. There is also the issue that one needs somewhere to install the roadside cabinets associated with recharging.

bus rechargingThe collector plate on the bus is lowered so that the batteries can be recharged.

One To Look Out For?

As this video makes clear, induction rechargeable buses are still experimental and need to be fully evaluated. Despite that, the physics behind it is sound and with the expected future developments in battery technology it is hard to see how they will not be at least one of the potential candidates for the London bus of the future. It is not a foregone conclusion though and, apart from not yet being a mature technology, there is the problem that all the development so far has been on single deckers. The main reason TfL would want to look at this would probably be because of air quality targets. This would mean buses in central London. As it is highly unlikely any future mayor would endorse a return to bendy-buses this would mean double deckers. This would be in contrast to the bus manufacturers and other interested parties who would probably be more cautious and initially develop the technology using single decked vehicles.

As this presentation shows, London Buses are taking emission reduction extremely seriously and are already intending to trial induction charging. If TfL went down the induction charging route they would probably want to use this technology on double deck buses. The problem would be that in all probability there is no suitable double decker in existence. A new bus would have to be designed from scratch in order to accommodate suitable space for batteries and one wonders if any manufacturer would take the risk on their own given the limited guaranteed market. So it could be a case, yet again, of TfL specifying their own requirements and not buying off-the-peg buses. That means they would also have to deal with the bad publicity of all the failures and design issues encountered in a product that was pushing the limits of current technology. And, if the induction recharged double decker bus became a reality in central London in a few years time, one then asks what would happen to those iconic New Routemasters?

Thanks to London Transport Museum for permission to use the photograph of the Mile End tram change pit.

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There are 612 comments on this article
  1. Leon says:

    Could a modern ground level power supply be adapted to work with buses as opposed to trams? It would solve the ‘it’s ugly’ problem with trolleybus wires.

    It is rather new technology, and it seems there are a few issues to be ironed out before it even works on trams.

    I’d have thought this could mean that the bus could recharge more slowly than with plates only at bus stops, meaning that batteries can be used instead of ultracapacitors. It would also make the power supply easier to manage.

    I’d have thought the ideal scheme would be a hybrid with a diesel engine, relatively small batteries and the ability to run on power from the road (and charge the batteries) where available. The power connectors can then slowly be built out starting with congested central areas, rather than having to do a whole route at once.

  2. Tim Burns says:

    Looking at these alternatives, it strikes me that are not that many alternatives to the good old diesel belcher.

    As for induction buses, the congestion caused by digging up lots of bus stops all over central London would be well on the way to that caused by installing a tram line (OK so I exaggerate a bit).

    So I find myself wondering if stringing up the wires for trolleybuses would cause huge amounts of disruption? And would there not be a rolling, cumulative beneficial effect as routes were transferred over? If the buses themselves had enough reserve power for (say) 15 minutes, then they could dodge around break downs, diversions and so on. I guess it improves the pollution levels in the centre by going this route (but perhaps not at the power station – but at least there some mitigation measures would be worthwhile).

    So I am wondering why not go back to tried and tested, yet simple, solutions? Is it because that was yesterdays solution? As someone on Part 1 commented, you could even have fully electric NRM’s should you wish to do so.

    BTW, fully realise I am in crayonist mode here and apologise to the mods.

  3. AlisonW says:

    ‘Stringing the knitting’, whether over railway metals or over our streets, is disruptive; moreso for the latter as they don’t control the way. Similarly, tracked road vehicles (I’m a fan of the SF cable cars*) are a non-starter for wider use. Which leaves electric-in-whole-or-part or some fuel. So far I’ve yet to see something fully practical for London’s start-stop-start congested central area, though some of the ideas above could be practical in the suburbs. More r&d needed!

    * The first example of which in Europe scaled Highgate Hill from outside the Archway Tavern!

  4. Moosealot says:

    Tax on fuels
    Currently, duty for road-going motor vehicles is 57.95p/litre for diesel; for compressed natural gas (CNG) it’s 24.7p/kg and for LPG it’s 31.6p/kg (source: HMRC). The density of diesel is approximately 0.85kg/l, so to match units the duty of diesel is ~68.2p/kg. The energy density of hydrocarbons decreases in heavier fractions but the decrease is quite marginal, so a per kg basis is a sensible way of looking at how much energy you are buying.

    The Bus Service Operators’ Grant rebates some but not all of the fuel duty. There’s also the underlying cost of the fuel. Diesel is expensive, the price of natural gas is horrendously variable (but has the advantage of a more-or-less universal pipeline delivery system) and LPG is cheap but not as easy to store as diesel.

    Air Pollution
    There is a widespread confusion about air pollution, which appears to state that CO2 emissions are the only thing to worry about. I don’t want to get into the global warming debate here as it’s off topic, but for air quality purposes, CO2 is not a problem. The health hazards are nitrous oxides, oxides of sulphur and particulates. While low-sulphur diesel is now universal, it is just that: low sulphur; both LPG and CNG are sulphur-free. Compression (diesel) engines, especially ones with forced induction (turbo- or super-chargers) produce very high levels of NOx; spark-ignition engines (petrol, LPG, CNG) produce much less, and an up-to-temperature catalytic converter will reduce that lower figure quite significantly (by 99% or more). Gas-powered engines also produce even fewer particulates than a Euro-V diesel engine with a particulate filter. A conventional CNG- or LPG-powered bus will produce less NOx, SOx and particulates per km than a hybrid diesel.

  5. Moosealot says:

    @JB – the <sub> tag works in the preview but doesn’t display when published. If the solution is to stop it working in the preview, that’s fine…

  6. Graham H says:

    @PoP Not being an engineer, I hesitate to enter this thread, but are there any technical interactions between induction charging and nearby electrical equipment – for example, traffic signals, personal electrical equipment such as pacemakers, or even NR’s level 2 systems? Presumably, it’s also reasonably immune to theft of power (although, having spent time in the former Soviet Union, the ingenuity of power thieves seems to know no limits)?

  7. Anonymike says:

    I think you’ve missed another Hybrid solution – why can’t NB4L be fitted with an induction charging solution? It can already run for short distances on battery power alone, it doesn’t have that large a battery bank (so could be charged quite quickly – perhaps within a minute or two), has a gen-set in case it runs out of charge, and already has gone through the whole ‘love-it’-‘hate-it’ outcry…

    If the main aim is to improve air quality in the centre of London, then the expectation would be that the bus arrives in the centre with a full charge, and switches off the diesel gen-set to proceed on battery power. At each stop (or each popular stop), it picks up a quick boost charge to help it to the next stop. Then when leaving the centre, on comes the gen-set again. Of course, if it runs out of power between stops, the gen-set is there to get it out of trouble.

    An initial investment in a few charging plates could be followed by a small trickle charge added to the congestion charge to pay for more to extend the area that the busses could run on electric in.

  8. answer=42 says:

    I also have a question. Is the quest for the low- or zero-emission bus the right one in terms of air quality, as defined by Moosealot? Or could air quality improvements be obtained in a more cost-effective way?

  9. CdBrux says:

    “If TfL were to one day decide to go for induction recharged buses it would probably be for double deckers. The problem would be that in all probability there is no suitable double decker in existence. A new bus would have to be designed from scratch in order to accommodate suitable space for batteries and one wonders if any manufacturer would take the risk on their own given the limited guaranteed market. So it could be a case, yet again, of TfL specifying their own requirements and not buying off-the-peg buses”

    London is surely not the only UK (&Hong Kong??) city in this situation, perhaps some co-operation could be sought with the likes of Manchester, Brum, Yorkshire etc… An alternative could be some sort of intellectual rights share with the manufacturer to gain from any future sales of technology partly funded by TfL though I suspect that would be a lot more complicated.

  10. Southern Heights says:

    Having driven CNG vehicles in the past, there are some points to note:

    1. It takes up more room and range is reduced
    2. Less informed sections of the press (and the commentariat on the internet) will be endlessly producing articles demanding the end of these “bombs” driving around town

    In terms of induction charging, it should not be much different to the dangers of using induction cookers. Mine came without any warnings… As it requires close proximity, I don’t expect there to be much of a problem.

    Nikola Tesla was working on wireless transmission of electricity, a pity he never solved the problem…

  11. AlisonW says:

    There would, indeed, be issues if the ground circuit was left energised at all times. So long as it is only operated when the ‘recipient’ is in position though there will be less of an effect. Magnetic shielding is required above the bus’s coil though to protect passengers (think MRI scanner)

  12. AlisonW says:

    On that basis then, why are buses still running on diesel when unleaded petrol would be much cleaner?

  13. Milton Clevedon says:

    Aren’t there a growing number of tramways in France which pick up power from induction studs in or under the road surface? (London briefly had a stud-contact system along the Mile End Road, but it was a mechanical design and become unreliable, leaving live studs for horses to touch – not nice).

    Marseilles and Nice come to mind, for sections of lines in conservation areas. If that works now for a tracked vehicle, why not for buses, and provide the studs where the vehicles are required to go, such as bus lanes or busways?

  14. Graham H says:

    @MC – also in Hastings, where my grandfather recalled the many live studs that were left after the car had passed, usually to the detriment of any horse that trod on them.

    @Alison W – wouldn’t be surprised to find some bogus “recipients” standing over the transmitter from time to time. Man’s ingenuity knows no limits.

  15. Moosealot says:


    Petrol buses would cost a fortune to fuel.

    Spark ignition engines are thermodynamically less efficient than compression ignition engines, so a given amount of fuel will go further in a diesel engine than a petrol engine. Diesel engines also have preferable torque characteristics for heavy, low-performance vehicles.

    The days when simple refining produced your grades of fuel are long in the past, and petrol and diesel are derived from the same feedstocks and have the same high costs of manufacture. Also, the Bus Service Operators’ Grant does not apply to petrol, so a petrol-powered bus would use more fuel and the fuel would be more expensive.

    Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is much cheaper at the refinery gate. It’s the propane fraction of crude oil which is least in demand, requires no further processing, and is effectively a by-product of the refinery. LPG is eligible for the BSOG, so it is significantly cheaper for a bus operator to purchase, more than offsetting the reduction in mpg. Running a ‘petrol’ engined bus with LPG would be quite viable but it would require a complete departure in terms of engine and transmission design.

  16. Moosealot says:

    @Graham H

    Secure automated authentication with the on-board receiver before powering up the coil would present minimal technical difficulty, the technology already exists and the hardware costs pennies. It would have the added benefit of allowing private vehicles (e.g. taxis/minicabs, delivery vans) with the correct ‘SIM card’ to draw power and be billed accordingly thus increasing the viability of such vehicles.

  17. Leon says:

    Ahh. I’ve discovered that modern ground-level contacts have been used on a trolleybus system in Trieste

    Italian Wikipedia article:

    The system wasn’t a success and has been removed, apparently because it required too many substations. I’m guessing it runs at a much lower voltage than a normal trolleybus. But I suspect that would be a solvable problem, especially if used as an alternative power source for a serial hybrid.

  18. Fandroid says:

    Reading buses have gone in for LPG (single-deckers).

    I too dispute strongly the ‘massive disruption’ notion concerning trolleybus wires. SSE recently replaced every streetlight* in this town with minimum hassle (except where they forgot about wide disability scooters!). The poles for trolleybus wires can be shoved into the ground in remarkably short time. Stringing the wires could then be done at night. No impact on the carriageway at all (unlike inductive charger plates) My bet is that almost no-one would notice.

    While TfL and the Mayor may be trying hard to ‘beat the rules’ by reducing the NOX and particles measurements at the measuring stations, I have a strong suspicion that the health disbenefits of air pollution don’t disappear when those measurements drop below the EU limits. If use of Micro-hybrids for all buses will reduce the overall amount of polluting emissions, then why not do it for the health of Londoners, London workers, and visitors? If that’s not enough on its own then, in addition, target a few busy central routes with all-electric buses of some ilk.

    * I can now almost see the Milky Way!

  19. Sykobee says:

    It strikes me, with Induction Charging, that the cost of batteries is the major cost in a bus with battery technology, and induction charging reduces the need to all-day batteries. Indeed, you can get by with 1/4 of the battery capacity perhaps.

    The solution here, is on routes that are suitable for parking a couple of buses at the end of the route on induction pads, that you buy spare buses for the route (still cheaper overall because of the reduced battery size), and always have a couple charging. Bus pulls in to the depot/charging area after unloading passengers, driver gets out, goes to most charged bus, drives off on the return leg of the journey leaving his previous bus on the pad to recharge.

    And the reduced battery size means you can fit the thing in the space under the stairs on the new Routemasters (front and rear) in place of the diesel engine.

    You’ll also need a recovery vehicle which is a cross between a fork-lift truck and a giant battery on wheels, for on-the-go bus battery recharging (drive up the bus’s arse end, insert the charging pad part under the bus, charge from internal batteries).

  20. Jim Jordan says:

    I submit my comment to encourage debate. Why electricity? The Belgians had a quite successful flywheel driven bus back in the 50s. The Swiss also tried this system out. The flywheel was brought up to speed at stops by overhead contacts with which a retractable “trolley boom” connected. A route in Gent ran with some success and an example of these vehicles is kept in the tramway museum at Schepdaal. It does not take long to spin the flywheel up to speed; certainly this is quicker than battery charging. Modern technology can produce a much more efficient flywheel system than then.

  21. Moosealot says:

    This video by Tesla, a Californian electric car manufacturer shows how fast an automated battery exchange can be: a little over 90 seconds to swap a battery out. A 5- to 10-mile-radius battery would be small, light and cheap if there were places where buses already stop for a couple of minutes where the batteries could be easily swapped out. Bus stations, for example. It would also allow batteries to be maintained separately from the buses they serve.

  22. Ollyver says:

    How far is the “long range” of the batteries of the 2 trial buses? (I thought it was in the video, but I can’t seem to find it again.)

    And, more importantly – how far is it relative to the length of the average bus route? A cursory inspection gives me 8-9 miles each direction; how many times, if any, could the NBfL manage that on battery power?

  23. Graham H says:

    @Jim Jordan – So successful that apart from foisting the purchase of 100+ vehicles on their erstwhile colony, the Belgians didn’t actually pursue the idea beyond the Gent route. Nor did the Swiss installation at Grandson last very long. (It’s not clear what the Achilles heel was – dwell time? Cost? Weight?)

  24. Greg Tingey says:

    That didn’t take long … all have the same style of blinds – yes, the horrible, more-difficult-to-read “white” ones, with no intermediate stopping points shown.
    ANOTHER retrograde step by TfL … please, miss, why do they do it?

    “non-electric alternatives”
    May I suggest googling for a Stockton-based firm called “Fuel Air solutions” ??

    ELN are, of course deluded & ignorant … it is not, & never was London’s first all-electric bus – the “Trolleys” were that – but they are UNFASHIONABLE.

    Battery technology is changing rapidly – as mentioned previously – costs are falling & the ingenuity is fascinating. As before I predict a “switch” to occur, with costs for “electric” going below diesel by 2025 & quite possibly by 2020.
    We’ll have to wait & see….

    Tim Burns
    We’ll have to see how Leeds does, having been cheated out of their trams.
    Incidentally, I assume DafT are still anti-tram, at present, as is Boris. What will happen if the new Mayor is pro-tram, then?

    Jim Jordan
    THREE words:
    Parry People Mover

  25. @Greg,

    Please read the article and follow the links. The first electric bus ran in London in 1906. Trolleybuses did not appear until 25 years later. So if you call ELN deluded & ignorant …

  26. Milton Clevedon says:

    Sorry PoP, minor correction to your trolleybus comment is needed:

    First trolleybus experiment in London was in 1909 by Metropolitan Electric Tramways, with a single Railless Electric Traction Co vehicle.

    Second, larger-scale experiment in London used the Cedes-Stoll system, and was in West Ham from 1912 to 1915. A 4-wheel trolley ran on top of wires, with a flexible unpluggable connection to the trolleybus.

    Simpler current collection arrangements had been designed by 1914, though were not tried in London.

    It’s unclear why the London area persisted just with trams until the 1930s, when some systems were creaking in the 1920s, such as the Erith-Bexley-Dartford group.

    Maybe the trolleybus vehicle design wasn’t then up to the high passenger loads required to carry workmen to/from large factory/docks areas.

  27. Tom Hawtin says:

    @Moosealot Swapping batteries could reduce weight, but it appears the current critical problem is the number of cycles the battery will take. So, an awful lot of work that does little to attack the cost problem.

    Perhaps battery technology will improve cycle lifetimes. Perhaps supercapacitors will reduce to a more practical price, though in that case you may as well just charge in place.

  28. Moosealot says:

    2025 is only 11 years away. In the last 11 years, energy density has improved – largely driven by the IT sector – but there is still a horrible tradeoff between power density and longevity. Prices are down, but not by enough that another 11 years on trend would suddenly make them cheap enough.

    The supply/demand balance for lithium will inevitably put a floor under battery prices in the term you’re talking about, and while there are other battery technologies under development, they are not going to be commercialised to the point that they are sufficiently energy-dense, robust, tested and accepted in this time frame. If you really believe that we’re going to have ubiquitous battery buses in that time scale, buy lithium futures now!

    In the next 10 years I would expect to see battery+capacitor hybrid models which take advantage of the high power density and longevity of capacitors for acceleration and accepting energy recovered from braking while the battery is used for constant power cruising, ancillary devices and topping up the capacitors, but this would be merely an evolution of existing series or parallel hybrid designs.

    I would also expect TfL to keep a close watch on technology tests being carried out elsewhere, but its reliability would have to be proven before it could be rolled out to any reasonable scale in London.

  29. Moosealot says:

    @Tom Hatwin
    There is a trade-off with most battery chemistries – including all flavours of lithium – between power density and longevity. If a battery is charged and discharged fast, it will degrade in fewer cycles than if it is charged and discharged slowly. By allowing a battery to be charged ‘offline’ over several hours the number of cycles available will increase over what it would achieve if recharged in short sharp bursts. It can also be ‘tuned’ for better energy density. Having the batteries as separate modules also allows for servicing of the battery (i.e. locating and replacing duff cells) without taking the vehicle off the road. Add that a smaller battery doesn’t have to lug so much battery around and you’re onto a winner.

    Big capacitors can help. While batteries generally have a (relatively) high energy density but a low power density, capacitors are the opposite. The volume/weight per unit energy of a capacitor is low, but they can be fully charged or depleted in a matter of seconds and can withstand hundreds of times more charge-discharge cycles than regular batteries. Charging up a capacitor from regenerative braking and from the battery while the bus is stationary, and then pulling high current from the capacitor – instead of the battery – for acceleration will improve the longevity of the battery. It’ll also reduce the number of charge-discharge cycles the battery performs per journey.

  30. Graham H says:

    @MC – I suspect that the municipal trams hung on in the east and the south because the authorities lacked the statutory powers to run buses and would have been opposed by LGOC if they had sought them; moreover, trams consumed municipally generated electricity, buses obviously did not. (Trolleys had no significant capacity advantage over buses until the mid thirties and were always beaten by trams in that respect).

  31. Milton Clevedon says:

    Thank you, interesting. ‘SouthMet’ power supply was of course linked to the ‘Combine’, as was ‘NorthMet’ even to the point of having a bullseye symbol and Lord Ashfield as chairman. So at some point it was probably inevitable that the Sutton-Croydon-Penge/Crystal Palace tramway would go rail-less, but even that took until the 1930s.

    Back to the buses, I believe the reason the Routemaster was extendable as ERM/RML was because the basic structural design was put together as a 64-seater PLUS the weight of the trolley poles etc on top in the middle of the chassisless body. So a 72-seater just took up the extra weight/stress of the trolleyed design. No idea if that’s right, but would be nice to know.

    Which leads me to ask (again, any answers welcome) if the stress designs for the NBfL might permit trolley poles, if push came to shove, or other electrical impedimenta, or if no-one’s yet thought of such further development potential.

  32. stimarco says:

    I realise this may sound odd, but…

    We’ve had pantographs that can be raised and lowered from within the cabin of a train by the driver for decades now. So, what if, instead of slapping an induction charging plate in the road, we just had a short length of trolley wire above it at each bus stop? No need to string the wires along the entire length of the route, just build much shorter sections of trolley wire where you expect buses to be forced to wait – e.g. at very busy junctions. You could have 200 kW at the wire no problem.

    As you’d need two wires, a ‘side-contact’ pantograph might be better than a bottom-contact one: one pops up to meet the left-hand wire; the other rises to meet the left-hand wire. That reduces the need for pin-perfect parking accuracy too.

    Re. hybrids:

    If the diesel isn’t directly powering the wheels through a drive shaft (e.g. the NBfL), then surely an LPG engine would be fine? All it’s doing is powering a generator at a fixed RPM. That makes it easy to optimise its fuel consumption, while eliminating the NOx and particulates diesels tend to produce.

  33. OAB says:

    @stimarco 18:05

    See here for actual busses using such a system you propose. It does have some of the same problems as the inductive charging, with placement and movement of the bus.

  34. Sid says:

    Yawn. Back to trains please.

  35. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – a few quick (ahem!) comments.

    On the subject of hybrid deckers it is worth noting that the Mayor trumpeted a few years ago that all buses would be hybrids. This pledge was then carefully dropped when prices didn’t fall as quickly as expected. This meant a load more diesels were bought and now years later we are back to a position where we’re about to be dragged into the European Court over air pollution and “buying lots of hybrid buses” has re-emerged as a policy theme. It would be nice if Boris stopped playing the “hokey cokey” when it comes to policy about air quality (the low emission and zero emission zones are similar casualties of prevarication and postponement).

    The Chinese BYD single deckers are on trial in a number of countries so they’re obviously being “pushed” very strongly. I expect the Chinese to keep the pressure on in terms of trials but also developing the product too. If our manufacturers are not careful then they’ll find the UK and Far East markets taken over if the Chinese can develop a viable product.

    The poor carrying capacity point you made about the BYD single decks also applies to the Wright Hydrogen buses. They were so heavy that some of the roof tanks were removed to raise the carrying capacity. This is because route RV1 has some very strong peak flows and trying to limit the crowds to just 37 people was bordering on madness.

    TfL are going to market now for two induction charged double decks for delivery later this year. Therefore they are clearly of the view that product development is such that the private sector is already taking the risk. There have long been rumours that Alexander Dennis are developing a variant of the E40 double decker with such charging capability. The chief of Wrightbus recently went on record saying all electric buses were the way forward. The Milton Keynes trial (on route 7 to Bletchley) is obviously very important to his business. Note also the reference to three charging options (induction, plug-in and pantograph) for any Wright product. I also expect foreign manufacturers to try to bid to supply the trial vehicles.

    The proposed trial route is the 69 from Walthamstow Central to Canning Town as TfL own the bus stations at each terminal and this would provide space for the recharging facility. The route is subject to final confirmation by TfL but this was all stated by Mike Weston in a recent magazine article.

    TfL are also expecting a further 6 all electric single decks – 4 Metrocities from Optare for use on the H98 route from Hounslow to Hayes End. Apparently only two would be “on the road” any one time with two recharging at Hounslow Bus Garage. The other two, make unknown, are rumoured to be for the 312 in Croydon. The common feature with these two routes is that one terminal is at a bus garage allowing easy charging / vehicle substitution / mechanical attention if needed. Therefore we have some potentially interesting developments to observe over the next 1-2 years.

    As you might have predicted I don’t really agree with you that stringing trolley wires would be almost insurmountable. Yes there would be a learning curve and there would be a higher capital cost. Nonetheless the resultant infrastructure would give that vital “presence” and reassurance ascribed to tram services thereby telling people their nice eco friendly electric bus route would be around for a long while. Trolleys are far quieter, smoother and faster than diesel buses and I’m sure people would vote with their feet.

    We would probably need some European assistance to get going with Trolleys but TfL is hardly devoid of influence and, let’s face it, it has exactly the same problem in trying to create workable cycling infrastructure. The UK hasn’t really got the skill set and while I can see why TfL don’t want to be locked into years of consultancy there are other ways of importing the knowledge and progressively developing your in house capability. If TfL can do this for project management (in progress for many years) then it can do it for cycling infrastructure, stringing trolley wires or building urban tram routes. It’s not rocket science and for every month or year that people are fiddling around playing with new technology and trying to spot the winners and the losers we are not actually *doing* something positive to deliver proven technology that would deliver benefits to Londoners.

  36. OAB says:

    Leon @ 12:01

    There are (at least) two system somewhat like that: and Both have been expensive to run – it turns out that if you want Tram like transit you are better off building a Tram line.

  37. Ig says:

    Frequent swapping of smallish batteries every hour or two (i.e. at the end of every bus route), allows buses to get straight back into action. This alas was not really mentioned in the article, (apart from the 100year old Electrobus example).

  38. Alan Griffiths says:

    All this technological speculation is interesting, but
    1) some Passenger Transport Executive area have been very serious about introducing Quality Bus Corridors; nothing remotely like that seen in London.
    2) GPS has given TfL masses of data about buses; what do they do with it?
    3) those masses of data could produce the top 50 bus-delaying junctions in London and the top 5 in each Borough; what’s the point of asking for publication of that when TfL doesn’t appear to have any investment planning process for tackling delays to buses?

  39. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Why is it that after you publish something you find a load more useful links you wish you had found earlier?

    This on the electric buses has the following paragraph at the end of page 2:
    “TfL is also looking at induction charging for double deck diesel hybrids as part of the European ZeUS [sic] project. Although they will still be diesels, the additional electrical energy will reduce the draw on the engine.”

    Note: Project ZeEUS (Zero Emission Urban Bus System).

    Thanks to WW’s info I have now found TfL’s tender for induction charging.

    There is also this TfL presentation last year about buses and air quality.

  40. Fandroid says:

    I’m shocked that there has been no mention of bionic duckweed.

    Think back a decade when railway electrification was most definitely not in fashion, as the brave new world of rapid technological advance was about to create hydrogen powered trains.

    Is history about to repeat itself? Will a shiny-headed politician turn up who has been to Solingen or Zurich or Salzburg (with a spot of Mozart thrown in) on a sunny day and realised that quiet, pollution-free buses exist in beautiful places and they don’t block out the sunlight, and they don’t look like those black and white photos of old London. In fact they look surprisingly modern, and their engines are unlikely to catch fire!

    @stimarco. The Reading LPG single deck buses have an extra tank on the roof. Storage of the stuff might be a problem for an LPG powered double-deck hybrid.

  41. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alan Griffiths – I think you’re being a tad unfair and I’m normally very grumpy about the lack of good news about TfL bus services.

    TfL are working on a “journey time” metric for bus services. This will undoubtedly use the I-Bus data to analyse variance in journey time and location. TfL Surface Transport recently presented to London Travelwatch on measuring bus performance and Travelwatch have published the presentation. This also references to £200m funding allocated over the next decade to create additional bus priority *and* to deal with pinch points which slow buses down. To my mind that’s a reasonable thing to do even if I’d like to see more funding earlier to bring forth benefits quickly – especially as buses will be slowed down by years of work to add segregated cycle facilities. The London Assembly have asked TfL to consider the development and publication of a “bus busyness” measure – not sure how easy that is. I have read somewhere that the “techie bods” at TfL are considering how to tell people if an approaching bus is full or not and to suggest that seats on the upper deck (assuming it’s a double deck route) are available. Clearly working out how full a bus and where any spare space is on the bus is not easy but I assume some use of the CCTV images and vehicle “weighing” measures coupled to I-Bus and radio and some clever software might be able to generate the info. Imagine the Countdown display info?!

    1. 148 Camberwell Green 1 min 3 seats
    2. 36 New Cross Gate 1 min 12 seats
    3. 73 Victoria 2 mins You must be joking! 😉

    I think TfL would argue that East London Transit is close to a Quality Bus Corridor – that does have branded buses, consistent bus stop design, high frequency services and bus priority in various locations. London also has the London Bus Priority Network with parking / waiting restrictions and corridor bus lanes (e.g. route 38). It might not *feel* very whizzy but we did get a lot of bus lanes in Mr Livingstone’s two terms. Boris decided that affording no one priority in a traffic hierarchy and “smoothing traffic flow” was to be preferred. Now everyone moves along slowly at the same pace. I leave it to the reader to conclude which is best.

    To be fair many TfL bus routes run so frequently that they certainly meet the concept of Quality Bus frequency. London does have bus departure displays at stops that nearly always work – unlike far too many council projects. The bits London don’t have are “whizzy” vehicles with plush interiors and glitzy bus shelters. Nonetheless London nearly always has boring bus shelters, stops, route numbers, direction, stop name, maps and timetables at its stops. If only every bus stop in the rest of the UK met this standard then we’d be eons ahead of where we need to be.

  42. Fandroid says:

    @PoP. Have just viewed your link to the TfL presentation on buses and air quality. Could you put that link into the main article as an addendum? That would make it easier to find if looking back in the future.

  43. Reynolds 953 says:

    From the TfL presentation linked by PoP, there was an interesting point that 17% of road transport NOx emissions comes from buses.

    However HGVs (25%) and cars (38%) are bigger sources.

    A TfL objective to reduce emissions from buses would be laudable, however it is clear that they would also need to do something about HGVs and cars to get a significant improvement in air quality!

  44. Greg Tingey says:

    The proposed trial route is the 69 from Walthamstow Central to Canning Town
    Otherwise known as a revival of the 559 !!
    ASAP -= please ……
    Actually, with decent induction-charging & improved battery design ( I note the words “Buy Lithium-battery futures … as that’s the third time I’ve seen that this month) it could, just work out right.
    [Usual unnecessary derogatory postscript removed. PoP]

  45. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Reynolds 953,

    Yes of course. But I think it is partly a case of first claiming the moral high ground. And then it is a case of saying to the freight people “we can do it for our buses so there is no reason why you can’t do it for your vans and lorries”.

    The Ultra Low Emission Zone will substantially address the issue for HGV’s and one can visualise the congestion zone charging mechanism penalising dirty vehicles more harshly. The rules for being exempt from the Congestion Charge get tighter as standards get stricter so, for example, a Prius is no longer exempt. One can envisage that by 2020 you must be running in electric mode to be exempt and the more you pollute the more you pay.

  46. @Fandroid 23:20

    I have modified the start of the final paragraph to include a link to that report and a reference to the proposed TfL induction charging trial. Hope that is satisfactory.

  47. Graham Feakins says:

    @ PoP – “The first electric bus ran in London in 1906.” – And the first (I believe) electric tram – battery-operated, invented by a Mr. Jarman – ran in Croydon in 1891/2 before turning his attention to the North Metropolitan Tramways section at Canning Town. Trouble was, the battery acid spilled out over the passengers’ legs.

  48. Long Branch Mike (Ultracapacitor) says:

    @Southern Heights, Alison

    One of the problems Nikolai Tesla could not resolve with wireless electricity transmission was IIRC the disagreeable effect it had on the human body – near instant diarrhea.

    The effects of magnetic fields on human and animal bodies is still not fully understood – I wouldn’t live near high voltage power lines, as statistically this gives higher cancer rates. I don’t want to be near 120 kW induction loops either.

  49. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Long Branch Mike and others – Wasn’t there concern with the first thyristor-controlled tube trains, with suggestions that passengers with pacemakers should either not use them or stand away from the underfloor equipment (if you knew where it was!)?

  50. AlisonW says:

    WW: Countdown not showing buses which won’t be stopping because of overloading would probably be a good thing and reduce anger.

    LBM: I’ve lived under HT lines since 1 was 9 – the pylons are at each end of the road’ in fact. No medical issues along our road in that near-half-century.

    On the Lithium front, one problem is that of supply. It’s all in China, and demand already way outstrips supply.

  51. Nathanael says:

    Oh, just bring back the trams!

    There’s a very specific reason why you need trams.

    ” One partial solution is to make buses bigger but people have recognised the downside in that solution because of the way buses struggle with our relatively narrow roads and the way they block junctions.”

    You can only make buses so long before they start having trouble with narrow roads.

    However, a properly designed tram can be quite long and still handle narrow roads. This is because a tram can have multiple points of articulation (“bendy”) but without fishtailing (because it’s on tracks). Examples of this principle include Combino and Variobahn.

    In central London, there really isn’t much underground room to build more subways, without going very deep. And I may be mistaken, but I think nobody’s going to agree to build elevated lines (people will complain about the views, etc.) And as noted there isn’t much more room to run buses on the street, either.

    So your last option remaining is to optimize the ground-level street space by using trams, which stuff the maximum people-moving capacity you can get into the street, short of having everyone walk (which is a bit slow for most people).

    Trams certainly aren’t necessary or appropriate everywhere, but if you’re trying to stuff more bus capacity through narrow streets… what you’re looking for is articulated trams.

  52. Nathanael says:

    “On the Lithium front, one problem is that of supply. It’s all in China, and demand already way outstrips supply.”

    This is actually untrue, though it’s a common myth. There are vast lithium deposits all over the world, including large deposits in the US, and we’re not going to run out of supply in the forseeable future. The lithium in batteries is also recyclable.

    The situation is that China is the *cheapest* producer of lithium (due to being sloppy about environmental laws and having cheap labor), and so the other lithium mines (which are mostly in developed countries with stricter environmental and labor standards) shut down. Now that demand is much higher, they will reopen.

  53. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    I agree with LBM that the full and long term effects on the human body of radio waves, microwaves etc, are not fully understood. I suspect there will be medical repercussions of exposing the human body to so much that it wasn’t prepared for.

    I also agree with Alison W. To place reliance on any raw material that is 100% imported from across the world is asking for trouble in the future. Certain parts of the world have major conflicts going on, and is it just coincidence that “rare earths” have been discovered in those regions? (W Sahara, Afghanistan etc). The Chinese have already once banned the export of some of these materials, and then of course, exports re-commenced when the price doubled.

  54. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Walthamstow Writer 21:08

    Thank you for the information. Most of it was new to me although I was very aware of the delay incurred whilst Boris stalled on Ken’s policies (low emissions and hybrids) and even denounced them (a needless burden on business in this time of austerity is what I think he said about the low emission requirements) before realising he really had to go along with them.

    I don’t think there would be any really major technical issue in putting trolley wires up but I suspect there are few places that wouldn’t generate a lot of protests. I also wonder who would be prepared to back the investment (remember you need the infrastructure such as multiple sub-stations as well) on a technology that may become unnecessary in a few years time.

    Sad to say I wish I could believe that trolleybuses will be far quieter than diesel buses. They may have been so in the past but that is in the days before air-conditioning. When I catch a New Routemaster and imagine it is a trolleybus I get disappointed on daytime journeys about the noise of the air-conditioning/blowing upstairs. The noise of any engine is irrelevant compared to this. It may just be bad design but I suspect that all air-conditioning on buses/trolleybuses will be as noisy. As to smoother then we already have that with properly built diesel hybrids (i.e. New Routemasters) and as to speed the hybrids seem to be able to travel as fast as traffic conditions and speed limits allow.

  55. Chz says:

    To back up what Nathanael said, “rare” earths aren’t rare at all. It’s just that China is the cheapest producer of them. They tried to fiddle the market a few years back and quickly realised just how fast the RotW could get a mine up and running if the price jumped too much.

    I grew up in Toronto, so I always think trams are the answer. 🙂 In an on-road system like you’d need in central London, they’re quite effective traffic shapers as well. Drivers (after an adjustment period) are considerably less likely to play chicken with a tram than a bus.

  56. Fandroid says:

    It’s worth a look at the TOSA bus that was mentioned earlier. It seems to be mostly an ABB creation with retractable self-guided overhead contacts automatically engaging with an overhead charging gantry at principal stops and at the ends of the route. It has been tried on a 1.8km route in Geneva as an airport-conference shuttle. No feedback on how well it performs, but again it seems to avoid the digging up of the road* that induction plates require.

    As with all sensible continental operators, it uses an articulated single decker.

    The emissions map shows Heathrow to be a hot-spot too. Although we all know it’s the planes and the local motorways that principally cause that problem, Heathrow itself could do something with its huge fleet of transfer buses. That TOSA solution looks like a perfectly good way of doing that, with a lot less infrastructure than their favoured ULTra pods require

    * they just trash the bus stops instead!

  57. Guano says:

    Nathanael – “Oh just bring back the trams”

    TfL did some research about ten years ago that was used as part of the justification for the West London Tram. It claimed to show that, when the number of passengers using a bus route passed a certain threshold, it was more efficient to increase the size of the bus than increase the frequency. Then, when the number of passengers using a bus route passed another threshold, it was more efficient to introduce trams. The claim was that the Uxbridge Road routes had reached that threshold.

    Passengers won’t notice an improvement in frequency from 20 tph to 30 tph. But when buses are running at 30 tph they get in each other’s way at bus stops and road junctions. So it is better to keep the frequency at 20 tph using a large capacity, multi-door bus. Better still, when passenger numbers are really high, would be a tram because passengers are more willing to stand on a tram (so you can have larger standing areas) and the length can be increased further.

    I haven’t seen this research mentioned for many years but it does illustrate the trade-offs and choices that have to be made when traffic densities get really high. If someone has access to the West London Tram documentation they might be able to find a reference to that research.

  58. Rational Plan says:

    Two things! I remember reading an old sci fi book by Kim Stanley Robinson called the Gold Coast, part of his Orange County series. Set in a world of endless suburban sprawl, where to cope freeways had been double decked and the most developed parts ended up with multi level streets. They solved their pollution problem with induction power under all the main streets and freeways, and while people ‘drive’ by turning wheels etc, the cars themselves make space for each other.

    It’s still one of my favourite books. Anyway at the time he wrote it, University of California was testing out broadcast power vehicles, there are even some old video’s knocking around somewhere. Of course even if there were no serious technical challenges no in the US was interested in the $billion ans $billions of retrofitting costs, so I think it’s still moldering away in some research department somewhere.

    But such an infrastructure is probably needed to make an all electric vehicle fleet work. I can’t see batteries improving enough to provide the same range and cost advantage of petrol vehicles, Of course if they don’t need to then the equations change.

    Back to more realistic alternatives for the buses. The high cost of the Leeds trolley bus is for all the segregated bus lanes, not the actual wires.
    As mentioned before a hybrid bus that can pick up power off a trolley wire and have a diesel engine, would allow many routes to be covered even if, all that was wired were the main streets in zones 1 and 2.

    I can see a good chunk of South London being covered by the OKR, Walworth Rd, Brixton and Clapham Roads, all leading from the Elephant before heading across the bridges. Camberwell New Road, could be the stage one border before pushing further out to the South Circular.

    A trolley line network on the slow lanes of all the main roads and motorways in London could be the way to go as well. I think Mercedes/MAN were experimenting with HGV’s with Pantographs. Since trucks run on relatively few roads compared to cars and those particulate maps pretty much tracks the main roads in London, I can trucks beinf pushed in an overhead electric or LPG alternative

  59. Rational Plan says:

    The failure of the West London tram was trying to fit a tram through sections of narrow shopping streets and trying to keep the tram out of traffic. So proposed solutions of partial demolitions to widen junctions or converting parallel residential streets into new main roads for car traffic and banning parking on these new routes was guaranteed to cause the locals to revolt.

    We can have trams back in London, but in some areas they will just have to get stuck in traffic like the buses do. The other problem is that trams used run down the centre of London’s road and pedestrians cross traffic to get to the tram. In fact such a practice is still common in many tram cities where the roads are not wide enough to build tram platform or properly segregate tram lines.

    Some places that have only the most narrow platforms that would not fit a wheelchair.
    It’s not possible to move the tram lines to the kerb side as you are effectively closing off these streets to loading and unloading vehicles. I can think of a few South London roads where it should not present much of a problem as they are wide enough, but will need to lose their bus lanes, unless the buses share the tram line. But will a future tram line jog over to the kerb and across traffic to a platform or will odd placement of stops in sub optimal locations be accepted, as I can’t see anyone agreeing to going back to the old method.

  60. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @Rational Plan

    Interesting thought there about an HGV electric traction unit. With sometimes very heavy weights being lugged around in larger trailers (though many lorries are bulked out not weighed out), that does sound more like a TGV requirement than a battery-based option [Trolley hGV: a ‘trolleylorry’ not grande vitesse – a ‘trollorry’ sounds rather less pleasant!]

    Or LPG, as you say. Or induction studs if proved to work.

    Not sure how happy TfL would be about extensive TGV / bus route sharing. Maybe it could work, though don’t think that main road wiring is on anyone’s official agenda in London. However the strategic issue of HGV operations within London is definitely on TfL’s agenda, in terms of impacts on congestion, safety and the environment. We wait to see what TfL’s new studies will come up with.

  61. Slugabed says:

    Rational Plan 11:16 24/04
    I think the answer could be central running with passenger “islands” in the middle of the road ie Right-hand boarding.

  62. Orienteer says:

    Trolleybuses would be good in the suburbs, but problematic in central London. This is because routes use different bus stops to minimise bus stop congestion, and one thing trolleybuses are not good at is passing each other!

  63. Southern Heights says:

    @Fandroid: I too dispute strongly the ‘massive disruption’ notion concerning trolleybus wires. SSE recently replaced every streetlight* in this town with minimum hassle (except where they forgot about wide disability scooters!). The poles for trolleybus wires can be shoved into the ground in remarkably short time. Stringing the wires could then be done at night.

    Of course the really clever answer is to combine the streetlights and trolley masts…. But then you’d need cooperation or a single owner, neither of which is in vogue at the moment.

    My personal favourite is the extend the tramlink and add some underground sections (either via cut and cover or by drilling) to get through notorious London traffic blackspots. E.g. Peckham, Beckenham, New Cross, Lewisham. I use these as examples as I know them well…

    Perhaps even take over the dreaded Bromley North branch? Trams tend to be quite good climbers, so the entrances and exits don’t need to take up too much space….

  64. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    Am I right in thinking that LT once had to pay rent to every separate London Council for every trolleybus pole, and even when they shared existing lamp posts?

    Moving on to today, just imagine TfL having to pay money back to the London Boroughs or the GLA. Fun and wages for the bean counters and paper shufflers, but a complete waste of time and money if true.

  65. Long Branch Mike (Ultracapacitor) says:


    Toronto’s extensive streetcar system is a major factor in keeping pollution low in the older central city, but almost all of this trackage is in mixed traffic, greatly reducing the speed and efficiency of the streetcars.

    There are 2 new streetcar/LRT lines (Spadina/Queen’s Quay and St Clair) but their construction was greatly delayed by hysterical sky is falling carmaggedden paranoia, political mudslinging, and city ineptitude in coordinating utility moving.

    So much so that politicians are very unlikely to propose similar lines in the city itself, despite the fact that these two new lines move over 20% more passengers more reliably and faster than the previous transit service.

    Toronto’s 25 year old trolleybuses last ran in 1994 or so, very quiet, and long lasting as there was no internal combustion engine shaking the vehicle to bits within 7 years.

  66. Alan Burkitt-Gray says:

    In the 60+ years since London’s tramway networks were pulled up, the last foot or so below the tarmac of many streets have been filled with a maze of optical fibres belonging to telecoms companies — BT, Level 3, Colt, Interoute, Verizon, Vodafone, Virgin Media and many more. Just look at the spray-painted marks when any road is surveyed before resurfacing or other works.
    How much would it cost (a) to survey all these and (b) to move them all out of the way of tramlines? The tracks couldn’t just be laid above them as the telecoms operators would need access in future.

  67. Chris H says:


    The answer in Edinburgh is around £700m. Pretty scary numbers.

  68. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – Generally, LT owned its own poles and they were planted along any public highway as a statutory right; some, however, were on private land (and even built in to coal cellars in one or two cases) and for these, the Board paid a wayleave – usually 1/= pa (maybe more if you had one in the cellar!).

    @Alan Burkitt-Gray. Indeed, the need to shift utilities is usually the killer factor in tram construction, in many cases adding anything up to 100% onto the basic cost of installing the track and overhead, although I have always advised clients to try and strike deals if the underground equipment looks as if it is approaching the end of its economic life. (BTW, one of the reasons why French tramways seem to cost 50% more than anything else in Europe is their insistence, as part of the associated urban regeneration programmes, in clearing the streets wall to wall which picks up far more utilities and cellars than otherwise necessary).

    Maps are usually available in London for postwar utilities, but there are sometimes pre-Victorian sewers and watercourses lying in wait to be discovered. [Unamusingly, maps are often non-existent in many not-yet-developed countries – I once had very great difficulty in dissuading my then employers for tendering as consulting engineers for the redevelopment of Bombay main station – despite the fact that the terms of reference even stated en clair that the consultants would take liability for any undiscovered gas mains and the cost consequences of fracturing them…]

  69. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alan – there is an alternative view which is that moving all these essential services into properly designed ducts with easy access *away from the road / tracks* is a massive long term benefit for the city (reducing congestion from road works) and to the service providers. Yes there would be disruption but we already have ridiculous amounts of that imposed on us by utility providers doing things in the cheapest way possible and d*mn the consequences for everyone else.

    If the transport system has to shift ever increasing numbers of people then there will be very serious questions for everyone involved in maintenance, repair and enhancement of utilities, roads and railways. Will never ending roadworks and 35 weekends of engineering works to fix some track really be tolerated in future? I doubt it if we are trying to keep millions more people moving every day of the week. We already have Sundays becoming as busy as Saturdays and it won’t be terribly long before weekends resemble Mondays and Tuesdays in terms of demand. We need some good long term thinking about how to organise the provision of all these services so as to reduce disruption in the future.

  70. Jonathan Roberts says:


    Fully agree. If buses already shift 50% more passenger journey stages than the tubes, and they’re going to need say £30bn or more to keep pace even by 2030 let alone 2050, then the price of getting road infrastructure more closely aligned with future bus capacity needs isn’t so expensive on a ‘whole life’ basis – the problem may be as much about ‘herding cats’ (like comms suppliers) as garnering the pound notes. Even Edinburgh infrastructure-shifting prices might not be a killer – for electrified buses let alone trolleybuses or trams. Eventually London as a whole, the Mayor/GLA, TfL and stakeholders all have to work out how much they are prepared to incur as global costs, to get a quantum change in effective surface transport capacity by dates A / B / C…

  71. Jonathan Roberts says:

    And a quantum change in emissions.

  72. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ WW

    Travel patterns and peak movements constantly shift. Change is constant. The “Five and a half day working week” was just ending 50 years ago.

    On many outer London red bus routes, Sunday was once the busiest day of the week until about the time of the 1953 Coronation when people started using public transport less, especially for ‘days out’. See the bus allocations on the “London Bus Routes” site for confirmation. You said ” We need some good long term thinking about how to organise the provision of all these services…..”, but haven’t we always needed that? “Now” is not a special case. I agree with you, and it is needed, but I don’t see the old habits changing – – unless they are forced to, and that WOULD be a change. We have always needed joined-up thinking with transport matters, but we’ve seldom seen any evidence of it.

    How many railways were closed, the railway land sold for residential building, which then required an impossible to replace railway to shift the expanded population? Has the population of Southwater increased tenfold since the railway closed?

    Only fairly recently, there was a case in a town not very far away from me where a busy road was completely resurfaced one week, and all the traffic restrictions stayed in place causing chaos for another 10 days before the road markings were painted on. Then the restrictions came down.

    Within a month, the gas board dug the road up to put in a new gas main, then patched the road up. Three weeks later, a water main that had allegedly needed to be replaced for some time, was attended to, and yes, the road was dug up again, etc etc.

  73. Graham H says:

    @Chris H – I suspect that the gigantic Edinburgh cost overruns had a great deal to do with incompetent project management, poor contractual specification and constant political interference*. Utilities don’t cost more to shift in Edinburgh just because that’s where they are! (Having to shift them in phases or successively – as in Castlebar’s example – is a case of poor project management, not the cost per se).

    *Indeed, one of my colleagues who was seconded to the project management team resigned from the company rather than face another five years of that.

  74. Slugabed says:

    Walthamstow Writer 16:22 24/04
    Might it not be even more sensible to excavate a concrete trenchway beneath the “four-foot” of the tram track to carry all (where possible) of the displaced services,accessible via thick concrete slabs which could be removed for maintenance?
    That way,streets which had tram tracks would hardly ever have to be dug up again for work on trunk services (work on individual property services is generally less disruptive anyway).

  75. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Castlebar – yes we’ve always needed planning and yes any of us can cite examples where it’s gone wrong (objectively or subjectively). I think it is a bit different now as the world is now more “connected” and cities are now obviously in competition for business activity that can and does move relatively easily. PoP has said several times that the estimates of population growth are lagging behind reality. *If* London wishes to remain competitive and to keep growing then I feel it has to get its act together rather better than it has done for decades. Some of that will involve some expensive and difficult decisions to give us a good long basis to deliver further improvement. Whenever we next redevelop a part of London it would be sensible to do this in a way which separates out the utility / comms infrastructure from roads so the risk of road works and disruption is minimised. Further it should ensure priority for public transport, cycling and walking. It would also be good to ensure that the area is designed and built so bus and tram priority could be added at minimal cost when demand warrants it. North Greenwich peninsula is an example of half doing this with the Busway but the awful traffic lights and roundabouts ruin the smooth operation of buses.

    The Olympic Park is a classic example of how *not* to do it – no segregated cycle lanes, dreadful walking routes alongside roads and traffic lights every 10 metres with no bus priority (including at the entry / exit from the bus station!). It can takes minutes to get out of Stratford City Bus Stn when it should take seconds. We’re really straying into 2050 territory here but let’s hope some enlightened thinking is happening about future proofing to ensure reduced disruption and maximise capacity.

  76. Long Branch Mike (Long Bus Maps) says:


    I would think that between rail cable access would handy, but very disruptive to tram service should the access take more than a few minutes. Perhaps beside rail, if the right of way be wide enough, or under a sidewalk would be better.

  77. Greg Tingey says:

    I made a very interesting excursion by London bus today – entirely within a GLA borough. I went to Downe House ( & “The Queens Arms”) – route R8 out & 146 back.
    But, step outside the GLA boundary, & it all disintegrates … I occasionally want to use buses in Waltham Abbey of an evening & it is a disaster area, because it is NOT in the GLA area.
    As part of long-term planning, is some sort of revival, or cross-border co-operation of something like the old “London Country” services a viable prospect?
    Remember, that this happens with rail services, too – I can immediately think of two examples, where the relevant community is outside the PTA area & gets a completely shite non-service as a result: Penkridge & Styal.

    Re: Trams
    Laying new tramway in old streets does not have to cost the Edinburgh $_silly-numbers. Croydon & the Manchester Ashton extension & Oldham/Rochdale deviations have shown this.

  78. Ollyver says:

    “the maximum people-moving capacity you can get into the street, short of having everyone walk (which is a bit slow for most people)”

    Ah, but where in this scale does the faster Pedestrian 2.0 fit? (They come equipped with detachable gears and wheels, and are sometimes referred to as ‘cyclists’.)

  79. @Greg,

    Your first item in your comment is way way off topic but just to respond briefly to this….

    There is a great danger of seeing one example and using that anecdotal evidence to make a generalised judgement. Catch the 405 to Redhill and you will see that cross GLA boundary services can work. And when you get to Redhill there are still plenty of local buses running in the evening. Arriva in Surrey run some routes around Gatwick 24/7/365 and we don’t manage that in London! So the fact that it happens in Waltham Abbey does not necessarily mean the entire system is broke and we need a major upheaval to fix it.

    And then in your second point someone produces a specific example and you respond to the effect that it doesn’t have to be like this and by implication we shouldn’t apply too much inference from one example. A lack of consistency in your approach here surely?

  80. Paul says:

    @Pedantic (21:01):
    Arriva in Surrey run some routes around Gatwick 24/7/365

    Do keep up – Arriva bailed out 12 or more years ago! Metrobus are the operator – and they’ve doubled passenger numbers in that time. There’s only one route which runs 24 hours a day though – Fastway 10, and it was off the road for 4 hours or so between last bus on Christmas Day and first bus on Boxing Day.

  81. Fandroid says:

    The Midland Metro (a tramline) extension currently under way is being built in Stephenson Street, Birmingham, which is every bit as congested as many central London streets. It would be interesting to find out how much that lot is costing (rather than use Edinburgh as an example).

    It will be good to see the Leeds trolleybus when it’s in operation (when it’s built, even!). Let’s hope that will give others pause for thought.

  82. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – no prospect of recreating “London Country” as there is no political will to dismantle a market based approach to bus services outside London. It will never be important enough to have a political consequence in Whitehall so you can forget it. TfL have managed to create a London regime, with Mayoral endorsement, that makes cross boundary services not run by TfL a near impossibility. Fares policy and environmental standards / emissions control have killed off a number of routes in the past where operators like Arriva and First Essex could not afford the cost of compliant vehicles so simply cancelled the routes. This is why the Hertford – Enfield, Romford – Ongar and Romford – Brentwood and beyond routes went. These were part replaced by TfL to maintain a service on the roads within the Greater London boundary. Ironically, like the 405 PoP quotes, the 498 to Brentwood has done rather well and has had to be enhanced twice! Future policy requirements for London will almost certainly mean no resurrection of commercial cross boundary services (IMO, of course). And before the experts dash in to correct me then yes I do know there are a few examples around Uxbridge, Heathrow, Sutton and Kingston where buses do sneak across the boundary. However look at how many TfL routes sneak to Staines and Epsom and then observe how stupidly busy they are compared to their commercial counterparts – Staines being a very interesting example. And we even get London Assembly members ( step forward Tony Arbour, Con ) asking the Mayor to run new bus services into Surrey to serve NHS facilities which have unhelpfully been consolidated across the border for some London residents who have no public transport options to get there. The irony of a Tory Assembly Member asking for public money to be spent on buses to Surrey has fair boggled my brain when reading Mayor’s Questions.

    The Waltham Abbey area is caught up in the maelstrom that is bus services in Harlow with ongoing low cost operation and regular changes of companies and licences to keep one step ahead of the Traffic Commissioner (TC). Based on what I’ve read of recent TC hearings it seems TfL are not at all happy with what has transpired at Waltham Cross (a bus station they run but one outside of London) over the months nor the response of the owner of one of the companies.

  83. @Paul

    Very much a worryingly senior moment. I knew that. Yes, an increasingly badly named Metrobus has indeed made remarkable changes in Surrey. It really goes to show how Greg is rather jumping to conclusions in thinking a major structural change involving London is needed. As Gerry Fiennes would say, when you re-organise you bleed.

    And though it remains way off-topic I should have added the excellent example of the 465 to Dorking and the much-better-than-nothing 246 to Westerham (extended to Chartwell on summer Sundays).

    Presumably neither the 246 nor the 465 are likely to be anything other than diesel buses for years to come (desperate attempt to get back on topic).

  84. Alan Griffiths says:

    Walthamstow Writer @ 23 April 2014 at 23:19

    “@ Alan Griffiths – I think you’re being a tad unfair and I’m normally very grumpy about the lack of good news about TfL bus services.!

    Thank you for that. I’m pleased to see they are going in the directions I would like to see.
    The presentation you linked to was only 9 days old at the time you made the link.

  85. Greg Tingey says:

    Greg is rather jumping to conclusions in thinking a major structural change involving London is needed
    I am asking for organisational & service changes OUTSIDE London – usually by a few hundreds of metres! Or , better still, shock, horror, some sort of co-ordination.
    This seems to be the Dartford rail services fiasco repeated on a larger-area scale all around some parts of London’s periphery.
    Getting to/from Epping / Waltham Abbey / Waltham Cross of a weekend (& especially on a Sunday) by bus is a very bad joke – there are supposed services, but they cannot be relied on, at all – I’ve had three long, cold, damp waits for services that have arrive late or missed vital connections, as a result.
    Because I didn’t want to drive, for alcoholic reasons expected later on those occasions.
    The bus “services” there seem to be caught in a downward spiral, & you can’t find out, readily who is operating them this week – something which WW has helped to explain

  86. The point I am making Greg is that this is a little local difficulty not generally reflected around London. It doesn’t mean the system is broken – just that something is rotten in the state of bus connectivity in the Waltham Area.

  87. Kit Green says:

    Greg Tingey

    I have found transportdirect useful for looking at potentially non-joined-up journeys.

    I am yet to have a total disaster as a result. Does anyone know whether the bus timetable information used is kept bang up to date? (This of course does not help with cancelled services.)

  88. Southern Heights says:

    There still seem to be incursions of non-TfL services in my area:

    477 – Orpington, Crockenhill, Swanley, Dartford, Bluewater
    402 – Bromley North, Farnborough, Knockholt, Sevenoaks, Hildenborough, Tun. Wells

    Both of these have even just received shiny new buses!

    @Greg (and off topic): did you need to change after taking the R8? I caught it once as far as Biggin Hill and was holding on for dear life! 😉

  89. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Kit Green – timetable info is supposed to be up to date but it does rely on operators complying with registration deadlines and local authorities then updating the relevant systems to populate Traveline (which I believe feeds Transport Direct). As ever it depends on a process working properly. Of course none of this is of any relevance if the operator is, perhaps, not the most reliable and doesn’t run to the timetable. This is what I suspect Greg has experienced. I wouldn’t rely on any of the bus services from certain operators given the shenanigans that have gone on. I feel really sorry for the poor souls who *have* to rely on these operators.

  90. stimarco says:


    Your link is interesting, and the ‘flash charging’ approach is right, but the implementation shown isn’t what I’m advocating: the TOSA system described suffers from the same problem as the under-street induction system discussed earlier: it can only serve one bus at a time, and requires very precise driving.

    My proposal is to literally install short stretches of traditional trolley-wire instead. It’s a known technology and, with the right pantograph design, drivers can have a bit more leeway for positioning.

    My approach also allows the wires to be extended back along the road for as long as needed to allow convoys of buses to take advantage of it. They can even creep forward to the stop while still connected – something the TOSA system you linked to doesn’t appear to support.

    Convoys of buses are unavoidable along busy corridors, such as major high streets. The TOSA system offers only very limited top-up charging options for such corridors. Mine does not, and also doesn’t rely on complex mechanisms and a combination of entirely proprietary solutions.

    In fact, my approach could be simplified further by providing a power return system in the road if desired, allowing traditional single wire tram-style trolley wire above. That means you could use most off-the-shelf pantographs for the purpose of power collection.

    The Translohr system used in Clermont-Ferrand has one advantage over traditional trams: the rail isn’t load-bearing, so track laying was quicker and required very little in the way of relocation of services. There might, therefore, be a case for installing something like this in London’s core: you get the benefits of a tram – specifically, long, articulated vehicles that have a very well-defined swept paths* – with fewer of the disbenefits: expensive load-bearing embedded tracks that require utility relocation. And the trolley wires are simplified: you only need the one as the guide rail provides the current return.

    Those who point out that such unusual systems cost more do have a point, but it’s not the showstopper it appears: all new applications of technology will have a high cost initially. There’s a first time for everything. Even the steam locomotive took a while before even its greatest advocates truly understood its potential – remember the cable haulage system serving Euston station? Or the original inclined planes on the Stockton & Darlington Railway?

    The problem of proprietary technology also fades pretty quickly given the timescales involved: when a technology proves itself, manufacturers will happily pay reasonable patent license fees to produce their own models, but given the typical operational life for transit vehicles and their infrastructure, most of the applicable patents will have expired by the time you need to replace a fleet, or upgrade guideways.

    * (The “swept path” is the area covered by a vehicle as it passes. For rail-guided vehicles like trams, this path is inherently fixed, allowing painted guides on road surfaces to warn other road users. Buses don’t have that fixed guide, so their swept path is less precise.)

  91. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Interesting idea. I think that idea is the sort of thing that one should be thinking of as one of a number of possible ideas though I can see problems with the earth rail variant if not connected to by a nice heavy metal wheel.

    By the way, I am fairly sure you mean the Cromford & High Peak railway not the Stockton & Darlington. Not knowing any better, the early railway builders built railways in the style of canals. So generally very flat with inclines between flat sections. Of course, obvious in retrospect that it was not the way to go about things.

  92. stimarco says:

    In over 100 years of public transport thinking, we’re still talking about the same old technologies: it’s either trains or buses. (Trams are just trains acting like buses. Metros are all trains too.)

    By 2050, I hope we’ll see a little less conservatism on the technology front. We’ve been banging on about these exact same technologies for over a century now, and they clearly aren’t enough.

    Politically, the UK needs to get off its collective apathetic rear and demand holistic, long-term, connected planning, and not just for London either. Other posters here have suggested mandating what is, effectively, ducting for services in our roads. I’ve also advocated going one step further: if you’re going to dig ruddy great holes in the road anyway, you might as well make them big enough to run trolleybuses and / or trams in, as well as all those services and utilities.

    Whatever 2050 and beyond holds, if London is to survive at all as a major world player, it’s going to have to think beyond the technologies of the 19th Century and look to those of the 21st. The entirety of the UK was built on technological and industrial advances. The future is change. Our ancestors built an empire on science, technology and progress. They knew that, to stay in the race, you have to keep moving forward.

    Ultimately, the only way to find out if a particular transport system will work is to try it in the real world. Computer simulations are merely interactive illustrations: they prove nothing, other than your ability to tell a computer what we already know. To find out stuff we don’t already know, we have to try it for real and get fresh data.

    An unwillingness to at least try something new means an unwillingness to learn. If you don’t keep on learning, if you insist on sitting in your collective rocking chair, smoking your pipe and muttering about the glory days of empire, you’ve already lost, and all you have to look forward to is decay, and the ultimate fade to black.

  93. Milton Clevedon says:

    The S&D had inclined planes. They were common throughout the North East as a low capital cost means of getting over or past obstructive terrain. Link here to a former S&D inclined plane at Brusselton:

  94. Fandroid says:

    @stimarco. A similar system to the Clermont-Ferrand Translohr one is the Caen TVR system. It is also based on rubber tyred tram-like vehicles with a single guide rail (that presumably acts as a current return too). That is being converted to light rail with a cool €170 million price tag (!)

    We must remember that France went off on a rubber tyred adventure all of its own starting with several lines of the Paris Metro. Although there has been some uptake of this concept internationally, the traditional steel wheel on steel rail has generally been the favoured choice. The Caen changeover is an interesting exception which must have wounded Gallic pride.

  95. Fandroid says:

    @Milton Clevedon. The inclined planes in the North East would originally have been installed on horse tramways. Stationary engine technology was capable of providing the extra oomphh to get up steeper slopes or to provide superior braking for fully laden coal wagons going downhill (when the horse and the driver alone would have had a very hairy experience!). Naturally they then carried on into the start of the locomotive era until better mobile power and better brakes became the norm.

  96. Long Branch Mike (Long Barrier Manipulation) says:


    Bref, the advantage of a rubber tyred metro, steeper gradients, was more than offset by the need to have 2 tyre sets, vertically and horizontally, to keep the train within the guideway, as well as a separate steel wheel on steel rail backup set in case of tyre puncture. Montréal Canada has such a Parisian style tyre metro.

    Despite technutopianism and numerous proprietary installations (like the TVR, monorails etc), no transport mode has been proven to be as cost effective, simple, and reliable as steel wheel on steel rail.

  97. Graham Feakins says:

    Well said LBM at 21.44. Throughout my career, I have come across a multitude of ‘new’ and ‘improved’ transport modes and related innovations, whilst having the chance to go through a mass of splendid written material from what became known as the Golden Age of Invention (say Victorian and Edwardian). It’s almost all be done before.

    Indeed, steel wheel on steel rail invariably wins. Easily forgotten with pneumatic tyres, for example, is tyre scrub and the significant increase of rolling resistance of such tyres on a surface as compared with steel wheel on rail. OK, other factors came into play such as kinetic energy but who remembers the Western Region train that conked out but managed to coast nine miles into Paddington? Can’t envisage that using rubber tyres, no matter how ‘frictionless’ the bearings might be.

  98. More or less agree with you, Graham. Once demand is sufficient to justify it, steel wheel on steel rail has up to now invariably won and there is no obvious contender around the corner. One never quite knows what will develop in material science and, for reasons you describe elsewhere, it is surprising that nothing suitable has yet come along that is either slightly better wearing than steel for the rail or, alternatively slightly more wearing than steel for the wheel.

    There is, of course, the downside of the advantage you mention of the Paddington incident. There is also the Stonegate incident – and I am not referring to a fare dodger.

  99. Greg Tingey says:

    Kit Green
    How did you think I found out about my supposed connections & services?
    That’s right … Barry Does’s bus pages & Transport Direct.
    Nice try, no banana!

    Southern Heights
    No Because of the way the connections worked, my route was…
    Walthamsow / Liverpool St / Bus / London Bridge / Orpington / R8
    146 / Bromley S / Victoria / home

    if London is to survive at all as a major world player, it’s going to have to think beyond the technologies of the 19th Century and look to those of the 21st. And all the other major cites do not have this exact same problem?
    Err ….
    SEE ALSO LBM’s comment!

    So, & if you REALLY WANT inventive, new technologies, I suggest you start HERE !!

  100. Alan Griffiths says:

    Long Branch Mike (Long Barrier Manipulation) @ 25 April 2014 at 21:44


    I shall attempt to remember you if, or when, I quote “technutopianism”

  101. Malcolm says:

    @PoP : it is surprising that nothing suitable has yet come along that is either slightly better wearing than steel for the rail or, alternatively slightly more wearing than steel for the wheel

    In a way, yes. But then it is not actually the case that there is one material called “steel”. Different steels are produced for different applications, and I would hope that rails are not actually made of off-the-shelf bog standard steel, but of a steel developed to have the right compromise between all requirements (including, importantly, cost).

  102. Tim Burns says:

    As an Edinburgh resident, I can confirm that the Edinburgh Tram construction experiences not one to use as a benchmark. We are getting half the network for 50% extra cost (rough rounded numbers). Since the new council leader, Leslie Hinds, came to power and banged heads, the system is now rolling and almost ready to carry its first passengers – three years late. So Edinburgh has value as an example how not to do something.

    Having said all that, whilst my crayonista tendency would love to see a network of tram in London, the fact that a lot of major after aires would be closed for months would bring the city to halt. Maybe traffic planners could phase it and model impacts to avoid carnage but I think this means we are unlikely to see the Zurich style network in zone 1 anytime soon. Which is a shame

  103. stimarco says:

    @Graham Feakins, LBM, et al:

    “Indeed, steel wheel on steel rail invariably wins.”

    Did I say otherwise?

    I’ve banged on in the past about modular guideway systems – not “monorails”, which is such a vague term as to be useless in discussions like this – and many of those, such as the “MonoMetro” concept floated a few years back, are steel wheel on steel rail!

    MonoMetro was, almost literally, a narrow gauge railway with the trains hung beneath the tracks rather than above. Even the track switching was based on tried and trusted rail technology: if you looked at them from above, they’d look almost exactly like ordinary points on a traditional railway.

    I’m also curious about the sudden spurt of anti-rubber-tyre ‘trams’ like Translohr: don’t buses have exactly the same ‘flaws’, then? And if so, why isn’t this article, and its predecessor, just a demand to convert all buses into trams? Clearly rubber tyres vehicles have their place.

    My problem with the traditional transport options – trams, metro / heavy rail trains, buses, etc. – is that few, if any, are modular. Also, there are only so many tunnels you can squeeze in beneath London’s streets before the journey time to the platform level from the street above is so long as to make the line unviable.

    One of the advantages London has is its (mostly) low-rise skyline. You could reinvent the ‘elevated’ railway using a modern MonoMetro-style technology, retaining all the benefits of a metro, without having to worry about ploughing through an endless series of skyscrapers or medium-rise blocks of flats. Look at the buildings along Oxford Street and it’s easy to see how you could run a line above one side or the other, without much faff.

    Remember, too, that making alterations to an existing building – or even complete redevelopment – is going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than any tunnelled alternative. And also less painful on the road traffic and pedestrians compared to on-street tracks.

    So, for the umpteenth time: I am NOT – and never have – specifically advocated monorails with rubber tyres!

    Some people really need to go and do their research. Please. I have. It’s a fascinating subject once you get past the fanatics. And there are, in fact, examples of monorails (the 1960s, rubber-tyres variety) in Japan that actually make a profit. I can’t think of a single line in London that’s managed that feat.

    I’m not advocating the use of the Lartigue System.

    And, yes, I’m aware that some systems have been tried in France and found wanting. You know what? So was Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway. And his 7′ gauge. And the Great Eastern. And that’s just one Victorian engineer. There were any number of other failed technologies.

    Are you saying that nobody should ever try? Must London sit back and let other countries and cities do all the public transport R&D from now on? If so, London’s going to be spending a lot more time just trying to keep up with its competitors.

  104. Fandroid says:

    @Malcom. Well said. Metallurgists would probably be quite keen to point out to the lay person how much the technology has been refined over the years. Also, the wheel/rail interface has been studied at great length together with the whole business of sprung and unsprung masses and suspension systems.

    I apologise because I have said this before here, but it’s amazing that the basic track system that the Victorian engineers eventually came up with is still the norm for railways carrying passenger trains at ridiculous speeds and carrying immense loads of freight. The whole ballast/sleepers/rail system is basically the same. I doubt anyone would be capable of inventing such a wonderfully adaptable and versatile arrangement today.

  105. stimarco says:

    Incidentally, most people think of the Chicago and New York “Elevated” systems when discussions like this come up. However, there’s no need to assume lines will slavishly follow the street pattern. Nor, in London’s case, is there any need for the lines to run above the roads at all. For must of Oxford Street (for example), you could run the line directly above the department stores along the north side, modifying some buildings along the way to include street-accessible stations on their roofs. You would barely even know the line was there.

    But a lightweight suspended guideway system really comes into its own as a substitute for traditional on-street trams:

    A traditional tram requires rails embedded in the street and an overhead power supply wire. Why go to all that effort when you can eliminate the embedded rails entirely and put them above the trams, along with the power supply, using a modular, prefabricated guideway system? Not only are such systems cheaper and easier to build, but you also remove the problem of having to dig up the roads and relocate all the services and utilities: you no longer have load-bearing rails to lay down. All you need are sites for the support masts. Sites you’d have needed anyway for a traditional tram’s trolley-wire masts.

    You can still run these ‘flying trams’ at street level in quieter areas, but you now have the option to have them run above traffic hot-spots, eliminating the congestion problem. Once you’re back on a quieter street, you can come back down to street level. And that means most of your tram stops will be no more complicated and massive than a tramstop on a traditional line, like Croydon’s Tramlink.

    Naturally, I expect the usual cry of “It’s untested!” To which I can only reply with: “So was the steam locomotive in 1825, and the underground railway in 1863”. Somebody has to be the first. Someone needs to accept that it’s a risk, but one worth taking a punt on.

    There was a time when that “someone” was “London”.

  106. Slugabed says:

    Stimarco 20:06 26/04
    You mean a M…
    a M….
    a M…sorry,I can’t bring myself to say it….

  107. Long Branch Mike (Ultracapacitor) says:


    Elevated trams or trains are a complete non-starter in London, even in the outer boroughs. There is so much architectural and historical value that would be obscured, that no one will go for it. Not even Boris has suggested such a retrograde idea. Plus trams or trains in such a dense urban environment would be hellishly noisy. Mid 20th century New York and Liverpool resolved these very problems by demolishing their elevated train systems. 

    Elevated expressways are being demolished around the world as well – they are a horrible visual blight underneath and all around. And the cost of maintaining such elevated structures is not cost effective. 

    Only industrial areas allow elevated track to be built, for the most part, as there no residents or office workers to complain about the blight. The DLR is a great example of a well designed system which makes excellent use of its urban environment. But such a system could not be built in Central London on or above grade. 

    Furthermore, why should London be the guinea pig in some technutopian transportation implementation? Technology takes a few generations to resolve all the problems and unforeseen issues. London can’t afford that. 

    Proprietary technology is a dead end to widespread commercial acceptance – few cities want to be held ransom to a single source supplier. Even Vancouver which has 2 Bombardier SkyTrain lines chose a non-SkyTrain, non-compatible metro technology for its Canada Line.

    Let some other city take the technology hit. As you say, some French cities have tried. How have those worked out?

    I don’t actually want a response to this question, or even to this post, as you’ve made it very clear your technutopian hopes and arguments, as well as Victorian building demolition, too many times on this blog. Please spare us.

  108. I got almost to the end of the first paragraph of stimarco’s inevitable response before deleting it. When will he ever learn that if he doesn’t moderate his language no one will ever see it (even briefly) except John Bull or me?

    Long Branch Mike posted a largely factual comment that was about all elevated transport systems in general so crept in under the radar.

    A brief reminder: Monorails, double-deck trains and extending the Waterloo & City Line are banned as subjects that distract, generally consist entirely of opinions not backed up by anything and metaphorically go nowhere.

  109. Chris L says:

    It was intended that a guided busway with a difference would run on part of the route between the Dome (as it was then known) and Charlton Station.

    The buses were to be guided by a cable buried in the road.

    Safety concerns were raised and it never happened.

  110. Graham H says:

    @Chris L – the Dutch also tried an electronically-guided bus system – Phileas – in Eindhoven; that didn’t work either.

  111. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    A few days ago I read that “customer” figures for the ‘Dunstable Guided Busway’ are lower than any expectations. Can anyone confirm please?

  112. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Castlebar

    Link here to BBC coverage on 17 April: Out-turn for 3 months is 41% of forecast, earlier 1 month out-turn was 43% of forecast for that period, see another link:

    The route opened on 25 September 2013 after some delays. The primary reason for the lower numbers is stated as new lower development volumes in the areas served by busway, than projected before the recession.

    No doubt there will be specific reports on the Luton Council website.

  113. Fandroid says:

    I have a suspicion that all of the UK guided (and unguided like Gosport-Fareham) busway routes are served by diesel buses (or possibly by parallel hybrids). Does anyone know any better? It seems as if they don’t have much that’s relevant to London in its quest for cleaner buses.

    I was intrigued by the Youtube video of trolleybuses in Solingen. Once the video showing the hybrid buses raising and lowering their trolley arms finished several other videos of Solingen turned up. One, just at the end, showed the trolleybus running down the same road as the Wuppertal Schwebebahn. That worried me immensely as I thought the trolley arms on full lateral extension might foul the Schwebebahn train as it whizzed by!

  114. stimarco says:

    @Pedantic of Purley:

    Not Invented Here syndrome is a very dangerous mindset in transport planning. So is an unsubstantiated bias in favour of traditional technologies to the exclusion of everything else.

    Monorails are a British invention dating right back to the 1820s. I’ve suggested far more “blue-sky” technologies and solutions than that in the past without having my posts deleted in their entirety.

    I’m also, frankly, rather insulted by the “generally consist entirely of opinions not backed up by anything” accusation. I do my research, thank you very much.

    As this isn’t the first time this has happened, I’ll take the hint and leave.

  115. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – looking at the Wiki list of busways / bus rapid transit (BRT) schemes in the UK then I think you’re nearly correct that they are run with diesel buses. The only partial exceptions are that some of the Stagecoach buses on the Cambridge busway are run on bio diesel (hence the green livery) and some of the buses on the Runcorn busway are very recent MAN Gas Buses run by Arriva. It is worth noting, though, that several schemes (Luton, South Hampshire) do have new or nearly new buses on them to Euro V spec. Centrebus are buying new buses for their route on the Luton Busway.

    London’s two schemes (East London Transit and North Greenwich) are devoid of hybrids. I think the 472 will gain Enviro hybrid deckers later this year unless Stagecoach play “shuffle the allocation” again.

  116. Alan Griffiths says:

    stimarco @ 27 April 2014 at 22:59

    “Not Invented Here syndrome is a very dangerous mindset ………………. Monorails are a British invention”

    Hovercraft are a British invention, and very clever they are too. Not many situations in which they out-perform other options.

  117. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Fandroid 27 April at 21:50 – “That worried me immensely as I thought the trolley arms on full lateral extension might foul the Schwebebahn train as it whizzed by!”

    Don’t worry, Solingen trolleybuses *never* dewire unintentionally!

  118. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – German (and Swiss and Austrian) trolleybuses are fitted with trolley retrievers which cause the poles to sink rapidly if dewired (unlike the London and other UK systems where dewiring skyed the pole).

  119. Fandroid says:

    Both Grahams. Don’t worry, I was almost certainly suffering from a distorted perspective due to the position of the camera, and I have confidence that no clash with the Schwebebahn is possible. I was not thinking of detached trolley poles, but if the Solingen trolleybus had gone way out of its lane onto the left side of the road, where the Schwebebahn appears to be, then the very sideways-angled poles would cut across under the path of the train.

  120. @Alan Griffiths,

    Hovercraft are a British invention, and very clever they are too. Not many situations in which they out-perform other options.

    I presume there is a “don’t” missing. Level of noise was one criterion in which they certainly outperformed other options.

  121. Mike says:

    Graham H – even with retrievers, poles can still go skywards if the rope snaps. (I photographed some consequent overhead damage only this afternoon.)

    And if the rope does snap the trolley is helpless, not having a nice long bamboo pole.

    Graham F – it would be good if other operators’ on-wire performance could be as good as Solingen’s!

    And (sorry about the tangentiality), LT not only paid wayleaves for some poles but also for bus shelters. My parents’ house had a shelter close to (but not touching) the boundary wall, and each year LT paid them 2/6 for the privilege.

  122. Chris L says:

    @Walthamstow Writer – the Greenwich Riverside Transit has gone forever – the land set aside for adding to the Dome section has been taken out of protection and being developed as part of the massive Sainsburys/M & S store which is under construction.

    Plumstead garage has always operated an any bus will do policy. It is likely the allocation to routes will be determined on whether the driver is type trained so the 472 will probably get much the same mix as now.

  123. Graham H says:

    @Mike – there’s no dealing with that sort of equipment failure although it’s pretty rare (even with Commie equipment; having spent two years watching the Tallinn 15Tr and 16Tr vehicles terminate just outside my office, I never once saw a sky-ed pole – plenty of dewirements, of course).

    @Alan Griffiths – I still use the hovercraft to the Isle of Wight sometimes when the ferry isn’t running (which is often) but it is – you must admit – extremely uncomfortable. I recall when there was a cross-Channel service, the choice in consuming the gin and tonic was whether to make your mouth go to the cup or wait for the contents to come to you.

  124. timbeau says:

    here’s what happens when a Solingen trolleybus dewires.

  125. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – thank you. There you go, no problems! (The DMI seems to have been very disturbed, though…). BTW slightly surprising that the video seems to be of Hungarian origin.

  126. timbeau says:

    “I was not thinking of detached trolley poles, but if the Solingen trolleybus had gone way out of its lane onto the left side of the road, where the Schwebebahn appears to be, then the very sideways-angled poles would cut across under the path of the train.”

    Not sure whoich video you were looking at, but on this one
    the Schwebebahn is clearly seen to pass above the height of the trolleywires. Trolley poles are pretty flimsy things anyway, so unlikely to do much damage to a passing train.

    I still recall that when I took my driving test the list of things one had to do was a general-purpose one, (i.e delete where not applicable) and included (for the appropriate class of vehicle) “turning left and right without dewiring”. I did wonder, even in 1979, where they might find someone qualified to examine you if you decided to apply for that class of licence!

  127. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – my father, who applied for a driving licence just before the 1930 Road Traffic Act came into force requiring that sort of test, used to proudly show his licence well into his ’90s (ie c 2008) which showed that he could manoeuvre a trolley vehicle left and right without dewiring. He had never been even in the cab of a trolleybus. (He was also entitled to drive a road locomotive aka traction engine, but that, too, we never dared invite him to do…)

  128. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ GH


    My father who died at age 92, had a full driving license. Whereas he used to race motor bikes, he had never sat behind the steering wheel of a car and could nonetheless drive an E-type Jag because he had perfect vision and had got his full license before tests became obligatory. I wonder if any of these oldies are still alive and driving? I occasionally still see the most bizarre sights around Eastbourne & Worthing

  129. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Since we are rambling off topic about fathers and driving licences.

    On the day of my father’s test it was very foggy but in those days you could drive a car on your own with L plates – a rule that persisted with motor bikes for many years afterwards. What you couldn’t do is carry passengers unless of course one of them had a licence and was instructing you. He drove on his own to the test centre but was told it was far too foggy to take a test. He then drove down to Devon.

  130. Graham H says:

    @castlebar – there can’t be too many pre-test motorists left. My father was born in February 1913 and would have had to take a test if he had been born 4 months later, so any survivor would be 101 now. I very much hope that they are not behind or on top of any sort wheel… (That doesn’t stop a number of motorists of lesser age who did take the test from driving still, unfortunately, as you say).

  131. Philip says:

    From reading coverage and personal experience of riding one in Nancy, centre-rail guided trolleybuses combine the disadvantages of a tram (expensive and disruptive construction, inability to overtake one another or avoid obstacles, difficult diversions), the disadvantages of a bus (rough riding) and unique disadvantages of their own (proprietary lock-in, easy derailment, rutting of the tarmac due to road wheels always following the exact same line). Do they have any advantages over tram or non-guided trolleybus?

  132. Graham H says:

    @Philip – that system has all the disadvantages you name. I guess that the main attraction was that the underground utilities don’t need to be moved as the weight of the vehicle at any one point is probably the same as a bus on rubber tyres. (Note: it may be that – as you observe with the rutting – the vehicles do weigh more than a conventional bus and actually have a deleterious effect on subsoil utilities but equally, the thing may, statutorily, not be a tramway and therefore not subject to any obligation to move them). One further complication, which it is said did for the Caen installation, was the inability of single-grooved points to track the vehicles reliably – either the tongue didn’t close properly (and obviously without the “back up” of the second rail to help steer) or the weight of the vehicle was too much for the single tongue to cope with.

  133. timbeau says:

    Getting slightly back on topic – Seeing the footage of trolleybuses, I noticed that the artics all had trolley poles attachd to the rear portion. Does the swept area of a “pusher” articulated bus (like the Citaros) vary significatly from that of one where the driven axle is in the front half, like a lorry? (Essentially, in a pusher, the front portion is a double-jointed steering system – I would guess a pusher would tend to swing wide where a puller would cut the corner)

  134. Kit Green says:

    As Worthing has been mentioned, on a recent visit I noticed that instead of the usual garden centre sponsorship plaques on roundabouts there were solicitors adverts asking if you had remembered to make your will. In the shopping areas, on a weekday, most drivers looked well into their eighties so perhaps there was the odd older one with no test pass.

  135. Graham Feakins says:

    @ timbeau 13.02 – Although not directly answering your question, have a look at this (with double-articulated trolleybuses in Zürich) and let me know what you think:

    Warning to others – a proper tramway visible, too.

    Your Solingen dewirement example is the first I’ve seen there in 40+ years!

    What I do know is that drivers of articulated buses/trolleybuses ‘over there’ tend to have a far greater lane discipline than could be seen with the London bendi-bus. To see the latter splayed all over the traffic junction at Camberwell Green, causing mayhem, gave me the shivers and a definite feeling of sadness that the job was only partly done. The ‘normal’ buses are often just as bad there.

  136. Malcolm says:

    What all the above demonstrates quite clearly is that the question of whether any size and shape of bus “obstructs” the roads or not is clearly about the extent to which bus and road are designed for each other. The bi-articulated trolleybuses stay tidily within their designated lanes because the lanes have been designed to suit them. This did not always happen with London bendies, because the London road layouts were not always adapted to suit. Whether they could have been so adapted (without too many adverse effects) will now have to remain as one of life’s unanswerable what-ifs.
    I think drivers of London bendies made the best they could (generally) of the bad hand they had been dealt.

  137. Graham H says:

    @Graham F – what is impressive is the ability of the double artic to follow curves without significant centre-throw or corner-cutting, even round the tight corners by the HBf – and that (partially to answer Malcolm’s point) on traditional road layouts where conventionally long non-artics would have a much greater swept area. And yes, thank you for the tram porn….

  138. straphan says:

    @Malcolm: hear, hear. We can debate all we like about buses, bendy buses, double-bendy buses and the above with trolley poles attached – but until bus stops are barely longer than 12m, until bus lanes stop being a parking space for delivery vans, and until traffic junctions in London are rebuilt such, that there are no traffic lights every 10 metres, such solutions will not make sense here.

    However, and I have already mentioned this in the previous bus thread, double-bendies have a significant disadvantage over normal bendies – they cannot reverse. This means depots must be (re)built accordingly.

    @timbeau: Having witnessed the transition from high-floor artics with middle axles powered to low-floor artics with rear axle powered in my city, I can assure you the location of the powered axle does not make a blind bit of a difference.

  139. Malcolm says:

    Agreed that which axle is powered makes no difference (try it with dinky-toys). The usual cut-in on trailers can be mechanically avoided or diminished if required: some “city” artic trucks do this by steering the rear axle out. Extra hardware, of course. The trick is managed even better by the tourist “petit trains” in many cities, where the trailers are built to follow the tractor wheels just-about-perfectly. (They seem to do it by using the towbar to turn both axles in opposite directions).

    (Similarly, bi-artics could probably be made to reverse (at least in depots) by adding extra hardware).

  140. Philip says:

    Graham – as I said the rutting was blamed not on the weight of the vehicle, but the fact that the guidance means that the road wheels always follow the exact same line over the road service, to a degree that doesn’t happen with steered vehicles.

  141. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham F – Zurich. The only place where I have actually been left open mouthed by the public transport system. The first time I visited I ended up at a suburban terminal with a trolleybus route, 2 trams and a couple of diesel bus routes. Every 10 minutes or so all the routes would arrive and pause and allow people to transfer seamlessly. No glitches, no delays – literally like clockwork. Quite amazing to someone from the UK where no such integration exists. Those double artic trolleys are very nice – bulk order for London please! 😉

  142. Fandroid says:

    @WW. Ahh yes. My last trolleybus journey was in Zurich. The S-Bahn would have been a lot quicker, but what the heck! (Randon fact- almost every suburb name in Zurich ends in -‘..ikon’. The one named after the AA gun ‘Oerlikon’ is a fine example.)

  143. Mark Townend says:

    @Graham H, 28 April 2014 at 12:57

    If it was mainly the junctions causing problems perhaps a centre groove rail guidance system could dispense with an active track switch altogether and incorporate an on- board vehicle switching system instead, with separate L and R steering wheels lowered into additional grooves diverging either side of the main centre groove through junctions. Interlocks could ensure that only one or the other directional follower was lowered at any time and that either one must be engaged after passing a certain decision point on approach to a divergence, initiating automatic braking if unsuccessful.

  144. Graham H says:

    @Mark Townend – no doubt there are technical solutions to the problem, but why add a further degree of complication to solve a problem that doesn’t need to exist?

  145. timbeau says:

    “The [Zurich suburb] named after the AA gun ‘Oerlikon’

    It shows remarkable prescience of that area’s 10th century inhabitants to have so named the place, nearly a thousand years before aircraft, let alone anti-aircraft guns, were invented.
    The inhabitants of Leyland and Vauxhall seem to have had similar foresight.

    Oerlikon will be familar to some as the supplier of the electrical equipment for the LNWR units that operated much of what is now the Overground, from electrification in 1915 until the class 501s took over in 1957. The first three units came from Siemens of Germany, but thanks to the actions of Gavrilo Princip it proved difficult to get any more from that source so Oerlikon stepped in.

  146. Fandroid says:

    @timbeau. It’s amazing how places get named, isn’t it! 🙂

  147. David T-Rex says:

    With all the talk about charging / drawing current at all time a question occurred to me. Do we have the generating capacity to cope with more current being drawn during the day? (especially if this sort of scheme is rolled out on a large scale, plus the fact more heavy rail is being electrified as well) – At night batteries can be charged as there is lots of spare capacity but with a number of power stations being closed and a lack of new generating capacity coming online for a number of years there is going to be increased competition for the supply during the day which may end up with increased costs. The good thing about a diesel is it is its own energy supply.

  148. straphan says:

    @David T-Rex: You could put the same argument forward about fossil fuels – I think we all know the phrase ‘peak oil’?

  149. Graham Feakins says:

    Judging by the comments here and elsewhere on LR in favour of electric traction (I also include GOBLIN), perhaps LR should be renamed London Electrical Reconnections!

    In any case, I am heartened for the support generally expressed for trams and trolleybuses. Both can have their place in London today. LT did have its moment of thinking whether the Red Arrows would be suitable for trolleybuses, whilst another, more hare-brained, scheme was to have dual mode trolleys running wireless in the centre but have individual routes wired further out, thus rather going against the generally-accepted concept of providing running under wires where the (combined) routes are most intensive.

    @ WW – I’ll find out how much those Swiss trolleys cost to compare with an NB4L…

    Bearing in mind Malcolm’s comments in answer to mine about lane discipline, I add that the Camberwell Green mayhem has as much to do with buses trying to overtake one another as anything else. In common with many other roads, buses weave in and out all along Walworth Road, which therefore hinder one another as well as other traffic. I was never a fan of split bus stops for that very reason, especially when a set of traffic lights is located very close in front of the stops, so everyone tries to take advantage of the slightest bit of empty road space ‘up front’, with bus drivers disregarding the bus lanes.

  150. Graham Feakins says:

    @ straphan 28 April at 17:39 – “…double-bendies have a significant disadvantage over normal bendies – they cannot reverse. This means depots must be (re)built accordingly.”

    Agree but some former LT trolleybus depots had rear exits, thus enabling through-running in and out, whilst others had an arrangement with turntable + traverser (from the even older tram days) where space was confined. Having said that, a turntable of such a diameter for a double-bendy would indeed be a sight, so the latter can be discounted.

    Even today, bus garages already have rear exits, e.g. at Camberwell and West Norwood. In fact, where can one today see any buses reverse out of their garages onto the road in London?

  151. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham F – I think most people appreciate that we need a hike in capacity for road based modes. It’s perfectly clear that on some routes the “traditional” London bus has reached its limit because demand exceeds what can rationally be coped with by double decks. This is when you need higher capacity, multi door vehicles ideally powered by electricity to reduce pollution. If trams are good enough for Croydon – OK largely on old rail alignments – then why not for Hammersmith or Hackney or Walworth or New Cross or Mile End? A lot of people have travelled overseas and have ridden on trams and don’t view them as that odd plus London has vast numbers of people used to all sorts of weird and wonderful forms of public transport.

    Perhaps the “non wired” centre concept was to fend off the loons in Westminster City Council who don’t want wires dangling above “their” roads? It also emulates the route 90 concept in Rome plus a number of recent French tram schemes which have dual traction feed systems to cope with “sensitive” town centre areas. [I recognise you know all this but others may not]

  152. Greg Tingey says:

    Because trams are UNFASHIONABLE – have been since 1952 …
    And, of course, the Treasury hate them, because they are steel wheel/rail

  153. Graham Feakins says:

    @ straphan – I omitted to add that, with articulated trolleybuses/trams and even buses of course, depots needn’t have a separate rear exit but simply provide ‘minimal’ space at the back to turn around and out again, no matter how long the vehicle is. See e.g. esp. 1:15 onwards:
    If you get that far, you will realise that the general population can love its trams. It’s all part of a psychology I am trying to explain.

    WW rightly comments: “This is when you need higher capacity, multi door vehicles ideally powered by electricity to reduce pollution”. That’s why I found it most peculiar for LT to suggest that the *outer* sections only be wired, whilst running the vehicles in polluting mode in the most crowded sections. Westminster and the City must have been indeed kneeling on LT if nothing else.

    David T-Rex is worried about power supply availability and he has a point. In the short term, Greenwich power station, which supplies the Underground peak capacity, could be once again adapted to supply any new tramways and trolleybuses. After all, it used to supply some nearly 4,000 (more accurate figure welcomed) London trams and trolleybuses of the first generation, or one could claim it comes from the Scottish hydro-electric power stations, as Croydon’s Tramlink I believe has claimed in the past (or is that Manchester’s Metrolink?), although I have never quite worked out how power supply through the National Grid can be so selective.

    @ Greg – The rot can be said to start with a single sentence in a 1930’s Royal Commission but I have also seen evidence from an anti-LCC personage (also against its trams) going back as far as 1911! In any case, as somebody else suggested, I was told only a couple of years ago that there was still a pro-LGOC (London General Omnibus Company) influence, and thus pro-bus and anti-tram, within 55 Broadway on the bus side – and I was in 55 Broadway at the time!

  154. Malcolm says:

    Graham wonders how the national (electricity) grid can be so selective. I was even more puzzled, at first, to learn that a certain Thames valley bus company runs its “biogas” buses on gas generated by processing biomass somewhere else in England. To avoid carrying tankers of gas around, the biogas is put into the national gas grid, and an equal amount is extracted from same by the bus company, compressed and put in the bus tanks.

    Then I realised (though some scepticism remains) that what presumably counts is that the bus company has paid for the biogas. Even if the actual molecules paid for are not the same ones as it burns. After all, I pay Scottish Electricity for my home power supply, even though I doubt if any Scots CH4 molecules or electrons have actually found their way to Kent.

  155. Malcolm says:

    WW says “A lot of people have travelled overseas and have ridden on trams and don’t view them as that odd …”

    Or, even more exotically, some of this “lot of people” may have even ventured as far as Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham or even Croydon!

  156. Nathanael says:

    Just a short comment on why classic “two steel wheels, two steel rails” has held up so well for so long, against numerous ‘gadgetbahn’ technologies.

    It’s the angled wheel profile.

    This means that the vehicle self-stabilizes, passively. This allows for very long trains without derailment; it allows for very high speeds without derailment; and it allows for very large axle loads without derailment.

    None of the gadgetbahn proposals have had proper passive self-stabilization, with the exception of some of the suspended-from-overhead designs, which are essentially conventional trains with the carbody underneath the tracks. (And there’s no particular reason to do that, apart from amusement-park-ride reasons.) The power of the angled wheel profile is great.

    Trains didn’t really get going — they were an unsuccessful niche technology — until that angled wheel profile was developed.

    There’s been a lot of development over the last 150 years in how to hold the rails in place, what to make the rails out of, the shape of the rails (look at tramway track!) how to power the trains, suspensions, etc. etc. etc. It’s really not the same technology it was 150 years ago.

    What is the same is that pair of angled wheels which passively stabilize the train. You’re not ever going to do better than that; it’s basic physics. I therefore feel free to ignore any “new technology” proposals which don’t have the angled wheels between a pair of rails. For high speeds and high volumes, they will be unable to function as well as good old angled wheels on a pair of rails.

  157. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, some of us regard this as obvious & a given, but you’d be surprised (or maybe not!) as to how many people don’t realise this.
    Including the idiot experiment in Paris – also sold on to Montreal, which was, lest’s face it a disaster, because of the horrendous maintenance costs.

  158. Fandroid says:

    @Nathaniel. Shucks. I was just so looking forward to an Elon Musk Hyperloop trip down the Walworth Road !

    On a more serious note, let’s hope the Manchester example can influence the nay-sayers in TfL. I have seen debates in TAUT about the wisdom of Manchester’s decision to stay with high-floor trams when the rest of Europe seems to be heading to low-floor. The discussions here about the long-term wisdom of small wheels adds a bit more light into that debate.

  159. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @ Graham Feakins
    1 May 2014 at 01:33

    Graham, it’s not widely known that Combine and LPTB Vice-Chairman Frank Pick was a member of the British Road Federation from 1932. BRF was explicitly pro-more roads and anti-tram.

    A bit of a change from Pick’s speech in 1931 to the International Housing and Town Planning Congress, where he saw the possibility of a reserved track fast tramway along the Uxbridge Road – with a picture of the Iron Bridge-Southall road widening with central reservation between carriageways, which was identified as a future location for reserved track…

    Meanwhile the Felthams continued along the old Uxbridge Road formation and were never moved across. The route also stayed as single track and passing loop from the western end of Southall Broadway until the bottom of Hillingdon Hill until the end of trams on that corridor in 1936.

    There’s a very useful YouTube film making your basic point, but also demonstrating just how critical the wheel/rail conic angle is for different train types. Link here:
    (“the Japanese Bullet train – wheel and suspension technology”).

  160. Castlebar (Real Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Jonathan Roberts re Uxbridge Road

    I seem to remember “reserved cycle paths” along the Uxbridge Road in Hillingdon into the 1950s, perhaps 1960. Were these originally the designated tram tracks??

  161. Moosealot says:

    @various: ‘unwired in the centre’

    The big advantage of ‘self-propelled’ buses over trolleys is that they can pass each other. Imagine any of the main bus thoroughfares in the centre with that restriction – it would be an utter disaster.

    Given that the centre isn’t really very big, the battery capacity required to get across it would be fairly modest (read: relatively cheap, relatively light) and could be recharged while running under the wires outside the centre.

  162. @Fandroid,

    I think the high floor/low floor thing is definitely a horses-for-courses thing. Much as I am a fan of low floor trams I can see the advantage of high floor trams in Manchester which was largely built out of railway conversions and operates both for some considerable distance from the city centre as well as within current railway stations.

    The ride quality does seem to be consistently much higher on high floor trams – though I would contend this has little to do with actual wheel size as such. One would expect this with better suspension and less restrictive design parameters.

    On the other hand low floor trams are far less intrusive and more appropriate to a crowded urban environment. High platforms in cities centres can create their own accessibility problems. The platforms for low floor trams can be little more than a discretely raised pavement. This can be important for running at street level in cities but less so off-street and underground.

    On an personal aesthetic note I think high floor trams on the streets look like a misplaced train in the wrong setting. There is also the easier opportunity for low floor trams to have more shorter sections rather than the railway size carriages that high floor trams seem to consist of. They can then snake around our urban areas in a more pleasing way that seems more appropriate to road use. They seem to then be fitting in with the environment rather than dominating it.

    A good compromise such as found on the majority of trams in Croydon is to have low floor access but considerably higher areas over the bogies. This unfortunately gives a dated feel in a world used to low floor buses. The newer all-low-floor Stadler trams feel remarkably superior than the older Bombardier ones in Croydon but the reality is the Stadler as not so comfortable to ride in. I think the tram cause will be advanced the day the engineers are able to build a low floor tram with the ride comfort that a high floor tram can currently achieve.

    I still remain dubious that in future an on-street tram will in general have any significant advantage over a multi-section electric powered bus on rubber tyres. The tram will still require masses of infrastructure to create a route for it. This will provide less advantage over the alternatives as technology advances. And if I were in the DfT or treasury I would be extremely nervous about authorising an urban tram system today that would take years to build and may show little advantage over the much cheaper and less disruptive alternatives by the time it is built.

  163. Jonathan Roberts says:


    I remember trying briefly a few of those on peregrinations from Ealing by bike! They were the classic inter-war design of cycle paths, just in front of people’s houses and constantly crossing driveways and side roads, generally built with concrete which by the 1960s had bumps between distorted slabs, or were poorly maintained/cleaned asphalt, and a growing favourite for car parking. So quite dangerous and uncomfortable, not at all appealing. Or sometimes there were parallel access roads for the housing in other places, which were marginally better but not by much. Similar designs along the A4 Great West Road, A316 and other arterial roads.

    Also in my experience the Uxbridge Road was a slow cycling route from the Ealing Pitshanger area to Bucks, with too many junctions and pedestrians. It was more efficient to cycle along the A40 Western Avenue main carriageway (then mostly dual-two wide lanes) providing you defended your road space – 40 mins from Ealing to Denham was a reasonable pedalling time, under an hour to Gerrards Cross.

    In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Middlesex County Council hoped the trams would use the central reservation built with some widened sections of the Uxbridge Road, eg Iron Bridge-Southall as mentioned above. But the trams continued to use the original road (the northern carriageway on that section), including, further west – if you look at a road map – the original road now called Park Road, at Hayes End, which now looks like a minor north-side loop off the main road, and the original carriageway at Hillingdon Hill (can’t remember off-hand which that was, but think the southern one).

  164. timbeau says:

    “even though I doubt if any Scots …..electrons have actually found their way to Kent.”

    Especially since power distribution is a.c. !

    Even on dc the drift velocity (the rate the electrons actually move) is of the order of 1 metre /hour, so it would take about 100 years for an electron to travel from the Scottish Highlands to Kent.

  165. Mark Townend says:

    @Moosealot, 1 May 2014 at 10:00

    Difficulty with trolley buses passing each other in central bus corridors can be tackled by network design. Trolleys can split into different lanes with defined turnouts and crossovers, although the junctions are clearly complex and need to be minimised, not eliminated. Fewer, longer stop ‘platforms’ could accomodate groups of vehicles in whatever order they arrive rather than specific routes going to specific berths. Waiting time at these central shared stops must be removed clearly, but that could make cross town journeys faster and more attractive. Provision of a single journey PAYG transfer capability could encourage passengers to keep on moving further along a corridor (where other reasonable alternatives might become possible) on whatever bus comes along, rather than wait for the next direct bus to their final destination. The simplified central network architecture, particularly the long platform stops, could also be most suitable for future tram or multi-section articulated bus conversion.

  166. straphan says:

    @PoP: Low-floor trams need not have bad ride quality – they need not have a 100% low-floor either. Only 100% low-floor vehicles with no-axle wheelsets have really bad ride quality – other designs are generally comparable with high-floor trams.

    @Graham F: I’m afraid I disagree about depot layouts in London. Many bus garages in London used to be tram depots (Stamford Hill, Hackney, Wood Green, Merton to name a few) and have only one entrance/exit. The rest are so space-constrained they require tight turns and ‘stacking’ of buses to make them fit (Cricklewood, Stockwell, and many others).

    If you look at Continental European garages which were designed for artics from the outset, they have a very different layout. Have a look at Hamburg-Langenfelde, where they keep the double-artics:

  167. Mark Townend says:

    The low/high floor debate can also be informed by the chances of future tram train operation. High is better suited for that in the UK where the existing main line platforms are high, trains aren’t excessively wide and thus the trams might also serve the same face. In some parts of Europe main line platforms, particularly on the branch lines that are often the target for tram-train, are low, so a low platform throughout might be better. In either case it would be dependent on how many existing platforms the tram-trains were to call at. If it was already a large low floor city network, and only a few existing main line stations to be served, like Sheffield, then build separate platform sections, or even additional platform loops for the trams. On joint use sections some continental stops have a system to switch a narrower light rail vehicle to a separate pair of rails closer to the platform edge whilst still ensuring sufficient clearance for passing heavy rail trains.

    Even with low floor trams, larger wheels, although not conventional axles, might be accomodated in under-seat wheelboxes, as with buses.

  168. straphan says:

    @Mark Townend: spot-on. The UK has probably the highest rail platforms in Europe (and possibly the world), hence instances where trams share platforms with rail (or re-use it as in the case of Manchester) require high-floor trams.

    Germany, where floor heights vary, has various tram-train solutions. In the Karlsruhe region there is a prevalence of higher platforms, and so the tram-trains are high-floor. In contrast, the Kassel and Saarbruecken networks use low-floor tram-trains.

    The original German ‘Stadtbahn’ networks – i.e. conventional tramways with tunnels built under the city centres – had high platforms mainly to speed up passenger access/egress times at stations, and also to make the system more accessible to mobility-restricted people before the advent of low-floor vehicles.

  169. Fandroid says:

    Much as I love trams, I think I am with Pedantic in thinking that an electric multi-section bus might be the compromise that could work in London. A huge amount can be done to upgrade buses so that they have most of the advantages of trams without actually having to invest the massive amount of cash (plus the disruption during construction) required to put steel rails in the roadway.

    The advantages of trams are:
    A right of way that is very obvious to all; that is to potential passengers plus other road users.
    High capacity self-guided vehicles that are quite distinct in appearance
    Electric power, with just about zero local emissions and much reduced noise

    None of those actually needs the rails in the roadway.

    To persuade the world that it’s something different, the high-capacity electric bus needs to be marketed and presented as something quite new and better. That is, a manoeuvrable tram. It mustn’t look like yet another bus with some added knobs. For a start, it should be painted another colour (not red, shock-horror !?!). Then the ‘rights of way’ should be painted on the road, to give comfort to the passengers, guide the drivers and to warn other drivers to keep out! Road layouts should be modified to suit the new beast. All of the above sounds crazy but it would all be a heck of a lot cheaper than a tramline.

    Last of all, the manoeuvrable tram needs to be electric-powered. In a true London compromise, it could have batteries to get it through the centre but be dependent on trolley wires for power elsewhere and for battery charging.

    I’ll have a lie down now. My conceptual crayons are worn to stubs.

  170. THC says:

    @Fandroid and others

    The conceptual leap you detail has been addressed, at least in small part, by First in the development of their ‘ftr’ bus product. I don’t know how it has been received by users in places of deployment, however, but it appears to provide a platform for further innovation.


  171. Mark Townend says:


    “The FTR concept is made up of a bundle of simultaneously introduced innovations relating to the vehicle type, its configuration, the fare collection arrangements, consequent changes to infrastructure, and an integrated data-handling system for voice radio, vehicle location, real-time passenger information, on-board displays, vehicle diagnostics, and ticket machine data.”

    It’s a bendy on a bus lane with a driver (‘pilot’) and a conductor (‘customer service host’)!

  172. straphan says:

    @THC: How has it been addressed by ftr? It’s still just a two-door bendy bus – all it has is a fancy shape and a strange-looking interior. On the downside, it can’t even get up a hill if the surface is slippery (I very nearly missed my flight from Luton once because the engine cut off as the wheels slipped).

    @Fandroid: I fully agree that the main advantage of trams is their ability to run both on- and off-street, whilst carrying higher numbers of passengers than buses using less space. I also accept that there are few places in inner London where you could make this happen. I also think that running tens or even hundreds of buses which each do not even have a capacity of 100 people per hour down busy principal thoroughfares is an inefficient way of handling demand flows along these streets.

    I have an open mind as to whether the ‘right’ answer is trams or higher-capacity buses. I do think, however, that both should be considered on their merits, but also on an equal footing. For example – why should utilities be diverted away from tram tracks and not from streets served by high-capacity buses? Bendy buses can’t run up and down side streets if there is a diversion, and why should they be stuck in endless queues while yet another gas/water/electricity/phone dig causes the need for temporary traffic lights?

  173. Malcolm says:

    Although (with certain conditions) articulated buses (or trams-with-tyres) might suit London, there is absolutely no chance of them happening any time in the next decade or two, even with a Labour government. The concept has been absolutely poisoned by the Ken and Boris spat. Big double deckers are the only show in town, so London has to fit its road design round that inescapable fact.

    The same does not necessarily apply to methods of supplying power. Wires or induction pads, or indeed bionic duckweed, could be introduced as and when. (Probably as and when there is sufficient money).

  174. Fandroid says:

    The Leeds & York ftrs seem to suffer from the cheapskate syndrome. Two doors is hardly a breakthrough. I hope the ‘infotainment’ screens are better than those that First have on the Gosport-Fareham busway vehicles. If you aren’t in the front half of the bus, they are unreadable and inaudible. Although I propose a big effort to differentiate the concept from the buses we are used to, I don’t want the PR fraternity to come up with obviously silly titles like ‘pilot’ and ‘customer service host’. That’s a fabulous way of making the concept look stupid from the start.

    I know there are big political obstacles, but don’t let us allow that to get in the way of a sensible discussion of how London’s street transport problems might be sorted.

  175. THC says:

    @straphan, Mark T

    “At least in small part” is what I said. All-singing all-dancing the ‘ftr’ clearly ain’t, but it attempts to move the bus on a notch from the conventional offering if only in terms of public image and perception. And that’s how innovation will occur, like it or not; incremental developments in technology and presentation will always win out over radical approaches.


  176. Slugabed says:

    It seems that,having travelled many times to Luton Airport in the last couple of years,I was being conveyed,without my knowing it, in “The Future Of Travel” rather than,merely,as it appeared to me at the time,a bus.

  177. straphan says:

    @THC: I fully agree about incremental developments in technology being the way forward. I just fail to see what ‘incremental developments’ the ftr actually brings with it. Painting a bus in a fancy colour and giving it a fancy shape at the front won’t win you customers – improvements in journey time, comfort, and cost will. Even if the buses are ugly and bog-standard.

  178. Graham Feakins says:

    To tidy up the wheel/rail interface discussion and to show a refined version of the Hammond clip Jonathan R provided, spend up to 10 mins. observing this French high speed record clip, especially the view from the camera focussed on one of the wheels:

    The stability is remarkable indeed.

  179. straphan says:

    @Graham F: That’s because it’s a new line. Last time I tried to get to the bar on a Eurostar train travelling towards London I gave up until we got to the UK side of the Channel. One other person who persevered managed to spill half of their tea into the paper (how helpful…) bag they were carrying it in.

  180. Castlebar (Real Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Graham H (28/04/12:13), PoP, Kit, etc

    BBC Norfolk News today


    2 May 2014 Last updated at 14:58
    Norfolk driver, 97, fined after demolishing house porch

    A 97-year-old woman from Norfolk who reversed at speed out of her drive and hit a house opposite has been given five penalty points and fined £265.

    Beulah Carr, of Fulcher Avenue in Cromer, reversed her automatic car from her drive, crossed a carriageway at speed and demolished a house porch.

    So, not just Worthing, Eastbourne etc.

    Now, where did I leave my car?? Ah yes, next door’s front garden.

  181. Long Branch Mike (LA Bus March) says:


    “Painting a bus in a fancy colour and giving it a fancy shape at the front won’t win you customers.”

    Its a branding & marketing exercise, to make the bus sexier to attract the non-bus rider. Plus to distinguish it from other (ie slower & lesser) buses.

    To my knowledge, LA’s RapidBus is one of the first of the rebranded express bus lines that took this step forward, with all red buses, separate stops, pre-boarding fare payment. Ridership shot up 25% and’s now on most major LA arterials (the only UK equivalent I know of is the Kingsway in South Manchester). So ftr appears to be emulating this. But you are right, the speed/comfort/etc improvement(s) need to be there.

  182. straphan says:

    @LBM: Would ridership have shot up for the long-run without any other changes than branding? Sure, the appearance and branding help (as does information – if people don’t know about the service they won’t use it!), but it’s the ‘hard’ factors that count the most.

  183. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM – we need to be very careful in looking at First’s FTR experiment. The concept was bold enough but not well thought out nor executed. The ticketing system failures destroyed service performance on York’s route 4 within hours of FTR operation starting. Given it is one of York’s busiest routes you can imagine that went down like a lead balloon. There was also little bus priority on the route meaning the larger bus had no more space allocated to them. First had to quickly deploy conductors on to the route because they’d locked the driver away in his own “cell” meaning conventional OPO couldn’t be used.

    The new ticket system was scrapped as they couldn’t get it work so you had a capital cost write off, no bus priority, unreliability and much higher operating costs. How not to run a commercial bus route. No wonder the trial in York was slowly wound down with conventional buses running instead (initially in the evenings but later on all day). The vehicles moved to Leeds for the 72 service to Bradford and are branded as “Hyperlink”. I assume the economics of that route can sustain the cost of crew operation.

    The only place where FTR seems to have been relatively successful is Swansea where extensive bus priority was created to give the vehicles space and priority over cars. First have deployed them on one of the most remunerative routes there and it seems to be doing OK. Nonetheless First’s intent to buy a large fleet of FTRs never materialised and the concept has been quietly dropped.

    I suspect Rapid Bus has worked in LA because it is marketed alongside the light rail and Metro network to give fast transit across the sprawling conurbation. Also one thing LA has is roads so space should be able to be found on the highways. New York has done something similar in trying to speed up some of its crosstown bus routes. I’ve looked at the bus network info for LA in the past and it does seem to have a pretty decent network despite the lack of housing density and multiple centres which are normally poor conditions for bus use. I’d also guess petrol (gas) price rises may also have helped shift people to using public transit services in the US.

  184. Jonathan Roberts says:


    Agreed that York on several recent visits offers hopeless levels of bus priority, which is a basic thing for decent p.t. usage. One hopes the City Council, now ensconsed in their new city hall in the old George Hudson station, will realise that, when/if they too start queuing for buses.

    As one example, having booked not so long ago into a nominally ‘city centre’ York Novotel and then found it was off the Hull Road, over 1 mile walking from the station to the far side of the City Walls and then beyond, the no.4 route looked attractive outside the station, but discussion with informed locals at the stop and the despair on their faces quickly suggested that walking was the best option. It was. (‘Best’ is of course a choice out of at least three options, and the station taxi queue didn’t look any better!)

    No bus passed us on any route, along Nunnery Lane, and we were quite slow as we were trundling suitcases and the pavement arrangements are also rather discouraging at main junctions (another pedestrian/p.t. user failing in road design terms). Also I don’t recommend the Novotel, but that’s another story for York Reconnections, quite apart from the trades-descriptions-issue that it’s not in the city centre.

  185. Robert Butlin says:

    @straphan 1 May 12:23. Merton has always been a bus garage. The trams on that corridor ran from Clapham Depot. I think Merton at one point had a rather strange distinction of being a bus garage on a road that was mostly served by trams and Green Line coaches. The buses tended to arrive on garage journeys from South Wimbledon, Tooting Broadway or even Tooting Bec.

  186. Graham Feakins says:

    And @ straphan ditto, Stockwell garage has three separate ways in/out and has more than room inside to swing a cat:

  187. Long Branch Mike says:

    @WW, Straphan

    Agreed that the actual service improvements are much more important. Given the very long distances in LA, the entire city and region is almost exclusively single house residential suburbs, the RapidBus routes are a service improvement. There are separate highway express routes, though most highways are stop & go at rush hours, and evenings (as people travel more for nightlife & recreation than for work in LA). There are 2 busways, El Monte and the billion dollar Transitway boondoggle, now part of the Silver Line east and south of downtown LA. But that’s another story.


    I agree with your analysis on LA transit, having visited there several times. They are still expanding LRT considerably, building a very impressive network, all since their Blue Line opened in 1990. They have 2 heavy rail subway lines, about 7 commuter rail lines out to distant suburbs (one of which is suburb to suburb), the Orange Line busway, Silver Line part busway/part downtown mixed running, and about 5 LRT lines, with more of the latter abuilding.

    As a result, even the downtown residential market, previously getting increasingly run down and down market, has really picked up, as rail transit becomes more reliable and at times quicker than highway driving.

  188. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM – and, of course, LA is spending a fortune to restore much of the old trolley line network (yellow cars and red cars) that was wiped out by the car, road and petroleum lobby (National City Lines) way back when. Imagine how much more civilised a place it would be if those trolley lines had survived and been modernised over the intervening decades. I remember being outraged about this when I watched the “Who killed Roger Rabbit?” film.

  189. Graham Feakins says:

    @ WW – Reverting to your reply on 28 April on Zürich – the only place where you have actually been left open mouthed by the public transport system, I have just been reminded of an e-mail from a retired, senior LT pal on the bus side but privately supportive of trams. He says this:

    “The British reluctance to change from feeder services to a trunk route is inherently linked to poor facilities where two or more modes come together, and to the general absence of through ticketing.
    Even in regulated London the buses from Addington Interchange are not timed to meet the trams and, worse still, require a wet or windswept (or both) walk between the tramstops and the adjoining bus station.
    This should have been designed in Swiss or German “knotenpunkt” style, all under cover, with the bus arrival stops on the outer face of the “to Croydon” tram platform and the bus departure stops on the outer face of the “from Croydon” tram platform, with space at either end of the layout for buses to turn across the tracks.
    Interestingly, this would have consumed less valuable land than the separate tram stop (designed in isolation by the PFI concession) and bus station (designed in isolation by London Buses).
    The other significant problem we have to face is that the continental networks where good quality interchange with reasonable fares and no “competition” for the tram routes is the norm invariably require revenue subsidy (with farebox recovery ratios of between 30% and 60%) and that is anathema to the UK Treasury and most politicians.
    Still…. We’ll have to do it one day!”

    I thought that this usefully adds to the topic.

    Re. your 3rd May reference to the petroleum lobby, in ‘tram history’ books, this is always referred to as the “USA oil interests” that ‘did for’ the tram and trolleybus systems over here and in France. Fascinating indeed, then, that Jonathan Roberts points out Frank Pick’s membership of the British Road Federation from 1932, being pro-more roads and anti-tram.

  190. Greg Tingey says:

    Recent re-publication:
    “The Great Railway Conspiracy” by David Henshaw
    3rd revised edition published last year

  191. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham F – an interesting observation re Addington Interchange. I was there a few weeks back and it’s not the most attractive of places. It suffers from the syndrome that afflicts many TfL bus stations of looped workings and conflicts between vehicles at entry and exit points. Brent Cross and Golders Green are closest to single direction working but even they’re not ideal. The point about subsidy is not hugely relevant in the London context – buses are already subsidised but you can argue whether they deliver the required capacity in the most efficient way. This is where you cross the line into trolleybus and tram territory (coupled with environmental performance) as they can deliver more capacity per vehicle *if* you make the capital investment to provide the required infrastructure.

    The irony is that for the multi billion pound sums being proposed for CR2 I’d argue you can deliver far, far more benefit *across* London by implementing a massive surface transport upgrade. This is something that would improve matters for the suburbs, “alternative poles” and the central area. On the basis that you vastly improve the efficiency of the surface transport network you may well be able to get away with less subsidy medium and long term as you’d require fewer vehicles and staff to provide more service. An alternative version is that you maintain subsidy and are able to deliver more service overall for a given sum of money given you’ve vastly improved the efficiency on the busiest corridors and in the busiest suburbs. Given the huge wealth generated in Greater London it’s somewhat daft that we allegedly cannot this investment nor indeed that there is a question mark about providing the level of bus network subsidy that there is.

  192. Fandroid says:

    The strange thing is that out here well beyond the London boundaries, the interchanges between bus and train are very gradually getting better. Basingstoke’s bus provision outside its station was reasonably good but has just been upgarded as part of a local shopping centre makeover. Farnborough’s used to be pathetic, but the local bus routes have all been diverted into the station forecourt with a fairly good (for out here!) layout of bus stops and shelters.

    Even if London cannot swallow through ticketing (but Oyster cards are close to the same functionality, even if there is effectively a ‘transfer’ charge) the Addington experience is absurd, and just shows the foolishness of the independent PFI style project. However clever a contractor and his consultants are, they just never have the depth of experience and local knowledge of an integrated transport authority.

    Walthamstow Central is a good practical rail/bus interchange, but the bus flows often verge on the wildly chaotic (that sort of bedlam below ground on the Victoria Line would probably result in mass carnage).

  193. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – well WWCS is a good example. The bus flows are, as you say, chaotic and strangely off peak periods can have queues of buses right round the bus station but not the peaks. I would venture to suggest that you can get chaos below ground – there are block backs to the escalators in the peaks and in the AM peak you can get huge flows of people if a train from Chingford arrives and these collide with people coming down from the bus stops. The other major flaw is the lack of escalators on the link tunnel to the bus station. This means the lift is often overloaded with people wanting to reach the bus station.

    There was a proposal to make the bus station 2-way with an opening at the north end and buses using that link to reach Hoe St. There is no sign, however, that proposal is going to be pursued given the development on the old Arcade site would preclude large volumes of buses using the top end of the High St.

  194. Nathanael says:

    @Greg Tingey:
    “Yes, some of us regard this as obvious & a given, but you’d be surprised (or maybe not!) as to how many people don’t realise this.”

    Most people don’t even know that trains have conical, angled wheels. Most people think that the train is kept on the track by the flange, when it’s actually mostly kept on the track by the conical wheel. This misunderstanding is common even among public transport advocates and even among people employed running publit transport operations, and even more common among elected officials.

    This is actually why I mention the angled wheels and their value every chance I get.

    It’s true that if you’re going to be running short, single buses, there’s no huge advantage to trams. If you’re going to run articulateds, however, there’s a *massive* advantage to trams, and it’s those angled wheels.

    You can’t do this with articulated buses:

    Run a few lines like the Hungarian one (7 sections) through the narrow streets of London, and you’ll really have capacity.

  195. timbeau says:

    “Run a few lines like the Hungarian one (7 sections) through the narrow streets of London, and you’ll really have capacity.”
    You’ll also have a lot of blocked junctions. Bendy drivers often had the dilemma of “do I go as far as I can and block the box junction, or wait until there is enough clear space beyond the box” – the latter could be a long time because other vehicles will keep nipping in to fill the space.

  196. Anonymous says:

    This is looking at a solution to the problem of moving millions of people in central London. It’s clearly not an easy or cheap problem to solve.

    Maybe it’s time to tackle the cause of the problem? The problem is essentially “moving millions of people every day and reducing pollution”. It’s not simply a problem that affects buses – tubes and trains are also packed every day. Even (according to a previous article) Crossrail is expected to reach capacity very quickly. Why do we need to move millions of people to and from central London every day?

    More and more office blocks are being built in London. This brings a need for more and more lorries (generating 25% of the “pollution” mentioned above) during construction and then more lorries to deliver to the office blocks / associated shops etc. There is insufficient housing in central London, so people have to commute, generating more demand for buses, trains, tubes etc.

    The suburbs of London have millions of square feet of unused office space. As much as 52% of Croydon’s office space is unused. Admittedly Croydon is a [Insert personally preferred adjective here PoP] and much of the office space is in old 1960’s office blocks, but other suburbs have large amounts of unused office space too. Why not use this office space? Or replace the old blocks in Croydon rather than in central London?

    New, modern office space in Croydon and other suburbs can reduce commuting, reduce the strain on public transport, reduce the stress of commuters and reduce pollution. Hey presto, no need to worry so much about complex and expensive public transport solutions.

    Oh wait – I’ve just realised why we don’t do this – it’s just good old common sense, something that is seriously lacking in London ……

  197. @Anonymous 12:16

    Just a warning that however justified you may feel about describing Croydon in the way you originally did, others won’t get to see your comment if “computer say no”. Computer is not very bright and doesn’t make exceptions simply because the following proper noun is Croydon.

    Hopefully your question as to why we don’t do this will be answered in the not too distant future in an article. We don’t do it because although, superficially is is good old common sense, economic theory suggests it is not the optimal solution. London is doing what works best in an economic environment and is why it is booming despite a recession (apparently so I am told).

  198. Chris L says:

    Many of the 1960s office blocks are unsuitable for modern use. The ceiling heights are insufficient to install raised floors to accommodate data cabling etc.

    This is why Centre Point is being converted to residential use. Similar blocks in Stratford were converted some years ago.

    Premier Inn & Travelodge have also taken over blocks in Central London.

    There are mechanisms for developers to contribute to improved public transport and there is clear evidence of this at Woolwich Arsenal where Berkeley Homes are funding the Crossrail Station and Premier Inn has planning consent to build over the DLR station.

  199. JM says:

    Re trams v buses

    Have to agree with PoP about trams v buses on street. Using Metrolink in either central Manchester or Salford Quays is painfully slow to the extent where I reckon the 50 or 250 bus can probably get you to Media City in pretty much the same time from central Manchester. Even with the new city crossing, only a pre metro is going to offer significant time saving for journeys on the inner core.

    Given there are relatively few isolated routes you could put a tram in London now, where do contributors they would work better than a bus solution? Nothing at all against trams but pragmatically I can’t see an advantage over a high quality bus out in Zone 4 and beyond.

    Going off tangent slightly, something that bugs me about Crossrail is how the numerous branches off it will not be absorbed into it by way of trams or even busways feeding into the stations on the main route (Maidenhead/West Ealing/Romford etc) similar to the MTR. Certainly if I lived on that route I’d prefer a frequent route with change over a handful of through services per day running at 10mph on the branch. I know there would be operational issues/siting of depots etc but it does seem like we’re being left with a bit of a mess otherwise.

  200. JM says:


    I don’t think its that simple. The benefit of a central London based business is the pool of talent the connectivity offers you over a wider area plus agglomeration from businesses of a similar nature offers in terms of skills/wages. Hubs will always be greater than the spokes.

  201. timbeau says:

    A start up may be willing to set up in Croydon, Harrow, or wherever, but any established business is going to lose the majority of its staff if it moves from central London out to the suburbs, let alone beyond. My own colleages come in to the City from all directions – moving to, say, Wimbledon would improve the commute for maybe 10% of us, at the expense of the 90% who would either leave or contribute more to the congestion by the longer commute.
    I have been through two moves of my employers out of central London – I suspect in both cases it was as much a way of shedding staff without having to offer redundancy packages than it was a way of reducing office rental costs. However, in both cases the most employable staff were the most able to jump ship and avoid having to make the move.

  202. straphan says:

    @timbeau: hear hear… Network Rail shot themselves in the foot in a similarly spectacular way. They decided to move their train planning people out of Paddington and other locations around London to Milton Keynes. I was told that only 2/3 of the staff chose to move to MK and pretty soon Network Rail started to advertise for a number of ‘temporary secondments’ to cover staff shortages at MK. Those adverts haven’t really stopped coming (though I admit there are fewer of them these days). You can probably imagine that once you factor in the mark-ups and travel costs, the consultants filling in those secondment positions probably end up being 1.5-2x as expensive to Network Rail compared to their own employees. And in a lot of cases these secondees will actually be their former employees who chose to ditch NR for a consultancy when they moved out of London.

    Of course as NR establishes itself at Milton Keynes in 10-15 years they will probably be able to recruit the right people at a lower cost compared to when they were in Central London. But which other company – particularly one which is somewhat more commercially driven than one which has recently been re-classified as a state enterprise by the ONS – has enough money to last through such a long period of adjustment? Particularly since the loss of key staff who do not wish to move along with their employer will cause standards of quality at that company to suffer…

  203. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ JM – there are oodles of corridors where trams would do better than buses. Many corridors have to have masses of overlapping routes to provide adequate capacity – 207/427 / 607, 73/476, 25/86/205/425, 18, 59/109/159 etc etc. A decent sized tram could probably take 2-3 buses off the road while maintaining or increasing capacity. The use of low floor trams would carry far more buggies / wheelchairs and be far easier for encumbered passengers.

    The really telling point, for me, from watching some of the You tube videos of Swiss trolleybuses (but it applies to trams too) is that such modes require a discipline and priority at junctions and elsewhere. I think London could benefit from some of that discipline as it’d keep things moving. More attractive services would also take people out of their cars to a greater extent than now. We also need to bear in mind the old maxim – remove road capacity and replace it with more effective transport modes and you do shift people out of cars. Loads of evidence across the world about this.

    On your Crossrail question I think we must wait to see what happens. I expect that if the line proves really popular then there will be pressure for more frequent services and connections. I don’t think we’ll see trams in Henley or Maidenhead and the denizens of Ealing mounted the barricades when they had the option. We clearly need to see how deregulated operators respond to Crossrail in areas outside Greater London.

  204. Greg Tingey says:

    Well, the obvious place (1) for “orbital” trams to relieve capacity & shorten journey-time is to extend Croydon Tramlink (in both directions) isn’t it?
    Except Boris killed even the planning process, so we have to start all over again …..
    (2) The Uxbridge corridor PROVIDED you can avoid the Ealing & Southall bottlenecks, somehow – any ideas, anyone?
    (3)N of Stratford towards Chingford, PROVIDED< agaim you can do something about the ririculously crowded & twisty streets
    (4) The"Harrow Road" – in the generic sense { Paddington – Willesden – Stanmore or somewhere
    (5) Cross-River?
    Any more?

  205. @Greg Tingey,

    As a basic crude rule of thumb when it comes to getting a good BCR you should build on what you already have first. Of course there may be other good or bad reasons for wanting to do otherwise.

    So, yes, given that we already have a tram system in Croydon complete with depot that can be expanded a bit and an obvious largely off-road route proposed and a demand which both anecdotally and more scientifically investigated is clearly there and the people by and large actually want it then it really does make sense to do this first.

    Following the same logic I think it would be far more practical to then consider the proposed expansion to Sutton rather than go off gallivanting and creating new systems.

    There has been recent discussion about the woeful lack of expertise in how to build and operate tram systems. This is another good reason for keeping what pitifully limited skills we do have in the same place rather spreading them ever more thinly and ineffectually.

  206. timbeau says:

    Many corridors have to have masses of overlapping routes to provide adequate capacity – 207/427 / 607, 73/476, 25/86/205/425, 18, 59/109/159

    Oxford Street is probably the supreme example. However, what three buses can do, and an articulated tram of the same size cannot, is serve three different termini. (taking your example of the 25/205/425, three buses running together in convoy along te Mile End Road will part company at Mile End to go to Oxford Circus, Paddington and Clapton respectively. How would you serve all three destinations at the same frequency with one tram?)

  207. Rational Plan says:

    The problem for many London suburban centres is that their office stock is a product of previous planning policies and old economic systems. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it was all the rage to decongest London of jobs and people. You had to get government permit if you want to build a large new office or factory in London, you had to justify why you could not do the same job in Basildon or Bracknell or god help you Lanarkshire orMerseyside. The effects were worse in Manufacturing where many companies ended up with split sites or sub optimal locations.

    Office occupiers got around most of these problems by shifting back office functions to Suburban London locations, where there no office building restrictions and the lower skills needed for back office functions meant that accepting a smaller labour pool was no big deal, and of course one income families and the low cost of housing moves meant it was not such a big deal to relocate.

    But now with the much lower cost of telecommunications you might as well as fling these operations to the lowest cost base, whether that is Belfast or of course these days New Delhi.

    Suburban London is just not cheap enough for those occupiers. West London locations have held up better as many firm that require frequent international travel have gravitated there.

    To revive these suburban centres would require major investment to increase their labour pool, so they became more attractive to employers. So a network of high speed semi orbital lines that linked various radial commuter rail and tube lines would be ideal. For example the proposed West London Orbital is the ideal to follow.

  208. Rational Plan says:

    Trams could work in London, but it would take many billions for all the major bus corridors in zones 1 and 2 were covered. The only way for such a network to grow would require a change in ticketing procedures and allow free interchange between modes.

    If you built a new tram line then most bus routes would have to be banned from using the same length of road for any significant stretch. Routes would have to be curtailed or redirected.

    People would have to learn to interchange.

  209. straphan says:

    @PoP: No offence, but if the biggest problem with high-demand bus corridors is somewhere else, then what is the point of extending the Croydon system? Your approach (as well as the insistence of constructing on ex-rail separate rights of way) is not what made each of the Parisian tram lines (you could hardly call that a network!) such a success.

    If trams make sense on the Uxbridge Road or in East London then why not think about building there rather than extending to Sutton ‘just because you’ll get a good BCR’?

  210. @straphan,

    Simply because it is easier to pick the low hanging fruit and it stands a decent chance of actually getting built. Trams might make sense along the Uxbridge Road but only if you actually succeed in building a system and getting it up an running. There is no point in spending £30 million on planning such a system if the councillors who support it find themselves voted out of office and the mayoral candidates realise support for it could scupper their chance of being elected.

    In Croydon the Crystal Palace extension has all party support – and a few years ago could probably have been built for not much more than £30 million (+ the money to rebuild it when they subsequently find that the quality of the original construction was poor).

    The proposals for a tram to Sutton via Rose Hill do not go near a railway but largely utilises a wide dual carriageway with a wide centre reservation where the trams can be segregated from other traffic for much of the route.

    The proposed Tramlink route to Streatham along the current or former A23 actually showed a far better BCR than any other Tramlink extension but the realpolitik was that it would be extremely difficult to proceed with the potential difficulties involved including a lot of anticipated opposition. And possibly the best way forward with that is to do other extensions first and make a success of them so people on the Streatham corridor want to have a tram system.

  211. Fandroid says:

    I’m still waiting to see articulated trolleybuses going through the access tunnel to Heathrow central terminals! (and extended to Uxbridge in the other direction). Yes, a trolleybus crayonista!

  212. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – well it all depends on how you do it. Clearly I am not advocating one tram service that tries to run from Romford to Oxford via Clapton and Paddington. Once a network of tracks is in place then there would be flexibility to route trams as you wished. Given the intensity of service it makes *complete sense* (IMO, of course) to have trams running on the A11 corridor right into the centre. There are multiple corridors like this in London. I would expect that some journeys covered by bus would involve an interchange in the future but that’s not so different from today where many people change between bus routes. It is not possible to provide through services for everyone given the size of London.

  213. Melvyn says:

    London is now paying the price of electing Boris as mayor who promised anything to get elected but is weak when it comes to certain middle and upper class residents who think they own the roads and so west London tram and WEZ were abandoned.

    As for cross river tram its main failing was like West London Tram it was another isolated system. A far better option would have based Cross River Tram on an extension of Croydon Tramlink from Croydon to Brixton then on to Elephant and Castle where a number of troupes become possible with perhaps a loop via Waterloo Road, York Road Westminster Bridge Road then on to North London !

    The success of the DLR has been built on gradual extensions of network as has Manchester Metrolink which has now managed to get a 2nd City crossing authorised .

    Oddly , Boris removal of one way systems and contraflow bus lanes at Tottenham might help once London get a new mayor who favours trams as a new route along 349/149 axis would now be easier to build !

    As for electric buses well if chargers at stops work better than those at garages then why not simply install bus stop chargers in garages ?

    The only certainty is Boris so called ” new bus for London ” is not fit for London given its lower capacity than ordinary double deck buses.

    In fact TFL have announced an increased frequency on route 5 as the route can’t cope with increasing demand while route 136 is being extended to Elephant and Castle via 343 route for same reason !

    And of course recent tube strike has shown how London can’t easily cope without Mayor Kens Strike Busting Artics and the total dogma of their removal from routes 505 and 521 . In fact a smaller network based on station links and heavily used corridors like Oxford Street could have been retained until trams could provide long term solution .

  214. AlisonW says:

    For a moment I considered making this comment ‘anon’ as it will probably (certainly?) be contentious, but never one to fail to put my foot in my mouth when needed …

    Melvyn says “London is now paying the price of electing Boris as mayor”, PoP has “the councillors who support it find themselves voted out of office and the mayoral candidates realise support for it could scupper their chance of being elected”, and WW noted “the denizens of Ealing mounted the barricades when they had the option”. I could go on, but isn’t the problem in finding a solution to London’s transport woes that we have (mostly but not entirely) a democracy of the “who shouts loudest gets heard”?

    I recall noting that when HS1 was a distant dream that it was noted there were no difficulties in building TGV lines in northern France, nor indeed most of the rest of it, because planning for such major beneficial-in-the-long-run projects was controlled by the state and (in a sense) decree.

    London is going to grind to a halt. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but damn soon and, if nothing happens because of all the NIMBYs, they will be amongst those shouting about ‘useless politicians and planners’.

    London is, imho, to big to be allowed to fail (cf. UK banks) and needs an intervention to _force_ some of these necessary works to take place. There is a business case and, generally, a positive BCR. The money is just numbers in a database somewhere (ask the banks – the money you spend on a credit card doesn’t exist before you spend it; you are ‘creating’ new money by the new debt!)

    Some people will suffer by having to move home sooner than they planned to, but a far greater number will gain. We can’t keep living on jam tomorrow.

  215. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – I really do not think there is any connection whatsoever between the NB4L and decisions to add a tiny bit of extra capacity to route 5 or the more substantive improvement to 136 to relieve the 343 through North Peckham. The latter change is because there was a political campaign over several years to get some relief on a chronically overcrowded corridor. Of more relevance is the question as to why it took so long and so much effort to do something substantial rather than repeatedly adding 1 extra peak bus and trying to make the timetable more robust.

    On the subject of the West London Tram it was Ken who cancelled it, not Boris. That is partly because the politics become poisonous but also because Ken secured Government agreement to fund Crossrail. Even Ken knew when he had won the bigger prize and when to stop poking a nasty pile of poisonous political fall out. I’m happy to dish out the criticism but we must get the facts right. Out of curiosity are you the same Melvyn who routinely posts on the Evening Standard website?

    @ Alison – much as I would like to become London Transport Dictator and impose my transport vision on London (please no cries Sir Peter Hendy!!) I do not favour a relaxation of planning rules to allow “improvement by diktat”. It is a rare project that has no downsides or impact on individuals and therefore people need to right to legally object. If our political process is broken, as you suggest, then that’s another question and a very big one for society more generally. The only people who fix that are the voters and the politicians but that’s out of scope for here.

    It is clear that some schemes can get through the planning process reasonably well if they are planned and managed competently. The real issue is to build a political consensus so that London can develop coherently – the scale of the task is so big that you need consensus to avoid damaging policy and funding changes. It’s why Crossrail is being built (after a ridiculous gestation period) and why tube upgrades are carrying on. Mayors and governments of differing hues have realised that those investments are essential or else they have a disaster on their own doorstep. They need to become convinced as do the voters that other schemes are equally essential. I think other countries manage to secure a political consensus on transport policy far more effectively than we do but even they have wild swings of policy (certain French cities have pro then anti tram Mayors in power leading to real changes in policy). Paris and Ile de France are a notable exception with their 30 year plan (the envy of a certain Sir Peter Hendy).

  216. JM says:


    You could run trams on these corridors as demand is justified but its likely opposition, particularly in heavy retail areas like Uxbridge Rd in the east or London Rd in Streatham with their narrow 2 lane roads make it an impossible sell. Is it not also more likely that any tram or rapid bus scheme will be gift wrapping to major housing development ie Barking Riverside or Greenwich Waterfront, even if the population density is much lower?

    In a finite world of investment, would councils like Haringey or Southwark promote trams over Crossrail 2 or Bakerloo Line extensions if the former either kicked the latter into the long grass or took it off the table altogether?

    On the Crossrail thing, trams in Marlow I agree wouldn’t work but a busway linking Maidenhead, Marlow and High Wycombe frequently could offer connectivity on a scale unprecedented to now offering local links as well as links to rail heads. I know rail to busway is very IEA for many but in the event of permanent ways being broken , if busways offer the best connectivity, then why not?

    I am pretty open minded on any solution though and will look at the Swiss videos you mention.

    @Greg Tingey

    I think the opposition to WLT was as prevalent in Shepherds Bush along the Uxbridge Rd. I personally think you could have high quality bus or tram dovetailed into a wider network for Hillingdon linking up Uxbridge and the Airport and linking up Brunel Uni, A40 p&R, Stockley Park and some of the larger housing developments around Southall. Certainly a rapid link from Uxbridge along the Uxbridge Rd to Southall station running via the large Gasworks development could offer a high quality service without running through politically sensitive areas. If there was a live link from Southall to brentford, Southall itself becomes a hub. Obviously it doesn’t solve problems in the east but good Crossrail frequency to the west could assist particularly if more services stopped at places like Hanwell.

    3) Do you not think LO could offer this 4/6 tph? Maybe even link into the DLR N/S routes.

    4) similar theme but could there not be demand shift to Bakerloo or LO with greater station access? Lots of DC platforms can be extended if there is a squeeze on the amt of services you can run.

    If you could de freight the Goblin, does it make the possibility of more stations on here plausible? Hornsey Rise, Stroud Green, St Anne’s, Tufnell Park, grove Green Road. Lots of places currently off the network and an opportunity to link with the Tube.

    Certainly Walworth and north Peckham and bits and bobs of the old Crystal Palace/Nunhead route are another possibility.

    It’s late, I’ll put the crayons away.

    @Alison W

    I agree but I think politically, HS2 related connections, Pennines andGreat Western upgrades might be more in favour than more London capacity enhancement. Even with Euston, I can see Northern Line split taking precedent over Crossrail 2 to increase capacity. The justification will be the city has managed and thrived despite overheating transport for a long time. Interested in how Adonis might view this if he became Mayor.

  217. Graham Feakins says:

    @JM – Please don’t rely on the painfully slow Manchester Metrolink as an example of how trams should negotiate sharp curves. I used to visit Salford Quays too and I was shocked at the dreary driving performance. The incorporation of transition curves into the design of the tramway track would have helped, to start with. See here for at least 3 mins. of curvy bits in Munich with a variety of tram lengths:

    The trick is to accelerate promptly after the tram has left the curve, unlike in Manchester. Even so, trams elsewhere tend to negotiate sharp curves faster than buses and thus the notice to “Hold tight – especially through curves”.

    @Melvyn – Remember that Croydon Tramlink is regarded by some as an isolated system. You have to start somewhere. The Oxford Street proposal only made sense when connected to the Cross River Tram, if only for the need for a depot.

    @Chris L – The 1960’s ‘skyscraper’ office stock in Croydon is gradually being demolished and replaced with new (even taller) offices, often incorporating residential accommodation.

  218. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @JM – taking Barking Riverside we have a low level of development there at present but the buses are apparently full and overflowing in the peaks. They do, of course, serve the older Thames View Estate which brings a lot of passengers. East London Transit has cost tens of millions for a negligible improvement AFAICT. It was originally going to be much more extensive with more frequent and higher capacity vehicles. All of that was descoped back to conventional double deckers with some fancy bus shelters and a bit of bus priority in Barking Town Centre which can’t (for some daft reason) be used by other bus routes. Goodness knows what TfL will have to do if another few thousand homes get built – a bus every 4 mins rather than every 6 on the core section? It’s just more of the same rather than any sort of step change in provision.

    Any thought of Greenwich Waterfront Transit has long gone despite buses in and out of North Greenwich being full to bursting point in the peaks. You could probably double the frequency of something like the 472 and it still wouldn’t cope. The 132 from Eltham is also hopelessly oversubscribed because it offers a very quick link into NOG. Where’s the thinking to deal with the vast scale of demand to North Greenwich? Crossrail may help come 2018/19 but it will be much more expensive than a bus then tube into town for Travelcard holders (2 extra zones needed for Crossrail).

  219. Mark Townend says:

    @Graham Feakins, 6 May 2014 at 23:19

    Years ago I was involved in reviewing one of the alternative proposals for Croydon Tramlink for the bidder’s financial backers. That involved the same design of articulated vehicle as shown in the Munich video and I was impressed with their very simple short fixed wheelbase four wheel design, incorporating quite large individual wheels hidden under wheel-boxes in the low floor interior. Infrastructure curves, although tight, had to be very carefully designed with precise transitions to suit the articulation method however, which is not as flexible as some of the more complex bogie based designs, as were adopted eventually in Croydon. The four wheel vehicle manufacturer had some history of derailments in early applications, before the full importance of the track geometry had been understood, and any neccessary changes to the networks made.

  220. Graham Feakins says:

    Thank you Mark. Once again we have evidence of the need for continuing specialised knowledge for tramway infrastructure (as opposed to heavy rail), especially combining track geometry for a street-running tramway, with vehicle design. I view good track geometry (including rail profile) as the essential component for smooth and easy-flowing running, as it will be the nub of the ‘permanent’ way, whilst vehicle designers need to accept that their wheels/axles/bogies must be designed to minimise derailments/wear/rough riding.

    I know that the sound quality on the 7-minute Munich video above is not perfect but there’s scarcely any wheel squeal (or buses in sight!), the points and curves are well-fashioned and laid and overall one can appreciate a most comfortable ride and environment, well above the standard of any London bus, as witness the brief on-board shots. You can certainly hear the comforting sound of an electric tram accelerating and confidently braking! Talking of which, to allay another fear, here is the briefest of examples of how trams in Düsseldorf are demonstrated to schoolchildren in an emergency stop (13 sec):

    I wonder whether TfL could arrange a similar demonstration with a London bus careering towards the back wall of one of their bus garages at such a speed…. For educational value, of course.

  221. Graham Feakins says:

    P.S. Sorry but useful to add that, unlike many London buses (and trolleybuses proposed), trams don’t encounter pot holes and speed humps either! Must surely warm the cockles of the hearts of Greg and all! I’ve just encountered new humps on Denmark Hill installed on what was only last year a really smooth, quality, relaid roadway and the 68’s & 468’s ‘don’t like it’. Do try to view the complete Munich scene.

  222. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Now look here Mr Feakins. It’s a bladdy disgrace you littering this group with vidoes of all this “Johnny Foreigner” nonsense of quiet, smooth trams stopping Mr Toot Toot driving his car where he wants and parking it willy nilly. What London needs is lots of cars and pollution and don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s a disgrace I tell you. 🙂 Just another reason to get rid of all that Common Market and Europe claptrap. Bells jangling in town centres from electric boxes on wheels – bah!

    PS – they do seem to give those Munich trams some welly.

  223. Long Branch Mike (Long Branch Mush) says:

    Those Munchen/Munich tram tracks are very well engineered. Toronto’s streetcars must take curves at much slower speeds. It’s been noted here that the specialized knowledge of building streetcar trackage was mostly lost through 50 years of downsizing the system. Though we are fortunate here to have one of the largest remaining streetcar fleets (Philadelphia and San Francisco also kept their streetcar/LRT systems). Several sections of Toronto’s streetcar track had to be ripped up after only 5-10 years due to bad design and/or components, which really hit their reputation. Plus the St Clair line conversion to ROW was marred by 1+ years of delay due to City of Toronto utility cockups and bad scheduling, which soured much of the populace on LRT.

    Torontonians used to love their quiet, fast, & clean streetcars, but now the War Against Streetcars has replaced the so-called War on the Car. There have been enough of us streetcar supporters to rally political support, such that 2 new LRT (streetcar on private right of way (ROW) ) lines have been built and another converted from mixed traffic to ROW. Plus plans and construction of 3 more conventional LRT lines along suburban arterial streets. One of these lines is currently have a tunnel bored in the narrower part of its route.

    It is very much the case of the PoP Principle: “possibly the best way forward with that is to do other extensions first and make a success of them so people on the xxx corridor want to have a tram system.”

    Toronto has started testing new Bombardier Flexity low floor multi-articulated streetcars on the system, with introduction on the Spadina 510 LRT route in August 2014.

    Now Torontonians are realizing that a (downtown) relief subway line is necessary, as the streetcars just crawl along in mixed traffic, condos are going up everywhere. But not yet on the public agenda, though it is being whispered, is making streetcar lanes streetcar only, at least at rush hours, to provide much more capacity and speed.

  224. straphan says:

    @Graham F: The second video is most certainly not from Duesseldorf, whose tramway is standard-gauge. It is from Freiburg im Breisgau.

    @Mark Townend et al: Constructing a tramway to fit a specific vehicle type is a very interesting concept… I would have thought the idea should be to procure a vehicle that fits the rails and not the other way round… In any case, no 100% low-floor design will ever achieve the ride quality of a bogie tram – the question really is why we need to have a 100% low-floor tram when the majority of passengers are more than capable of climbing a step or two…

    @PoP: I sense a hint of defeatism in your post. There are plenty of corridors in London that would work far better with a tram (even if with only a limited stretch of own right-of-way) than the hordes of buses at present. Some are easier to build, some less so – but surely political opposition is something that can be overcome? Your relevant point about backers of schemes being voted out is equally applicable to their opponents.

    @Alison: I think this is a relevant issue. Sadly, the difference between being able to raise an objection to an infrastructure scheme and being properly compensated for it, and waking up one day to find a chap in a bulldozer in your back garden making way for the next rail line or road is precisely what differentiates mature democracies such as the UK from places like Russia or China. And particularly since land and houses are the most significant assets people in this part of the world hold, NIMBYism is going to be all the stronger. Unfortunately, riding roughshod over these people isn’t going to solve anything – look at how hated HS2 is in parts of the country. We unfortunately cannot do much beyond sitting tight and waiting for transport to become so unbearably slow that people will actually sit up and take notice. And come to the conclusion that being able to get from A to B in a reasonable amount of time is actually worth those few parking spaces on the high street…

  225. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Call it defeatism if that’s how it appears to you. In my mind it is pragmatic realism based on knowledge gained by living for over twenty years in the one borough in London that actually got a tram system built in modern times.

    And I do know Tramlink does go into the London Borough of Bromley and elsewhere but Bromley were not exactly supportive with their “absolutely no street running anywhere regardless of circumstances” approach and Merton had little to lose given there is no street running but still were concerned about crossing the A217 at grade.

    So, looking at it another way, given that Croydon and Sutton are the only two boroughs I know of that have shown any serious interest and willingless to have street-running trams, I am a bit biased and would suggest that we start with those boroughs rather than needlessly encounter probable opposition elsewhere. It doesn’t matter how much better scheme X is than scheme Y. If scheme X doesn’t actually get to the point where it carries real live passengers whereas scheme Y does then scheme Y is a better scheme.

  226. timbeau says:

    “Constructing a tramway to fit a specific vehicle type is a very interesting concept”
    That’s how the first ones were designed of course, and thus why we have a standard gauge of 4′ 8.5″

    As has been remarked, those Munich trams don’t half shift. I can’t help thinking that if British trams went that fast they would be mowing down pedestrians like ninepins. At the risk of perpetuating national stereotypes, Germans do have less of a reputation for jaywalking than we do.

  227. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I rather feel people would adjust very quickly if we did have speedy trams. Are Brits disproportionately mown down by trams if they live or holiday in Germany? I doubt it. There isn’t a break down in the German traffic accident stats that shows trams as a cause of death in pedestrian fatalities.

    The speed of those trams does rather pose a question for London though. That’s that we are at risk of embedding even further the concept of a two speed transport network – rail is fast, bus can be dog slow. We also have the campaign about bus accidents which assumes that the bus is always at fault and therefore buses have to be slowed to less than walking pace so pedestrians, who are paying no attention when they step off a kerb, aren’t killed. I know that’s a rather cynical view, as there will be the rare instance where a bus driver drives carelessly or badly, but we do face a question about how fast or slow we want our bus services to run. If higher speeds can be achieved then it means quicker journeys and less resource to provide a given service level.

  228. Mark Townend says:

    @straphan, 7 May 2014 at 15:08

    “Constructing a tramway to fit a specific vehicle type is a very interesting concept… I would have thought the idea should be to procure a vehicle that fits the rails and not the other way round”

    I don’t think there was wholesale reconstruction anywhere. Instead careful attention was paid to transitions on some of the sharpest curves, which would remain fully compatible with the more flexible bogie trams as well. Perhaps a side effect of the designed transitions is higher speed for all vehicle types though curves adjusted in this manner.

    “. . . In any case, no 100% low-floor design will ever achieve the ride quality of a bogie tram”

    The ‘Bremen’ short 4-wheel fixed chassis series used in Munich features large individual wheels that are accommodated in wheel-boxes under the seats of the low floor saloon layout. I’ve been told these provide a very reasonable ride quality, no worse than many bogie trams with or without smaller wheels.

    Tiny wheels are more susceptible to small rail imperfections, but can be built into bogies to help achieve reasonable ride quality of the low floor vehicles using them. If a single small wheel at one end of a bogie drops into a small depression (that might be bridged by a larger wheel) whilst the other end remains level, the resultant lever movement transferred to the car body via the central pivot point attachment is halved compared to a wheel attached directly to the car body. With two stage suspension incorporated, bogies can provide very good ride quality even with the smallest wheels, although any concern over wheel or rail wear arising from the smaller wheel diameter at a given speed and load would remain.

  229. Ian J says:

    Fixed-wheel trams have a tendency to “hunt” (bang from side to side, like the DLR trains) on straight track, and can have issues with tight curves (there is a reason the railways abandoned fixed-wheel carriages for bogies). In any case there are now 100% low floor bogie trams available, like Bombardier’s Flexity 2, as used in Blackpool.

    I tend to agree with PoP that extensions to the existing system are more politically feasible than completely new systems, but I wouldn’t assume that all boroughs that don’t already have trams wouldn’t support them. Southwark and Lambeth Councils were very much in favour of the cross-river tram. I recall some indications that had Ken stayed in office he would have cut back the cross-river tram to Waterloo, which would have headed off the opposition that came from boroughs north of the river, notably Brian Coleman who has since met his own political Waterloo.

    @WW: Yes, whatever mode is chosen, speed does matter. Often maximum speed matters less than maintaining a consistent average speed – a steady 20mph with long stop spacing and traffic light priority is faster (and more comfortable) than racing up to the speed limit then sitting in a queue at each set of lights, or stopping at every lamp-post. A network of express buses is a perennial mayoral promise (including from the incumbent) – will it ever happen?

  230. Greg Tingey says:


    [Irrelevant political stuff that you have mentioned countless times deleted. PoP]
    Though I disagree with WW’s comment: Even Ken knew when he had won the bigger prize and when to stop poking a nasty pile of poisonous political fall out. Not so, otherwise… see above. [ btw – Apologies for the Godwin, there ]
    Agree re X-river linking up to Croydon … the Uxbridge Rd “system” was horribly badly-planned, which is a disgrace, even now.
    Unfortunately, a huge number of passengers hated the “bendies” for comfort reasons – coupled with the total failure of the road/traffic planners to accommodate them.

    It is clear that some schemes can get through the planning process reasonably well if they are planned and managed competently. Aye, & there’s the rub, because some idiot will want to cur corners, vested interests will be determined to have it “their” way (or not at all) & then you get contractors who screw up, or you get PPP/PfI imposed on you …. ARRRGH!
    It’s almost a “town planning 101” question isn’t it?
    ”Compare & contrast the difference between the Manchester/Nottingham/Birmingham (select one) tram systems & that in Edinburgh & highlight the reasons for their relative success & failure”.

    Responding ….
    (3) Possibly AIUI, the Tottie Hale – Stratford service is going 4 tph very soon?
    (4) Unlikely – it’s like the “Old North Road” & bus services like those running Hackney / Stoke Newington / Tottenham / Enfield / Waltham Cross The buses & the trains are already rammed …..
    “De-freight the Goblin” Forget it.
    Also, there is a case for Junction Rd station to re-open, but it is a “heavy” rail service – stations less than 750m apart is really a no-no, as for thither ideas of a stop at every 3rd lamp-post, please think realistic operation?

    Ian J
    A network of express buses is a perennial mayoral promise (including from the incumbent) – will it ever happen? It won’t because it can’t – ever.
    This is the precise problem we’ve been discussing.
    But, as mentioned above there are very powerful pro-bus / anti-tram vested interests, as well as ignorant prejudice amongst the population & politicians

  231. Castlebar (Real Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ Greg

    AGREE re Uxbridge Road tram system, yes, it was badly planned.

    But also, it was badly presented to be “sold to the sheeple”.

    Q1: “Would you like half of the limited remaining road space taken up with an electric tramway which will make life even more difficult for local motorists?”

    A: “No, of course not”

    or, Alternative Q1: “Would you like a dedicated express transport system for the Uxbridge Road, speeding your journeys and thus removing (other people’s) cars from the road?”

    A: “Of course I would!”

    But it was presented in ways so that only Type 1 questions got asked

    FREE WALES!! (With every four gallons)

  232. Rational Plan says:


    I disagree about the Uxbridge tram line. The problem with your version of events is that alternative to question one was never on the cards from the plans they had.

    Opposition to the tram grew as they began to publish the plans. As then the public could see which buildings were going to be demolished to make wider road junctions and which residential streets were going to be converted to new bypasses so other streets could be made car free for the trams.

    The designers came up with one plan to provide a new line that was as segregated as possible at a certain cost.

    But there were plenty of options they could have looked at instead. The easiest would have been to accept trams running in mixed traffic in narrow shopping streets and accept a slower service here, thereby reducing some demolitions and more importantly traffic diversions.

    If speed was so important then tram tunnels should have been looked at in the most congested sections.

    As most journeys along the Uxbridge road terminate at Ealing Broadway, did they really need all that narrow street running to Shepherds Bush?

    If I’d been in charge I’d have cut the scheme back to Ealing Broadway, and descoped some of the work in Southall. It would have got rid of a lot protesters and still left a viable scheme.

  233. Castlebar (Real Contra Crayonista) says:

    I agree

    It what that being offered that was rejected

    Other alternatives could have been offered. That is one of the points I was attempting to illustrate. And I agree that making Ealing Broadway the eastern terminus would possibly have been more workable, possibly have been more acceptable, and undoubtedly less expensive.

    Having got it running west from Ealing, I wouldn’t have been surprised if, in due course, there had been cries for an eastern extension in due course, certainly to Acton at least. It didn’t have to be built or opened “all at once”

  234. Rational Plan says:

    Well If I was doing it now, and cut it back even more. I’d run the line fro m Uxbridge to Southall Crossrail station via the Gasworks land, thereby avoiding all of Southall town centre.

    This could then form the backbone of a Western network with Spurs to Harrow and Feltham via Harlington and Hatton Cross with other options via Stockley Park etc. I’d eventually look at a second East West line along the A4, from at least the BA building all the Way to Chiswick.

  235. Mark Townend says:

    I think the current FLEXITY borrows a little back from the ‘Bremen’ series, with lightweight floating sections suspended between short wheelebase but fairly substantial end cab and pivot modules, each essentially a short four wheel car resiliently mounted on a FLEXX bogie, with reasonably large wheels (560 to 640 mm for the FLEXX 3000) in conventional axle sets, and traction motors, brakes and control equipment accommodated outside the wheels, under seat-boxes and a slightly raised side seating bay over the bogie area, yet retaining a low level central gangway throughout the vehicle like the Bremen, and ensuring good access for maintenance via side-skirt access hatches.

    The length of the 4 wheel car sections, particularly the cab module, has increased in later models (Blackpool [cab/linkspan/pivot] : 7190/6620/4610mm) . . .

    . . . compared to early FLEXITYs, in Strasbourg for example (2875/7550/2350mm) where the pivot and cab modules are barely longer than the bogies they contain:

  236. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I can’t see T Hale – Stratford going to 4 tph soon without any track enhancement works? What have you heard?

    I fear we must disagree about PPP and PFI. Some of us have written and managed such contracts. They just another form of contract and financing although they’re presented as a panacea. The issue for London has been the political imposition which forced a number of compromises which were never going to be wonderful. You can get excellent or awful contractual behaviours regardless of the form of contract. It is down to expectations and behaviours from the people involved at all levels. I fear the Edinburgh tram was one of the worst examples of a poor contract, wildly varying expectations and dreadful working relationships. I say that based on little direct knowledge but it’s how it “feels” to me and I’ve seen some strange contractual behaviours in my time.

    Organisations go through “phases” as to what form of contracting / procurement / project management they like. I see TfL is still going through yet more phases with its approach to management contractors, arms length or not relationships with contractors and the joys of NEC3. Even a project that people don’t question very much, like the ELL Extension, ended up with a big commercial settlement between TfL and the contractor for whatever went wrong on that project but was carefully never revealed. The paper for the settlement had to go the TfL Board which is how I know it existed but I don’t know the scope of the deal. You don’t go to the Board to settle a dispute worth tuppence! I await the inevitable claims and counter claims on all the big TfL schemes like Victoria and Crossrail although I doubt we’ll ever know the detail.

    I note you’re having another (un)subtle dig at people like me who want to see extra stations on the GOBLIN. You do need to accept that there is more than one way to do things. Boring people like me saw the old Tyneside loop converted from DMUs to nice shiny Metrocars with lots of extra stations and a vastly better service level on the system. It is perfectly possible to run national rail type services with different rolling stock with superior acceleration and braking capabilities which gives you the ability to add stations with an undue performance penalty. Obviously freight is a complication on the GOBLIN and the need to path that and keep it moving. Nonetheless it is simply not beyond the wit of rolling stock manufacturers to create lighter, faster high performance rolling stock that could revolutionise the way certain services run – if someone wanted them to run that way. I won’t bore people again with my own vision for routes like the Chingford line nor the City Metro (which is actually not dissimilar to what we have with parts of the Overground) scheme I invented 20 plus years ago but we do not need to stick with lumbering BR style EMUs just because we’ve always had lumbering BR style EMUs. I am not demanding you agree with me – just an acknowledgement that there’s more than one way to run a train service and without the repeated “pokes in the chest”.

  237. Greg Tingey says:

    The Chingford branch could probably do with a station @ “Chingford Hatch” – where the old level-crossing used to be …
    RE Goblin, we are never going to agree on that one – so I will refer you to the intra-station distances. The obvious gap is Junction Rd, which should have its station back, I think.

  238. straphan says:

    @timbeau: Point taken, although nowadays I think the idea is to fit the vehicles around specific requirements of the network not the other way round.

    Can I also remind everyone that the UK highway code is unique in that there are no penalties for crossing the road outside of authorised crossing points (zebras or traffic lights)? The behaviour of pedestrians in the UK is therefore nothing more but a response to the law of the land…

    @Mark Townend: The original ‘Bremen’ vehicles were designed by Hansa Waggonbau GmbH, Bremen, and the design was then based on complex connections between the bogies, the articulation, and the rest of the vehicle. The ‘offspring’ of that design was the vehicles built by Rathgeber for Munich and Wegmann for Bremen – both had good ride qualities over tight curves, but neither was particularly popular. The Czech company CKD Tatra prepared a similar design in 1975, with a view of these vehicles serving smaller and more twisty networks across Eastern Europe. As it turned out, the Tatra KT4 was – and is still – in service from Erfurt in the western portion of the former German Democratic Republic, through Tallinn in Estonia and Pyatigorsk in Russia to Chongjin in North Korea.

    The low-floor vehicles currently in use in Bremen, Munich, Berlin, and many other cities are offspring of this model – they were first developed by AEG and then constructed by ADTranz. Since the takeover of that company by Bombardier, the patent for the design is open source, and has been adopted by Siemens following the debacle with the Combino. The design has low unsprung mass, which reduces wear and tear of the track – but it does not equal the smoothness of the ride and still causes some issues through curves. Not as many, though, as designs similar to the Bombardier Flexity, which have wheels that hardly turn at all in relation to the rest of the segment, and where the segments with wheels are expected to support larger segments that ‘hang off’ them.

    @Rational Plan and WW: I think most of us do generally agree that trams do have a place in London’s transport network. The thing is, though, that they need to be different from other light rail schemes in the UK, which are essentially conversions of disused railway tracks with a bit of city centre running at one end. London doesn’t have loads of disused railway track lying about – and as the West London Tram scheme has shown, knocking down houses and kicking cars and all other vehicles out of high streets won’t really work either. Hence either we accept that trams will replace buses on a like-for-like basis and will need to run with other traffic with limited priority; or we accept that tram tunnels will need to be built (preferably without stations) through pinchpoints that need to be bypassed.

    An on-street West London tram along the Uxbridge Road with tunnels through Acton, Ealing and Southall town centres would – in my opinion – have been far more palatable, even with the disruption the tunnels would have caused.

  239. timbeau says:

    “different from other light rail schemes in the UK, which are essentially conversions of disused railway tracks with a bit of city centre running at one end”

    Only a very short part of Sheffield’s system uses a former heavy rail alignment, and I’m not sure Edinburgh uses any at all

    BTW, it looks like that system may get to Leith after all –

  240. Mark Townend says:

    @straphan, 9 May 2014 at 13:41

    “Since the takeover of (ADTranz sic) by Bombardier, the patent for the design is open source, and has been adopted by Siemens following the debacle with the Combino.”

    The latest ‘Avenios’ looks very similar in layout to the older Munich low floor units.

    I understand that unlike the original high floor Bremen artics, these more modern designs have no active mechanical control of the articulation at all. I expect there is however some torsional springyness designed in that tries to keep the vehicle straight and works in conjunction with the resilient bogie or wheel suspension to ‘twist the snake’ around a curve in an orderly manner.

    “The design has low unsprung mass, which reduces wear and tear of the track – but it does not equal the smoothness of the ride and still causes some issues through curves. Not as many, though, as designs similar to the Bombardier Flexity . . . “

    What struck me about the Flexity is that the cab module in particular has changed markedly in later models compared to the early examples. The cab and a door opening now protrude forward of the bogie, unlike at Strasbourg where the bogie is right at the front, under the cab. I suspect the intended effect is to better balance the vehicle, with the forward overhang acting as counterweight, cantilevering the weight of the articulated section attached at the other side of the bogie. Most importantly, this would likely have a positive effect on steering around curves compared to the earlier design. Although the end modules now look much more like the old Combino ones, the newer Flexity artic linkspan sections are shorter than typical Siemens examples.

    Anyway it appears that if a little attention is paid to designing transitions into the sharpest curves, a new or modified network could become suitable for all of these modern vehicles, including the ‘open source’ one, with the possible side effect of faster running of all designs along those better alignments.

  241. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ straphan
    9 May 2014 at 13:41

    A point discussed with Graham F on and off, is that if enough proportion of London’s roads is inconveniently narrow, why not then design a particular London narrow tram? Capacity can be substituted using length rather than width. How wide were London’s original trams? They did the ‘Heineken’ thing through places otherwise inaccessible – albeit of course that they were generally there ahead of motorised traffic volumes expanding.

  242. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – my own view would be one of pragmatism with regard to tram conversion. Clearly I would like there to be priority but I don’t advocate demolishing houses or other buildings unless it is completely unavoidable. I also think there is possibly a little trick to play when it comes to places like Southall. By all means put the tram through on the existing roads and then see how things pan out. I rather suspect the cars and vans will quite readily divert away from any “tram jams” or people will see the benefits trams bring and then ask for them to be given greater priority. The bigger challenge will be constructing stops that are accessible and on street running sections can ideally be shared with buses (assumes the trams are low floor). Trams are a flexible form of rail transport so it should be perfectly possible to thread them through London’s street pattern. It’s junction design that will be the bigger challenge where there are complex service patterns to be dealt with.

  243. Malcolm says:

    The difficulties which I see about a narrow London tram are:

    1. Non-standard -> higher cost.
    2. Narrower and longer means more metal per passenger -> also higher cost.
    3. To keep the dwell times down, it would probably need a pretty large number of doors (=higher cost).

  244. Fandroid says:

    There were plenty of street widenings carried out to allow London’s first generation trams through. Those involved building demolition. We just think of the replacement buildings as fine examples of Edwardian/late Victorian architecture. The difference then was that motor vehicles were in a tiny minority and trams easily beat omnibuses in terms of speed and comfort. (The latter is still true now, but few in the UK believe it!)

  245. Fandroid says:

    I was pleased to see a 3-door Citaro artic bus in Leicester yesterday, on a University sponsored route.

  246. Fandroid says:

    Getting back to one of the main drivers for a new type of bus, there was a gloriously hubristic statement in the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy of 2010 Clearing The Air clause 5.1.7 in which it states “Most areas of Greater London already meet the annual mean EU limit values for PM10 and all areas will meet it in 2011”.

    Well perhaps they did in 2011, but things have gone downhill since then. Yesterday, we had the almost laughable recommendation that pedestrians should walk on the inside of the pavement to reduce their exposure to traffic generated air pollution.

    This all creates a feeling that TfL’s efforts are only slightly better than token gestures. Fiddling with ‘new technologies’ when there are proven old ones around is quite simply condemning a lot of people to an early death.

  247. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – well the air pollution “initiatives” that have been done to date seem to have failed – green walls at Edgware Rd?! The really radical stuff that is needed is beyond the wit and political skill of the current regime in City Hall and TfL can only do what it’s told to do. I don’t hold particularly radical views about air quality but there I think there is a real lack of understanding of the issue (and possible solutions) amongst Londoners as a whole (I count myself in that group). Those with health conditions will understand but most won’t and there needs to be some real consensus building by the politicians to get a long term policy framework to improve matters. The alternative is that the scale of death becomes “noticeable” to the general population and then the politicians are forced to act coherently for fear of the reaction at the ballot box. The only area I’m aware of where there’s a big clash between demands for better connectivity and air quality concerns is River Crossings in East London with a lot of concern about the impact of new bridges / tunnels and the associated effect on traffic levels (and pollution) over a wide area. The irony, of course, is that a load of rail tunnels have been built in this part of town (with Crossrail to come) and are immensely busy but the road network is still overwhelmed. One wonders how dreadful conditions would be without the JLE and DLR cross Thames tunnels?

  248. Rational Plan says:

    Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me but I am a former army kid who grew up in a variety of small German towns on the edge of bigger ones in the late 70’s to Mid 80’s.

    I can remember old German trams that were high floor and some seemed to me be quite narrow, often consisting of just three seat wide. Their more modern replacements seemed chunkier to me and more roomy, what with their new fangled auto lowering steps to adjust between platforms and and street running sections, and other mod cons.

  249. Greg Tingey says:

    The alternative is that the scale of death becomes “noticeable” to the general population
    Like the smogs of 1952 & ’55 (The latter of which I well remember) do you mean?
    Even then, it took a courageous MP (Sir Gerald Nabarro) to propose the clean air acts & the shrieks & resistance from vested interests was immense.
    The “official” figures for the deaths in the smogs is much lower than the actual numbers, btw …. A year-on-year comparison for the same time-period gives a much better result.
    London losing 12 000 people in a week wasn’t funny.

    This time around – who knows?

  250. @Greg,

    I did not know that about Sir Gerald Nabarro who tends to be remembered for other things. Makes me think I shall have to see him in a different light. Hearing from reminiscences of various people of that generation there did seem to a perception at the time that dirty air was inevitable and there was nothing practical that could be done about it. I suppose it takes a non-conformist, believe-in-themself maverick like him to institute change sometimes.

  251. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – and how ironic that we’ve had 2 Mayors who fit the “maverick, non conformist, believe in themselves” description rather well and yet neither has made great strides in respect of improving air quality.

  252. Chris L says:

    Is there any reason why a street running tram won’t suffer from the same traffic delays as a bus?

    If you could get rid of the of the hold ups you don’t need trams – the buses would run faster and mean that better frequencies could be operated.

    Chicken and egg problem – car users won’t use public transport until it’s improved but……..

  253. Greg Tingey says:

    Chris L
    Because in most cases, where the trams run on-street they are in dedicated “bus lanes”
    i.e. they are sharing the road-space with buses, but not anything else.
    OR, cars can share the road-space with trams, but it is (usually) a one-way street with dedicated parking bays & no stopping, otherwise, AT ALL.
    Both of these can be seen in Croydon, actually & it works ok there, or seems to.
    You have forgotten the other two advantages of trams – the sheer number of people they swallow & completely non-polluting at point of use. [ 1 tram = 3 buses – ish ]

  254. Graham H says:

    @Chris L – trams have essentially two advantages over buses – they can shift many more people in a single vehicle which greatly improves stop dwell times (and therefore general journey times) and they follow a predictable path, which enables them to fit into street (and more importantly, off-street) environments where buses cannot go. * The Swiss experience is relevant in Bern, for example, it has been worthwhile replacing a route with buses every minute or so, with trams every 4-6 minutes. Although there is undoubtedly a frequency elasticity (usually under-estimated in my experience), the relationship is almost certainly a function rather than a linear one, that is to say, the law of diminishing returns eventually sets in.

    *Oh, and thirdly, a tram offers a vastly superior ride to a bus. Again, there is an volume elasticity to quality, and at least as between road and rail, greatly underestimated.

  255. Malcolm says:

    Chris L asks “Is there any reason why a street running tram won’t suffer from the same traffic delays as a bus?

    Yes. Because along with putting in the tram lines, suitable priority measures (traffic light phasing etc) would be supplied, to ensure that the tram gets priority.

    Of course the same priority measures could be supplied (at much less total cost) for buses. But in rampantly car-crazed societies (clue: they mostly speak English) this will not actually happen very much for buses.

    (Priority measures are not always adequate, even for trams. But they do tend to be better than the very feeble ones applied to buses).

    In a sense, tram lines are a very expensive mechanism for giving priority to public transport.

  256. timbeau says:

    ……also, people tend not to park “just for five minutes” on tramlines as much as they do with bus lanes.

  257. Malcolm says:

    True. My “just five minutes” parking in Zagreb a few years ago was actually in the middle of the road (as the trams were gutter running) while I went in to a hotel reception to enquire where I should park. No unfortunate consequences ensued. (And the parking answer turned out to be “on the pavement”).

  258. Long Branch Mike (Ultracapacitor) says:


    “In a sense, tram lines are a very expensive mechanism for giving priority to public transport.”

    The fact that tramlines are quite expensive to construct generally means that the city and transport authority really want to maximize their investment, and minimize their bad PR risk, by making the tramline as quick and efficient as possible.

    There is probably a word for this situation. Self-optimizing? Investment maximization?

  259. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Chris L – others have provided lots of good comments. For me the fundamental aspect is that people don’t park on tram routes because the tram always comes off better than a car or van. I was once told that no one parks on Amsterdam tram lines because the tram will simply nudge the vehicle out of the way. People don’t want to pick up the bill for the damage as it’s their fault as obstructing a tram route is, I think, an offence. We need that sort of logic in this country – 250 people on a tram has far, far more priority in the traffic hierarchy than 1 car.

    For me, and I’ve hinted at this before, one major advantage with trams and trolleybuses is that they have their own priority systems to get through junctions and there has to be an imposed level of order and co-ordination to make things work. Services are timed to get through junctions in the most effective way so you’ll get trams in both directions on a route making a turn through a junction at the same time. This maximises the capacity and means vehicles don’t stand in queues waiting their turn. They arrive at the right time to get through. Zurich had this cracked years ago with relatively simple computer systems – the capability of such systems has advanced hugely since then so should not present any issue for London.

    London is inherently chaotic and we could actually do with a dose of that European logic and discipline to make our surface public transport work more efficiently and to get the most out of the road network we have. We need to remember that the core aspects of the London bus network have lasted for 80-100 years so you are not going to make a mistake if you run a tram from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath or Hammersmith to Liverpool Street or Dulwich to Shepherds Bush. I think you can be assured of patronage.

  260. Greg Tingey says:

    Like THIS do you mean?

  261. Mike says:

    Re narrow trams, they already exist – Nottingham’s original fleet is 2.4 m wide rather than the standard 2.65 m (I think).

  262. Chris L says:

    Wasn’t being negative about trams but having worked for LT Buses when ideas of red routes where only buses were to be allowed in roads like Walworth Road were examined and ruled out, it has to be said that there are few routes where the roads are wide enough to split into tram and other traffic to give the priority.

    The Greenwich Waterfront Transit would have worked but is now lost to development.

    Even the proposed ‘new Embankment’ through Greenwich of several years ago can’t now happen because of housing and a liner terminal in the Creek Road area.

  263. Graham Feakins says:

    @Chris L – Ah, the LT bus Red Routes and Walworth Road – nails hitting on head etc. – the trouble was that small parts of Walworth Road, although accommodating a double track tramway in the centre of the road and room for vehicles to overtake kerbside, would never have accommodated buses doing the same thing, so the thought was to divert other traffic but there is nowhere directly in the vicinity to divert it to. Much of the route is OK, however (Elephant & Camberwell ends).

    The irony of all that today is that Walworth Road has many sections narrowed to widen the pavements, especially around East Street, so that all buses are squeezed into effectively a single lane in each direction, sharing with all other traffic! See e.g. but even worse since the views were taken:

    And this is a main road carrying some 11 bus routes(!) – 12, 35, 40, 42, 45, 68, 148, 171, 176, 468 & P5. Many of those can be directly related as tram replacement routes….

    So, just see what the new, ‘improved’ version has to offer in 2014. Where do they find these designer people?

  264. AlisonW says:

    ” the thought was to divert other traffic but there is nowhere directly in the vicinity to divert it to”

    This is the problem I’m seeing with Camden’s published desire to make Camden High Street trafficless (and specifically the stretch north of the tube station). Where do you send everything (without building new roads)

  265. Slugabed says:

    …and where (in Camden) could you build any new roads without destroying that which people come to visit?

  266. straphan says:

    @Graham Feakins: I understand the new and improved Walworth Road already claimed the life of a cyclist or two… But hey – if Network Rail et al keep claiming that Camberwell does not need its railway station reconstructed, then you will have to have 100+ buses per hour towards Elephant & Castle in the morning peak plus cyclists and other vehicles. All good fun.

    Regarding the topic of narrow trams: Most modern networks are built to a vehicle width of 2.65m, which is narrow enough to fit through most streets, but at the same time allows 2+2 seating to fit in comfortably, and (in Continental Europe) it is the minimum width that allows trams to be interoperable with the mainline railway network. Most legacy tram networks in Europe are, however, built to narrower standards. In Germany each city has its own permitted widths, ranging from 2.2m through 2.4m to 2.65m. All Polish tram networks were rebuilt to a standard 2.4m, whereas the Czechs went for 2.48m. Amsterdam and the Hague are both 2.4m wide, whereas Italian tram networks are generally 2.2m, and so is Vienna. So there certainly is a variety of widths around, and procuring off-the-shelf narrower vehicles should not pose any difficulty whatsoever.

    @Mark Townend: The Avenio is a continuation of the Combino Plus design. Its design allows for the first section to guide the rest into a curve by making the consecutive sections first swing in the other direction (independently from the bogies) when entering the curves. That helps with track wear, but – still – a proper bogie at the front is the best solution in my opinion.

    @WW: If you plan for trams to be stuck in traffic that will then destroy your business case completely, and make the lay observers instantly question the point of spending so much money for so little effect. You will end up with all the cost (and more if more trams need to be bought), but far fewer benefits. I was thinking of tunnels for trams for a different reason. You need to pay huge amounts of money to divert all the utilities regardless of whether you build a tram on the street or under the surface. If you need to pay a huge sum anyway, why not just pay a little extra and get more benefits for your business case (in terms of journey time) and less opposition from all the shopkeepers and car drivers (street layout returned to previous state following construction)? Yes, you will probably need to build a new underground station if you choose to tunnel under a town centre, but then again if you introduce ticket barriers to it (if it has to be staffed anyway you might as well – look at Woolwich Arsenal DLR) you get a reduction in faredodging. Plus even with small tunnel sections people will start thinking of trams less in terms of ‘overgrown buses on rails’, but more in terms of ‘almost like the tube’.

    In terms of designing stops, many places have ‘drive-over’ stops (the jargon name for these is ‘Viennese stops’ or Kaphaltestelle in German), where the roadway is elevated compared to the tram tracks. Cars normally drive over it, but must stop if a tram is serving the stop to allow people to safely walk from the pavement across to the tram. No reason why buses can’t use these as well. Here is an example from Germany:

  267. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Straphan, Graham Feakins et al,

    Camberwell and the Walworth Road are two problems that have no obvious solution that stands real scrutiny. The obvious thing to do is to extend the Bakerloo Line but further investigation suggests that, if one were to extend the Bakerloo Line at all, Camberwell may not produce the greatest benefit.

    Another obvious solution is to rebuild a station built on the site of the station closed in 1916. I don’t think the problem is lack of demand. It is more that the trains would slow other journeys down and be full anyway. One obvious solution is to provide a shuttle from a new bay at Herne Hill (so no conflict at the junction) to Blackfriars calling at Loughborough Junction, Camberwell, Walworth Road, Elephant & Castle and Blackfriars. This would potentially have the advantage of allowing other trains not to stop at Elephant & Castle which means that one day they could be 12-car instead of 8-car. The problem is that Blackfriars terminating platforms will be full up so no capacity there. I am convinced that not going ahead with the alternative plans for a six platform station there will be seen in retrospect as a big mistake.

    So basically we are stuck with roads. In reality there is a lot of traffic going along both the A3 and the A2 Old Kent Road)/A201 (New Kent Road) so Elephant & Castle road junction is swamped with traffic anyway and it probably does no harm, traffic wise, to narrow down the Walworth Road where there are lots of shops, not terribly attractive admittedly, used by lots of local people for essential shopping. Surely we should do what we can to try and improve their lives a bit rather than giving priority to road traffic especially bearing in mind that this is not a designated major trunk route?

    In the very long term Camberwell (and Peckham) could probably do with new tube/Crossrail X stations built on a new tube going to where people want to go and not awkwardly tacked onto an existing line nearby that happens to be there. Meanwhile the roads are the only option and it is very difficult indeed to think of any solution that even starts to form a semblance of a good workable solution for Camberwell and nearby Denmark Hill.

    By the way, it is probably not the thing the average London Connections reader experiences, but Camberwell is surprisingly busy at about 3 a.m. in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights and the night buses are frequent and well loaded.

  268. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    @ PoP

    One of the lessons I was taught nearly 50 years ago was “to look for the possible outcome”. Not regarding benefit, or to the improvement of people’s lives, but to whether the outcome would potentially alter council or parliamentary seats. For example, there is no point in throwing money at areas where there are solid Labour or Tory seats that will never change hands. Spend available money on the marginals and make them less marginal, and then it becomes “a better investment” for the decision makers.

    Acknowledging this simple truth has made me more cynical as I got older and to distrust all politicians more than I would distrust a snake-oil salesman. But I suspect that this philosophy might just explain why the Bakerloo was never extended beyond the Elephant. Walworth would always vote Labour, so why build an underground railway and haul in young City types to improve properties and turn your own voter base into a marginal one?

    What politicians say in public, what they mean to do, and what actually happens are three completely different things. Boris is a leading expert in this game.

  269. straphan says:

    @PoP: The main reasons why Camberwell rail station is not the decisionmakers’ favourite idea is that:

    (a) It would seriously screw up the timetable on the Wimbledon loop (extra unit required, Herne Hill would need re-timetabling). It would not cause too much of an issue for the Sevenoaks trains, though.

    (b) It is an inner city station within a deprived area – hence the received wisdom that ‘those people’ need buses and will only cause trouble if a station were to be built. Indeed, the gates at Peckham Rye remained open in the evenings for a good while after three or four instances of staff being threatened at knifepoint within a month of gates being installed.

    (c) It is claimed it would slow down journeys unnecessarily for existing passengers. Again – with speeds on the slow lines through there not being exactly lightning fast, I don’t think an extra stop in an all-stations train through there would cause too much of an uproar.

    Never mind the fact that the station is a bit of a way off from the actual centre of Camberwell…

    Still, people do want to get to work in Central London from there somehow. Narrowing down Walworth Road has not increased the ‘pleasantness’ of the area one bit, to my mind. All it has done is slowed down traffic from an already slow pace, leading to yet more fumes being emitted. It has also caused no end of grief for bus passengers and cyclists, who now find their commutes slower and/or more dangerous (was it one or two cyclist deaths since rebuilding?). Building a semi-segregated tram through there would definitely reduce road congestion simply because it would lead to fewer buses running through there.

  270. Greg Tingey says:

    straphan point (b)
    This very “argument” was spuriously used, to great, but temporary effect in trying to close London Fields & Cambridge Heath stations.
    Look at them now!
    ( Ignoring the laughable ORR figures, of course … )

  271. timbeau says:


    As an occasional user of the line through Camberwell, opening Camberwell and/or Walworth would almost certainly require a more frequent service than the line gets now in order to accommodate the extra bodies. And running more trains through Herne Hill in particular would certainly upset the timetable.

    One possibility might be to replace Loughborough Junction with a new station at Camberwell. This would have little effect on the Herne Hill line timetable, as it would simply replace one station with another, (which could also be served by Denmark Hill line trains) but it would even out the spacing in stations between HH and Blackfriars. I must admit I don’t know how many people use LghJt, or how many of them would be better off if the station were relocated to Camberwell

    Rather than run a service between HH and Blackfriars, a possibility might be to run a service from the low level “Cambria Lines” platform at Brixton to Blackfriars instead – that may even be what is needed to get the much-needed Overground station built on the high level “Atlantic” lines.

  272. straphan says:

    @timbeau: Trouble is I’m not sure how much room there will be for more bodies post-Thameslink Programme which will most likely NOT increase the number of trains through the area…

    Re-siting Loughborough Jn is one option. There will no doubt be opposition to do with making an already deprived area even more deprived – but then again those people don’t have far to walk to Brixton or Denmark Hill. A station on the Atlantic lines in that location wouldn’t hurt either – there is after all a load of pathing time inserted into the East London Line timetable…

  273. Malcolm says:

    I’m not familiar with Walworth Road. But it is certainly possible, sometimes, to narrow a carriageway and get faster traffic as a result. The key things seem to be to have the maximum possible number of lanes on the approach to traffic lights, to maximise the throughput there, and the minimum possible elsewhere .

    Of course this does not work too well if there are so many junctions that everywhere is on the approach to one…

  274. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – I fear we must disagree about street running vs tunnels. I am not sure tunnels are a viable solution for somewhere like Walworth Road or other locations in London. To me the point about trams is that they run on the surface and provide easy to use, door to door transport. Stuffing them into dingy subways requires more land take, more cost and construction and probably doesn’t give a decent travelling environment. You also end up with running costs for lifts, escalators, lighting, cleaning etc etc which are minimal for surface stops. I’d not want to wait in a German or Belgian style tram subway station under the Walworth Road.

    In terms of traffic then replacing buses by trams is vastly more efficient, trams are more pedestrian friendly (especially in shopping areas) and I can other motor traffic deciding it doesn’t want to “mix it” with trams so it will disperse. The point here (again!) is that removing capacity for road vehicles sees them disappear. The main issue to fix will be how businesses can maintain deliveries but with a consultative and planned approach between TfL, the local authorities and the businesses that sort of thing can be fixed.

    Is it not the case that we are now past the old German vogue of shoving trams under the ground and trying to get Metro systems on the cheap? I am not fully up to date with tram developments but aren’t new systems in Europe, the USA and Middle East now built on the surface with varying levels of segregration, priority and mixed use? If London was to adopt trams then it should stick with current best practice rather than go back to the past.

  275. timbeau says:

    “the old German vogue of shoving trams under the ground and trying to get Metro systems on the cheap”

    Brussels has, very slowly, been doing just this for the last fifty years. First shove the central sections of the tram lines under the road, then at a later date (typically twenty years later) join the tunnel sections up to form a full-blown Metro. The intermediate stage is even called a pre-Metro.

    Currently Lines 3, 4 and 7 are pre-Metros, the other four lines are Metros

  276. straphan says:

    @WW: German systems (plus Brussels) originally built tunnels because their tram systems were running out of capacity to handle their growing populations. Additionally, at a time of growing volumes of car traffic and car-friendly urban planning, trams were seen as a hindrance that could on the one hand be shoved underground with available space to be used for cars; and on the other hand could be shoved underground to increase capacity.

    Modern French tramway networks have indeed been built without extensive tunnelled sections (Rouen and Marseille being the notable exceptions). However, the two Austrian cities of Graz and Linz, as well as Strasbourg in France, Krakow in Poland and Rostock in Eastern Germany have recently chosen to build long tunnels underneath the main railway stations and parts of the city centres to improve journey times and access to the stations. Spanish tram networks (Alicante, Madrid, Parla) also built bits of the networks in tunnels, some of them in anticipation of housing being built on top. Karlsruhe, the birthplace of the tram-train, has decided that the system has become a victim of its own success and is digging a tram tunnel underneath the pedestrian zone in the city centre right now, whereas Stuttgart, which has one of the most extensive Stadtbahn networks in Germany, has decided to tunnel through the suburban town centres rather than try to weave tracks through them. Most new-build French networks route trams through already traffic-calmed side streets or existing pedestrianised high-streets, with segregated running on main streets outside the city centres – because there’s room. In London, many town centres do not have pedestrianised high-streets, whereas main streets are often too narrow for a segregated tram track.

    As for the travelling environment, I think it all depends on the upkeep of the stations and how much care and attention is given to them. In Germany, stations located under the ground do not need to be staffed (and Germans don’t really know what ticket barriers are), which has indeed led to some serious problems in the past. The tram station beneath Essen Hauptbahnhof, for example, has UV lighting throughout – which was installed so that heroin users would not be able to find their veins so easily. Brussels and the Rhein-Neckar area (Mannheim-Ludwigshafen) have some pretty manky stations as well – again, these are unstaffed and without barriers. In contrast, any underground tram station in London would be subject to Section 12 regulations, meaning it would have to be constantly staffed and would also probably be equipped with barriers. It would therefore be no different to an underground tube or DLR station – and I think you will agree with me that most of these now look clean and decent, regardless of whether they are in Brixton, Woolwich, Notting Hill or Kensington.

    I also take your point about trams providing door-to-door transport. However, I don’t think placing them under the surface through town centres would necessarily pose a serious issue. Especially if the entrances to these stations were planned out such, that these stations were easily accessible from all directions. Also, they would have to serve fewer stops than the buses they would be replacing – I have already said I think the density of bus stops is probably just as serious an influence on journey times as cyclists in bus lanes or road congestion.

    I understand you might see putting trams in tunnels as putting them ‘out of sight and out of mind’ or a sign of some sort of defeatism and giving way to the car. I think this approach would probably antagonise fewer people than shutting off whole sections of high streets for cars permanently (or demolishing groups of houses as was the case with the West London proposals), whilst at the same time reducing journey times and making trams appear as ‘almost like a tube’ rather than ‘slightly bigger and faster than a bus’. Yes the costs would be higher than on-street running, but you would need to spend a shedload on utility diversion either way, and with tunneling you at least get some additional benefits for the £s that you spend. And you keep the shopkeepers happy by letting them do their deliveries as they like and when they like.

  277. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – sorry but not convinced. It is quite clear that LU are really struggling to afford the operating costs of running the tube and staffing is under constant threat. I therefore cannot see London having staffed tram stations – after all much of the DLR is devoid of staff. Installing ticket gates (not barriers please – as the person who brought network wide gating to LU I *hate* this term) is pretty pointless for trams unless a lot of stations were underground. If you just stick one stop underground with others on the surface then people just alight where there aren’t gates.

    If we are not in favour of building road tunnels because of their impact on land take at interchanges and portals surely we have the same issues with stuffing trams underground? Perhaps on a smaller scale but they’re there. Are we really saying you can build tram portals and underground stations on the Walworth Road without an impact on businesses, housing and properties? I just can’t see it.

    Thanks for the update on other schemes which are building tunnels. Let’s hope they avoid some of the horrors of schemes done in the 70s and 80s. I am afraid I don’t see UV lighting as a positive aspect – it merely confirms my view that many of the Germanic tram tunnels are ghastly barren spaces which are borderline frightening to use at quieter times of the day / week. It’s almost as if they’ve had crime and vandalism designed *in* rather than out! You cite reduced journey times but surely what you mean is shorter in vehicle times. Access time to the vehicle is increased when you place trams in tunnels so rather than there being a virtually zero vehicle access time (between stop and vehicle) you increase it because people have to find an entrance and then find their way to a ticket hall and then platforms. For the sake of argument let’s assume wait time is unchanged between street or surface routes so you get to the point of running speeds in tunnels needing to be sufficiently quick to outweigh the street to platform access time.

  278. James Bunting says:

    The stations that you describe for trams seem to be at a much deeper level than my experience with many stations elsewhere in the world. If the stations (and possibly running tunnels as well) are placed immediately underneath where they would have been at street level. Are such stations obliged to have gates and ticket halls? Surely they should operate on the same basis as the current surface trams, in fact very much like they did at Holborn in the Kingsway Subway until 1952, whilst obviously taking account of disability legislation. The angle of descent and ascent into and out of the tunnels could be much greater than for road. Being electric the absence of fumes would mean much less engineering to provide ventilation.

  279. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ James Bunting – there is no obligation to install ticket gates. It is an operator choice and I simply don’t see it being done for trams. The DLR is only gated where it shares a station complex which is gated by someone else (e.g. LU or South Eastern). The problem here is that we probably all have a different mental image in our heads as to what we are thinking about. London has no standards for what a tram subway would be like or what the minimum requirements would be. We have a problem in that if the stations are shallow then they are likely to interfere with utilities. To avoid all those cost issues you then have to bury them deeper which means more land take for portals, ramps and the stations are more complex and more costly to construct and operate. I still think surface operation is cheaper and is likely to have the greatest road capacity transfer effect. I may well be in a minority of one in terms of my views but that’s not a first!

  280. Fandroid says:

    I sympathise with WW’s view of tram tunnels. When I first experienced the Cologne ones I thought they were awful in comparison with central London Tube stations. I’ve been back many times since and have got used to them now. They have two main categories of tunnel routes. One is the Ring which allows the traffic to roar freely around the city above the buried trams. The others cross the city centre which has streets as crowded and narrow as London. The Ring was a mistake IMHO. Better to shove the noisy smelly traffic down below and keep the trams up above with a couple of vehicle lanes for local access. The other routes provide fast Metro style services in the city centre where street trams would have struggled. So half good half bad. I have got used to the underground stations, as they are always busy, and it’s partly an unfamiliarity with the concrete box style construction that makes them uncomfortable places on a first visit. Cologne is a great place, but it’s just about impossible to travel through the vast historic city within the old walls by surface public transport. The trams are mostly underground and the buses are generally kept outside. Walking is the thing!

    I like the Stuttgart approach. The tunnels allow fast long high capacity ‘trains’ to get through the city. The suburban tunnels are just common sense solutions. There is one that was built on an extremely steep slope just to avoid the hairpin bends that the street above contorts itself through. The whole concept is of the Stadtbahn, not trams, nor Metros but a very effective compromise.

  281. Greg Tingey says:

    It is quite clear that LU are really struggling to afford the operating costs of running the tube and staffing is under constant threat. So, how then are Paris, Berlin, Brussel, etc ad nauseam … coping then?
    THEY must have the same staffing & operational costs – what makes London exceptional in this respect – except politics?
    not barriers please Why not they ARE “barriers” to free flow & reasonable movement – they are replacements for the old “Ticket Barriers” after all?
    Semantics FAIL – dreadfully senstive about it too!
    However agree re U-G tram tunnels – even the relatively “friendly” ones in Hannover could be intimidating, to say the least.

    I miss the surface trams in Köln – there were no U-G trams when I first visited in 1965 -= they terminated outside the DOM – how things change!

  282. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – my comment was about the financial situation which is forcing us ever closer to the tube having to generate sufficient revenue to completely cover operating costs plus generate an ever increasing surplus to cover more and more investment spend. If you don’t believe me then please work your way through the last few Budgets and Business Plans. AFAIK the cities you cite do not in any way have to generate revenue on the same scale as London because they have both revenue and investment subsidy. Further they have long operated on a basis of very low or no staff presence on their systems and therefore they quite simply do NOT have the same cost base. I dare say some of them also have a more rational approach to engineering resources and maintenance as a result of longer term, stable investment although more modern and reliable equipment to be used thus reducing costs and increasing efficiency. LU is only just getting to that situation as lines are upgraded and asset health backlogs are removed.

    Londoners have different expectations about staff presence on the urban transport system – especially the Tube. There are cultural differences in play here which mean the transport organisations have different customer expectations to deal with.

    TfL is extremely fortunate that London is so big economically that it bucked much, but not all, of the economic downturn plus there are demographic differences which mean people *do* fork out for the relatively expensive tube and rail fares to reach the central area. If London was not as strong a commercial centre then TfL would be in a far worse situation as its revenue over recent years would almost certainly have continued at much lower levels. The same applies to the TOCs although their revenue has been more affected by economic factors than TfL.

    Well Greg I was the boring old professional who submitted several rounds of investment papers, subsequently approved, to fund more ticket gate installations on LU and then network wide gating. I also persuaded the new owners of LTS Rail that gates might work on their railway and brokered the deal to put gates in at Barking Station. So quite clearly I know nothing about what they are there for or what they should be called. LU and LT went to great lengths to get the public terminology and presentation of the ticketing system correct and to dispel myths and nonsense about gates when they were brought into service. I just think it is immensely sloppy and misleading for the rail industry to call ticket gates “barriers”. Barriers are things which are fixed which prevent through movement to everyone. Quite clearly a ticket gate does not do that if you have a valid authority to travel or reach the platform. In conclusion there is no failure of semantics as far as I am concerned.

  283. Malcolm says:

    WW: I for one am persuaded by your arguments that “gates” is a better name than “barriers”. But in the end, they will be called what the community decides, which may not be the same as what the experts, or the people in charge (not always the same) recommend.

    Doubtless Mrs Thatcher, and her officials, believed in the name “Community Charge”. And that name was written into law. But the name “Poll Tax” won out.

    Not that ticket gates have any other similarity with the poll tax. In my opinion, they are a regrettable necessity. If only most travellers were honest! But sadly, there is ample evidence that they are not.

  284. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – you are right to beware Newspeak, especially when promoted by the marketing men. Try this from Virgin Trains:

    Guest (sorry, Passenger): “I’d like to share my travel vision with you.”
    Solutions Consultant (sc booking clerk): “We have a range of travel solutions individually tailored to your needs that will help deliver your vision.”

    [Translation: “Day return to Bognor, please”. “Certainly, guv”.]

  285. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Walthamstow Writer,

    Just be grateful that one of the names used at the time has fallen into disuse namely the Rottweiler Gates. When they were first introduced the pneumatic version of the gate was very powerful and justified its epithet.

  286. Greg Tingey says:

    I don’t doubt your remarks re money – it’s just that the other cities I mention obviously have different “models” for what constitutes “profit/loss/legitimate operating expenses” OK?
    Barriers need not be permanent – think of level-crossing gates/barriers, f’rinstance.
    Also in a barrier line, at least 50% of the space is occupied by the physical barriers of the posts themselves, halving the space which people could go through.
    Which slows everybody down – it’s ahem, “a barrier to progression”
    DLR manage, mostly without barriers, but you must valdiate/bleep you ticket/Oyster/pass
    Which also makes for freer flows

    If only most travellers were honest! But sadly, there is ample evidence that they are not.
    Ticket-grippers whom I’ve spoken to say that about 1.5% of tickets are “wrong” for some reason & about half of those are deliberately fraudulent.
    SO: those 98.5% to 99.25% do not constitute a majority, do they?

    Wasn’t there a famous “Bristow” cartoon, with the little man trapped in such a set of gates? I can’t find a web-copy right now, more’s the pity

  287. straphan says:

    @WW: Sorry to disagree on terminology, but these contraptions are barriers that (a) slow legitimate travellers down; (b) keep illegitimate (i.e. ticketless) travellers out; (c) prevent legitimate travellers from taking the shortest safe route through the station (given you have to walk around to an appropriate entry/exit barrier to enter/leave). Whilst I more-or-less understand the rationale behind them, I consider them a necessary evil – particularly at long-distance stations where you expect the conductors to just do their jobs and check tickets on board, rather than making me fumble for a piece of card in my wallet while I hold my morning coffee in the other hand. So sorry – we will have to agree to disagree on what these things should be called. (Incidentally, most rail staff, when making announcements about the need to keep your tickets until you exit the station, also use the ‘b’-word!)

    I also find it rather funny that you wrote the business case for putting barriers up on the whole LU network yet you think putting them up in an underground tram station is a no-no. One of the reasons Brits find German stations daunting is that they are unstaffed and do not have barriers – hence allowing ‘unwanted elements’ to roam freely. Another reason is that whilst the German federal government is more than happy to heavily subsidise construction of tram infrastructure that is segregated from road traffic, they do not provide a penny for its upkeep – leaving post-industrial cities in the Rhein-Ruhr and Rhein-Neckar areas who are already struggling for cash in general to fend for themselves when it comes to coughing up for the costs of renewals. Outside these places, tunnelled trams in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Cologne or Hannover provide a decent, clean and safe environment for travel. So I think it’s horses for courses – a tram tunnel under – say – Wimbledon would not need barriers at stations; a tunnel under Croydon or Camberwell probably would.

    I also disagree with you as to what trams are for. They are not there as a tool to take road surface capacity away from those evil cars, which is what I think you are suggesting. Trams – like most other forms of public transport – are there to get as many people from A to B as fast as possible in a safe manner. You can argue about access times to underground tram stations etc., but I don’t think making trams vie for space with cars, delivery vans and cyclists along the Walworth or Uxbridge Roads whilst encouraging rat-running on parallel side streets is going to be a solution that is more palatable to politicians and locals than digging up a big hole for a year or two and then covering it up. Especially since it would be bloody difficult to design a tram alignment through a high street that would pick passengers up from the kerb, thus truly reducing stop access times to zero…

    Bear in mind that the tunnelled solution is something for busy streets that already carry too many vehicles of different types than what they were designed for. If specific alignments in town centres can be found which allow for trams to use pedestrianised shopping streets, then great- let’s do that. Sadly, I think you will find that will be impossible in most town centres without having some serious fun with the wrecking ball first…

    By suggesting tunnels I admit I also see the light somewhat in terms of what PoP said about making schemes deliverable. As we saw, getting rid of most car traffic on the Uxbridge Road corridor was undeliverable. I doubt trying to do the same in Camberwell will get you much further…

  288. Malcolm says:

    Greg: I was probably wrong about the ample evidence. It is just my, somewhat cynical belief really. But your figure from ticket inspectors, which I find quite plausible, does not prove much, in my view.

    (a) Many fraudulent travellers can spot inspectors a mile off, and wouldn’t get anywhere near to having their ticket checked.

    (b) Even if 98.whatever% of travellers have the correct ticket to pass thru the hands of an inspector, that doesn’t mean that they are honest. Doubtless some are, but others may just find the risk of getting caught/fined unacceptable, but would not buy a ticket if they felt they could get away with it.

    If drivers were basically honest, there would be no need for speed cameras.

  289. Ian J says:

    @Malcolm, Greg: There’s an interesting academic study here of the original installation of ticket gates on the Underground in the 80s. It found that the level of fare evasion found by ticket inspectors reduced to a third of its previous level (from 6ish per cent to 2ish per cent) when barriers were installed in Zone 1 – but that also when barriers were installed at two specific stations, revenue increased by even more – 10 per cent or so – suggesting that the ticket inspectors were missing plenty of fare evaders. I believe there were big increases in revenue more recently when the Overground put gates in, too.

    It would be interesting to compare the passenger loading data now available from the automatic weighing devices fitted to some trains with ticket sales data on the same routes.

  290. @Ian J,

    Apart from the Rottweiler mention, I notice that in the report it mentions individual accountability of booking office clerks being a benefit of UTS. I had totally forgotten about that. It seems incredible that prior to then the “balance” (if only it did) in the ticket office was only done at office level so you could never identify any irregularities, such as missing money, down to an individual. Missing money could either be down to theft or fraud or simply incompetence or incorrect procedure but without being able to identify the individual it would have been difficult to rectify.

  291. Long Branch Mike (Long Barrier Manipulation) says:

    UTS is the Underground Ticketing System, an integrated ticket issuing and collection system developed by Westinghouse-Cubic together with LUL and first introduced in 1987.

  292. Malcolm says:

    IanJ says “It would be interesting to compare the passenger loading data now available from the automatic weighing devices fitted to some trains with ticket sales data on the same routes.

    It might. But not in London, on account of zonal fares and travelcards.

    You could perhaps compare weighing data with number of people passing thru the gates (which is not the same thing at all). But all that would show you is how many people have found ways to defeat the gates – probably very few and anyway better detected by carefully watching. In fact it would still be very difficult to reconcile, because passengers often have a choice of route.

  293. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg and Straphan – I think you both need to jump into the Tardis and go back to the 1970s and 80s and see how LU used to do ticket checking. It involved two way flows trying to squeeze past a demoralised member of staff in a box trying to visually inspect tickets *and* deal with any irregularities they detected. How anyone can argue that today’s controlled method of operation, given the vast flows now handled, is somehow worse than what we had before I do not know. It should also be remembered that whatever limited gates existed prior to UTS had largely fallen out of use due to the limited numbers of yellow oxide tickets that were produced from ticket offices / machines.

    On the subject of main line gating then I do not and never have advocated gating of Inter City type services. In those cases I do think they are pretty pointless but we know, via the letters pages of Modern Railways and the writings of my old friend from BR (Richard Malins), that it is the DfT who require these installations despite the level of ticket inspection on train on those sorts of services being perfectly adequate. I do think there are areas with intensive, urban style services where ticket gates, if managed properly, would deliver revenue benefits for TOCs which is what I said to Prism Rail many years ago. Unfortunately far too many TOCs see gates as a peak hours panacea only and don’t worry about the rest of the time. This is a lesson that it took LU a few years to learn but now there is much more management and oversight of gate operation to ensure they remain powered up when services are running. This is how you get the maximum payback from your investment. You won’t get it by spending a lot of money and having them in service for 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    I do not advocate gates for trams because you would not and cannot put gates at every stop on a tram line. This means there would be “holes”, probably within walking distance of wherever was gated, rendering the deployment of gates pointless. LU did best when it gated defined areas or stretches of line – initially Zone 1, then Stockwell and Brixton and then busier stops at key centres. Infill schemes followed until we gated the network (with a few exceptions where the business case did not stack up). I would also point out that today’s scale of revenue loss is not relevant to decisions that were taken in the 1980s and 1990s about gating. Today’s scale of revenue loss is the result of decades of work to install gates, change the range of ticket products and move people on to smart tickets that reduce certain forms of fraud. It’s not a perfect situation and much remains to be done and we are about to enter a new era where new frauds and issues may well emerge. We shall see in due course.

    @ Straphan – I fear we must disagree. You clearly come with a strong belief in the european way of running Metro systems with more open revenue protection techniques. I come from a different experience in respect of LU which, to be fair, is not the same as its compatriot Metros in Europe (Paris being closest to London). I really do not think that the Tube could work with a fully open, gateless form of operation and certainly not with smart ticketing requiring entry and exit validation.

    I also think you are being somewhat unfair about my view about trams. I do not view them simply as a way of reallocating road space. I advocate them as I think they are the best way of vastly improving the efficacy of surface transport on many very busy corridors. A side effect, not the sole purpose, of their introduction would be to reallocate road space which would deter other forms of transport. There’s plenty of evidence to show this is what happens elsewhere but you seem not to agree with me about that. I think we probably need to “knock it on the head” as neither of us are going to shift our opinions and a continued “battle” is not what these comments on this blog are really about.

    On a positive note I have managed to get hold of TfL’s response to the London Assembly Transport Committee’s Bus Report. I am reading through it so can make some progress on finishing part 3 of my previous articles about the Bus Network.

  294. timbeau says:

    Revenue going up is one measure of the effectiveness of gating, or any other enforcement of revenue protection. Reduced ridership (actual numbers observed on trains) is another. These are the people who will only travel if they can do so for free, (plus the handful who have sworn never to use a train again after some overbearing ticket inspector has refused to show humanity or common sense).
    The first is of course revenue-neutral: they were never going to pay anyway. The second is a loss of revenue.

  295. Malcolm says:

    Technically it may be correct to say that keeping Mr Won’tPay off trains is “revenue-neutral”. But that is a bit misleading, because it can certainly have a big effect on the bottom line. Spending decisions (extra trains, HS2 etc) are made on the basis of actual overcrowding, not ticket-sales-overcrowding. So excluding Mr Won’tPay could be saving us (tax- and fare-payers) quite a lot.

    At crowded times, it’s not even revenue-neutral, because his seat (or standing space) could be filled with a paying passenger.

  296. timbeau says:

    I would be very surprised if there are enough Mr Won’t Pays to make a significant dent in loadings, still less that the savings in energy costs or extra rolling stock would outweigh the cost of keeping them out.

    There is, it seems, far more emphasis on making sure we’ve paid for the service than making sure we get the service we’ve paid for – the congestion at Wimbledon when they have a crackdown frequently causes missed connections.

  297. Ian J says:

    @WW: Not just the demoralised member of staff checking tickets in the 1970s and 1980s, but demoralised staff who, with the knowledge of their managers, tended to knock off early and go home while still being paid – with unfortunate consequences shown up by the King’s Cross fire.

    @Malcolm: Yes, fair point on the zonal tickets. On the other hand, if you put in gates and revenue goes up while the loadings remain the same, that is at least telling you something.

    The experience of New York in the 1990s suggested that the other benefit of removing Mr Won’t Pay from the system is that he (or she!) tends also to be the kind of person committing vandalism and other crimes too. An argument for, as WW and TfL advocate, keeping gates staffed even in the evenings when the strict revenue take might not seem worth it.

  298. Graham Feakins says:

    @PoP – 15 May 13:58 – “It seems incredible that prior to then the “balance” (if only it did) in the ticket office was only done at office level so you could never identify any irregularities, such as missing money, down to an individual.”

    Back in the ’70’s, a pub pal worked at the LT ticket office windows at Liverpool Street which at that time witnessed a significant number of ‘fresh’ passengers off the Harwich Cross-Channel boat trains, who (almost unbelievably today?) proffered Continental currency such as Belgian Francs and German Marks for the tube fare. Being a kindly soul, he acted as LT’s currency exchange bureau and issued the tickets and gave change in sterling at a rate that used to pay for his daughter’s summer holidays abroad!! He progressed to station master at a more central, Central Line station where he found other ways…. but he did miss Liverpool Street.

    I used to be astonished at these tales but nobody else seemed to bat an eyelid when he talked about them in the pub with other LT folk.

  299. Graham Feakins says:

    Returning to tram subways for a moment, traditional advice for new-build over here, to emphasise the relative inexpensive tramway construction as compared with metro etc., was to run on the surface wherever possible and to provide short subway sections just below the surface, without stations, under major traffic intersections such as at roundabouts. That ought to be all that is needed.

    This indeed was planned for Croydon Tramlink at the top of Shirley Hills where busy roads Gravel Hill, Upper Coombe Lane and Shirley Hills Road meet at a roundabout. However, with the budget being pared even further to the bone, the proposal for a shallow tram subway under the roundabout intersection was abandoned and a tad of extra effort in designing the tramway to cross at grade resulted in a surprisingly efficient and comparatively non-disruptive arrangement for both tramway and road traffic there.

    Mention is made above of the German experience, e.g. in Cologne but it must be remembered that German regional politics come deeply into play between the “Lände” (“mine is bigger than yours” syndrome) and this has played a significant part in how some tramway systems have developed, mostly as pretend underground railways to a greater or lesser extent. One must then bear in mind that many were constructed when construction materials were still short, especially if required for decoration, so the drab, bare concrete prevails. Mind you, we have our own but newer version of that at Westminster below the District Line but these days it’s admired as an architectural beauty. Remember how drab the Victoria Line stations were when first opened, with trains to match? Almost all cold grey, emphasised by the fluorescent lighting, including inside the trains.

  300. Graham Feakins says:

    @straphan 15 May 10:36 – “…. what trams are for. They are not there as a tool to take road surface capacity away from those evil cars…”

    But they are there to persuade car drivers and any passengers to switch to trams when first introduced, thus automatically releasing road space. This is, of course, in contrast to any established tram system but even then a new tram model (comfort, speed, capacity and so on as compared with a 40-year old version) can produce remarkable results in attracting folk out of their cars. For Croydon Tramlink, I don’t have in front of me the actual figures (can easily find them if anyone wants) but something of the order of one third of passengers on the trams were former car drivers making parallel journeys before the trams started.

    Roughly another third used to use the buses and the remainder were ‘new passengers’, i.e. newly-generated traffic.

    As I’m sure you will agree, a new bus route (or bus) doesn’t have quite the same ‘cachet’.

  301. straphan says:

    @WW: Indeed, we will have to agree to disagree. I’m open-minded about installing ticket barriers at underground tram stops (they obviously wouldn’t make sense at on-street stops), but I do think they would make ‘some’ difference. I certainly don’t think too many people choose Dundonald Road over Wimbledon just because Wimbledon is the only Tramlink stop that is actually gated.

    I think the difference between having the station gated or not is the presence of ‘undesireables’ at the actual station. Since so many of you claim German underground tram stops make you feel unsafe and threatened, then gating them should – along with a staff presence – counter this perceived threat…

    Thanks for clarifying your views on trams – I think mine are similar, your previous post seemed to come across differently.

    @Graham Feakins: I fully agree that trams are far better at persuading car drivers to leave their cars at home for a variety of reasons (their visibility being one of them). If only the Treasury could get it rather than blindly believing that competition between bus operators yields better results (which it clearly doesn’t…).

    Just like a bus, the tram is a flexible concept that can be many things: the same vehicle can run at 15mph through a pedestrianised street or 60mph over a former railway. Or even an active railway. Or in a tunnel like a metro. You are quite right to point out that in the UK the onus has been on lowering construction costs, and therefore sticking to a mix of former railways and pedestrianised streets, with little new provision for grade separation. In Germany and elsewhere, where trams have formed the backbone of the transport network in many cities, the onus has been on making trams cope with ever increasing demand, while also not wishing to fork out the cash on a full-blown metro system where it is not needed.

    The question to me is therefore ‘what role should trams play in London in the future’? The Wimbledon to Croydon and South Croydon to Elmers End lines were probably the longest disused railway alignments in Greater London – there simply aren’t any other ones left to use up. At the same time, there are plenty of main roads which are located away from rail rapid transit, where hordes of buses struggle to serve flows adequately. Previous attempts at fixing one such problem in West London faltered when set against the opposition of shopkeepers, drivers, misinformed local councillors and those concerned about the scale of demolition and – in places – almost fully closing off a major London thoroughfare for traffic.

    I fully accept that trams should be afforded as much priority as possible for as little money as possible, and where that priority is afforded at the cost to road space for cars, then tough. But I don’t think London (or parts of London) would function properly if some of its main roads are closed off to traffic. Equally, trams won’t be much of an improvement if they are made to sit in traffic jams. The Croydon scheme managed to avoid street running in mixed traffic on busy streets – pretty much any other sensible tram scheme you propose in London will not have this luxury – and dive-unders under junctions or roundabouts won’t really cut the mustard. Continuing running hordes of slow and overcrowded (in the peak at least) double-decker buses (hybrid, battery- or wire-powered or whatever) along these roads won’t really cope with the projected population growth either.

  302. Pedantic of Purley says:


    The Wimbledon to Croydon and South Croydon to Elmers End lines were probably the longest disused railway alignments in Greater London – there simply aren’t any other ones left to use up.

    I’ll mention it before anyone else does. Wimbledon to Croydon was never disused. It was specficially closed to enable Tramlink to be built (similar to Canning Town – Stratford and the DLR). The service was unbroken. It was covered by very-little-used rail replacement buses during the construction period.

    Similarly Woodside to Elmers End was never disused although it did not have a specific replacement bus service allocated to it. It was also closed to allow Tramlink to go ahead. Actually Addiscombe-Elmers End was closed but the Addiscombe in question is not the current day Addiscombe tram stop which is sited just north of the former Bingham Road station. The name Addiscombe is more geographically correct nowadays for the tram stop than it was for the station which was located closer to Croydon but not close enough to be useful.

  303. straphan says:

    @PoP: Oops, should have read up on this really before writing… Let’s swap ‘disused’ for ‘underused’ in my tirade then…

    The argument still stands though – there are very few places in Greater London where heavy rail alignments are either disused or used sub-optimally and could carry much greater numbers of passengers if converted to something else (tram/bus/road/cycle path – delete as appropriate).

  304. Malcolm says:

    So your argument, Straphan, is that although Tramlink has been a spectacular success, this is all down to particular local circumstances, not repeated anywhere else in Greater London, and any attempt to produce Tramlink-2 somewhere else is doomed to failure?

    I can’t prove you wrong in this, but it’s quite depressing if you are right.

  305. Chris L says:

    How about a real challenge?

    Convert the 185 bus back to trams.

  306. straphan says:

    @Malcolm: Tramlink has been a spectacular success, and if you look around the UK (or even at the DLR or the eastern end of the Central Line!) pretty much all light rail schemes (with the exception of Sheffield and Edinburgh) are largely built as a combination of on-street running in the city centre to better penetrate it; and of railway alignments which were either disused or weren’t functioning very well as heavy rail and converted. And all have been pretty successful.

    The trouble is: can you think of other such alignments in London? We’ve discussed the Greenford branch, the Bromley North branch and Romford to Upminster at length here already, but are these feasible candidates for conversion? You might consider the Brentford branch or putting rails back onto the Parkland Walk (Finsbury Park to Highgate and Muswell Hill) – but bring a stab vest to the public consultation for the latter. You could maybe also stick a 15-minute frequency tram-train onto the Dudding Hill Line (with some street running into the future Old Oak Common area at the southern end), because freight operators will do some nasty things to you if you so much as suggest closing it as a freight route. And that’s really about it. Quite in contrast to the cities to the North of the Watford Gap, where there are plenty of redundant (or near-redundant) lines and where Beeching had a little more political space to swing his axe about. Nottingham and Manchester are in the process of building quite large light-rail networks using former railway alignments; and the extensive Tyne & Wear Metro is a combination of redundant and active railway alignments with a short tunnel in the city centre.

    I am not suggesting expanding Tramlink or building a tram route elsewhere in London is doomed to failure – far from it. I am only saying that there are not really any suitable rail alignments left in Greater London to build a light rail line which has the characteristics of Tramlink.

    I do very much see a role for the tram in London as a way to provide additional public transport capacity and replace buses on busy main roads across London. Where I and some other members of the commentariat seem to disagree is whether to build parts of these alignments underground to minimise opposition; or whether to run them at street level.

  307. peezedtee says:

    @WW “you would not and cannot put gates at every stop on a tram line”

    Well, they do in Istanbul.

  308. straphan says:

    @peezedtee: Turkey is the only country in the world I know of, which has ticket barriers (in the form of turnstiles rather than gates) at low-floor platforms on the streets. These exist not just in Istanbul, but in most cities with tram networks (Samsun, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Eskisehir). No idea how good these are at deterring faredodgers, but I understand there is a member of staff present at each stop…

  309. timbeau says:

    Lines which might see more use do exist in London – the Hampton Court, Chessington, St Helier and Epsom Downs lines come to mind, possibly the Wallington line as well. The limited services on those routes see fairly good loadings, but only because trains are so rare.

  310. straphan says:

    @timbeau: all very good, but where do those people really want to go? And will a tram provide them with a direct (or otherwise better) journey to their destinations if the current heavy rail service can’t?

  311. Chris L says:

    Having spent a large part of Wednesday riding on Tramlink, I couldn’t help noticing the amount of shared street running is minimal and certainly not on major roads.

  312. straphan says:

    Just to elaborate @timbeau:

    All the lines you describe are long-established commuting routes used to transport workers into Central London, most notably the City. Passengers on those routes wouldn’t be best pleased if they were made to take a tram to somewhere (Wimbledon? Croydon?) and then change for a train and stand in the crush to London Bridge or Waterloo.

    Additionally, bear in mind the Wimbledon Loop and the Sutton – West Croydon line will definitely be used by Thameslink services, whereas the Chessington South branch is a likely candidate for Crossrail 2.

    While it is more-or-less clear to me that you would envisage connecting the Sutton to Croydon and Sutton to Wimbledon line to Tramlink at Croydon or Wimbledon, I am not sure what you intend to do with the Hampton Court or Chessington South branches exactly. Where would you intend for trams from those places to go?

  313. RichardB says:

    @ timbeau I fully concur with your comment about the Wallington line but I would also add to it the line from Sutton to Epsom Downs via Belmont. This branch was singled some years ago and I think the service frequency is hourly which is a real pain as there is a major hospital at Belmont.

    Arguably London Overground could extend their East London line service from West Croydon to Sutton via Wallington and then continue it down to Epsom Downs. I think it is a branch which if adequately served would see patronage grow exponentially like the existing London Overground lines. I would advocate London Overground as the provider as opposed to Tramlink as I think the overall outcome would be better in terms of connectivity although I have no quarrel about Tramlink but here I think a traditional rail service would be better and it would an easy hit for London Overground in terms of looking for further expansion.

    As regards your mentioning Chessington if Crossrail2 proceeds it would see a doubling of the current service on that branch so I think a tram service might be problematic but I do wonder if we ought to see if it would be possible to extend the line from Chessington South via Maldon Rushett and Leatherhead North terminating the branch at Leatherhead. Given this would implement the pre war plan it would mean that today Chessington World of Adventures would have its own station at Maldon Rushett which might well increase the overall patronage significantly.

  314. Graham Feakins says:

    @Chris L – 16 May 15:15 – Aha! You have witnessed the clever trick facilitated by Tramlink, in that the heavy traffic was mostly removed from those shared roads in stages long before a rail was even laid. This minimised complaints that the “town centre improvement road works” could be blamed on Tramlink! Clever, eh?

    For example, Addiscombe Road between (what is today) Chepstow Road and East Croydon station, accommodating all the tram routes, used to be choc-a-bloc with buses and cars and I found it quicker to walk to the station in the mornings rather than get on a bus far further along Addiscombe Road.

    The ‘trick’ included demolishing my late, great-grandmother’s large house and removing her orchard behind Addiscombe Road and diverting the main traffic flow onto a new connection with Chepstow Road and around the outside of the East Croydon station area. Once the trams started, there was a much-reduced need for the buses serving East Croydon but the routes that remain still share the road with the trams and the local, side road traffic.

  315. timbeau says:

    @richard B
    Malden Rushett is actiually further from Chessingtom WoA than the present Chessington South.

    Observation at Wimbledon suggests very few passengers from the St Helier line continue beyond Wimbledon – there is a mass exodus for the Waterloo and District Line platforms. This is not to say the trains are not busy on departure for haydons Road, but most passengers have joined the train at Wimbledon.

    I wasn’t going to go into full crayonistic mode, but as you asked, I envisaged
    Epsom Downs – Sutton – St Helier – Wimbledon
    With Sutton and Croydon both trammed up, it seems to make sense to add the Wallington line
    Chessington – Tolworth – Motspur Park – street running via St Helier or skirting Morden cemetery and Morden Park – to join the St Helier line into Wimbledon. Possible street running branch at Tolworth for Surbiton and thus Hampton Court – possible further street running from Surbiton to Kingston.

    The Hampton Court branch in particular is a poor use of capacity on the main line – it is always quicker to change at Surbiton for London.

    Thameslink could do with fewer destinations at higher frequencies, like Crossrail.

  316. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Chris L

    Having spent a large part of Wednesday riding on Tramlink, I couldn’t help noticing the amount of shared street running is minimal and certainly not on major roads.

    Ha. In the case of Addiscombe Road east of East Croydon and George St (East) these were major roads and formed part of the busy A232. In Croydon it was fortunate that there was an alternative potential route that could be upgraded to free off this road for trams, buses and local traffic.

    There was also, what was known at the time as, the bus bridge built over Croydon Underpass to free off George Street (West) and divert the buses to Park Street which runs parallel. Just to the north of that, traffic (except buses and trams) was banned from a short busy surface section of Wellesley Road and made to use the underpass which freed off space for a dedicated tram lane making a tram stop at Wellesley Road possible.

    It was also fortunate that land previously safeguarded for widening an existing road by Sandilands tram stop could be usefully reallocated for future tram use.

    Croydon was lucky that alternatives were possible but it shows how important it is to have the local authority being a willing participant (unlike Bromley) and be prepared to push through new a road scheme and abandon another to free off space for the trams.

    The fact that you perceived that trams did not run on major roads is probably testament to how well the scheme was thought through and implemented.


    Arguably London Overground could extend their East London line service from West Croydon

    Proposed incessantly. The Waterloo & City Line extension of South London. It is an absolute non-starter for many years to come because London Overground cannot cope with current loading from Honor Oak Park and north thereof. If the London Overground upgrades to 8 carriages and manages a significantly more frequent service then maybe it could be reconsidered.

  317. timbeau says:

    @Richard B
    “I fully concur with your comment about the Wallington line but I would also add to it the line from Sutton to Epsom Downs via Belmont.”

    I refer the honourable gentleman to my post of 14:39
    “the ………………….Epsom Downs line come(s) to mind, possibly the Wallington line as well.”

  318. straphan says:

    @PoP and Graham Feakins: thanks to both of you for elaborating on the detail of how Tramlink was enabled to by-pass traffic bottlenecks around Croydon – most of these things I was not aware of.

    @timbeau: Thanks for the detail on passenger flows over there, some of which – I have to admit – I was not entirely aware of. However:
    – Department for Transport has committed to running the Wimbledon loop services onto Thameslink, following considerable opposition from stakeholders who were against even curtailing services at the bay platforms at Blackfriars. Hence whatever the loadings on the route, I doubt this is a good candidate for tram conversion for the foreseeable future…
    – The same goes for the Sutton to West Croydon line, which will also be served by Thameslink services to/from Guildford.
    – The Epsom Downs Line is mainly used to commute to Central London – a conversion to tram would make it necessary for a lot of commuters to change at Sutton for a service to Central London.

  319. Fandroid says:

    Somewhere in all these crayonistic tram schemes there must be room for trams and trains to share. After all, the really heavy commuter rail function is done and dusted in about 4 hours overall. there could be sharing during these peak hours, but for the rest of the day and evening, trams could provide the main service over the same lines, perhaps with short off-rail extensions to maximise convenience for local passengers (Belmont to the Royal Marsden (or even to Highdown Prison!)). Think of it as heavy-rail commuter services running during the peaks over tram lines, rather than the other way round.

  320. Graham Feakins says:

    @PoP & Chris L – Great minds think alike; indeed the Addiscombe Road was the busy A232 and Croydon Council had its own Tramlink team (of which I was an honorary member), who worked in close co-operation with the LT side. It all worked so well that there was complete cross-party political support, backed up by copious, forward-looking publicity and public engagement with e.g. the Croydon Chamber of Commerce. Croydon Council even produced a series of GNVQ Tramlink education modules, launched in 1997, three years before Tramlink started operating.

    Everyone was well able to cope with the antis, such as “Tramstop!”, who came out with the usual mass of dross designed to agitate the otherwise unwitting public. As an aside, there was a notorious commentator who wrote letters almost weekly to the Croydon Advertiser about how the trams would adversely affect his property (noise, vibration, etc.) until he was put in his place when it was realised that he lived three roads away from the route in New Addington!

  321. @Graham Feakins,

    There was another obsessed anti-tram objector who wrote to local papers. He had planned to protest at the public inquiry on a load of issues but the inspector promptly ruled that as none of the issues he raised affected him in any way as he lived in Coulsdon (not within miles of where the tram went) he couldn’t object to them.

  322. straphan says:

    @Fandroid: In some cases there might be, but given how tight timings generally are over the railway network, and given that Southern Metro has an annual average PPM (punctuality) of 85.7%, I think adding extra tram-trains onto the network (particularly those somewhat more prone to delays as they would run on streets) in South London would not really be something the railway would appreciate.

    I would certainly be in favour of tram-trains elsewhere, though. The Dudding Hill Line is one such place – you can’t close it for freight, whereas the southern end of it doesn’t go close enough to Old Oak Common – so street running might be a good idea…

  323. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PZT – yes I know about Istanbul. I have some photos of the first route in the “to be scanned” pile. It was extremely hard to get those photos because the line was guarded by soldiers as I think, at the time, it was treated as a “security asset” like airbases etc. Anyway what passes for normality in Turkey is for them. It won’t change my view that it’s a daft idea in the London context. It is also the case that some of the Bus Rapid Schemes have gated “stations” too – based on a google search Curitiba and Istanbul do. Does someone want to propose that we install ticket gates at, say, Stratford Bus Station to marshall people on to route 25 and 86? No I didn’t think so. 😉

  324. Greg Tingey says:

    & strpahan
    “little-used / lightly loaded” BECAUSE the services are only half-hourly, perhaps?
    Think NLL or Tramlink.
    The argument re taking over rail lines is spurious too.
    Think Eccles / Ashton / Airport in Manchester or Notting ham S & W extensions.
    Cobblers – as others have pointed out!

  325. timbeau says:

    That was my point – there is a vicious circle: because they are each just one of many suburban branches competing for space on the mainline core, frequencies are as low as the regulator will let the operator get away with. Because frequencies are low, few people use them. because few people use them, they are at the back of the queue if there is any spare capacity on the core.
    If a tram ran to Wimbledon or Surbiton from Chessington at bus frequencies (8-10 / hour) many more people would use them, feeding in to the high frequency core service. And it frees up two extra paths on the main line to serve other branches.

    The Wimbledon loop is a red herring – thus fuss there was from people losing their direct service from Wimbledon/Tooting etc to City TL and beyond, not people from St Helier et al.

  326. AlisonW says:

    Presumably though, if you gate access to a tram or bus ‘platform’ dwell time collapses as you only need to unload/load with no additional functions needed. Given that dwell time is a major issue on some routes (possibly to be reduced when the system goes cash-free*) there might be a positive argument for such street furniture in some areas.

    * but probably massively increased in at least the short term as people argue more.

  327. straphan says:

    @timbeau: I take your point, but we do have to deal with the reality on the ground. And the reality on the ground is that – since the Wimbledon loop is going to remain ‘Thameslinked’, we should cross it off the list of routes for potential tram conversion.

    I also don’t know to what extent people would prefer taking a frequent tram and interchanging for a frequent rail service to Central London over having a less frequent direct rail service but being able to get a seat for the whole journey…

    @Greg T: The Nottingham extension to Clifton uses the trackbed of the Great Central Railway for a significant proportion of its length. Both there and in Manchester, I think the majority of the network will still be ex-railway alignment even after all the extensions are built.

    @Alison W: I think the problem really is how ticket barriers would be policed if the area you cordon off is at street level and bypassing the barriers is dead-easy. Although cordoning off some bus stations could work (Vauxhall?), you would have to introduce ‘touching out’ of buses, though.

    @WW: BRT systems like Curitiba or Bogota use high-floor buses with platforms almost a metre above street level. This makes by-passing ticket barriers that little more difficult. Some systems also deliberately have boarding on the offside of the bus – since bus transport in most Latin American cities is deregulated, this makes it far more difficult for deregulated operators to drive up to BRT stations and ‘pinch’ customers off the BRT…

  328. Philip says:

    Having been to Istanbul last week, gating the bus rapid transit is easy as the BRT runs down the middle of an urban motorway with four lanes in each direction for cars, and passengers need to use a footbridge or subway to access the bus stops anyway. Gating the tram stops, however, seems to use up a lot of pavement space.

  329. Rational Plan says:

    induction powered train on trial in S Korea, also tried as a means to power electric buses.

  330. Ian J says:

    Tram lines like the Nottingham line through Beeston and the Metrolink line to Ashton-under-Lyne seem to suggest it is possible to thread lines through the classic Victorian street pattern or 1930s semi-land that makes up most of London. Railway conversions can be useful in getting money off the Treasury (who will always be glad to have a loss-making heavy rail service replaced by an unsubsidised tram), but are far from the only alignment options available and have their own limitations – the stations aren’t always conveniently located, for example (often one of the reasons the locals tended to catch the bus and made the rail service so loss-making in the first place).

  331. straphan says:

    @Ian J: Bearing in mind that Nottingham is less densely populated and the cost of properties is much lower than in London, I wouldn’t be so sure. There is also the question of attitudes to open space. The tram extension to Chilwell eats into the park on the University grounds and that intervention has been approved during a public inquiry. Compare that with the vocal opposition against taking a small sliver of Wormwood Scrubs to build a viaduct for the Overground at Old Oak Common…

  332. Long Branch Mike (Induced Rail Demand) says:

    @Ian J

    “Metrolink line to Ashton-under-Lyne”

    Having ridden most of this line with LBM v2.0 (who was not nearly as impressed as I was), the street on which most of this route lay appeared wider, and with much less auto traffic, than most London roads I have seen. The route is mostly residential, hence no street parking. The wider setback of the houses may be why the road seemed wider, not the 4 lanes. Near the suburban end of the line is an Ikea, ensuring good 2 way ridership. Ideal tram situation.

  333. Fandroid says:

    This arose on another thread, but really relates quite strongly to these articles on the Future of the London Bus. It’s a presentation by David Carslaw of Kings College London concerning NOX and NO2 emissions in London, with some interesting results from tests on diesel buses with various modifications to reduce NO2 emissions.

  334. Pedantic of Purley says:

    New hybrid bus charging technology trial announced.

    Remember, you heard it here first, sort of.

  335. Southern Heights says:

    Gated tram stops are used in Tunis. The gates open whenever the “metro” wants to enter or exit the station.

    Some pictures can be found here. Sorry not been able to grab a link to a specific picture, but scroll down a bit…

  336. Greg Tingey says:

    That announcement raises the perverse thought ..
    So they are pumping the Soixante-Neuf up from underneath are they?
    I will be very interested to observe the goings-on @ Walthamstow Bus station whilst this is being both installed & in running

    [Of all the bus numbers in all of London they had to choose that one. I’ll leave it to Long Branch Mike to make an executive decision as to whether that comment is allowed to stay. PoP]

  337. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I expect that all that will happen is that a stand in either the far north east or south east of the bus station will be equipped with the necessary kit. There are already pretty fixed positions as to where buses on each terminating route stand so I don’t see any great difficulty as I have never seen the stands completely full so these electric buses could even have a dedicated space only used by them. The same applies at Canning Town. I imagine the buses will be scheduled in such a way to minimise the risk of two turning up together requiring a charge.

  338. Southern Heights says:

    @WW: a bit naive isn’t it? Everybody knows London buses always roam in packs of three! 😉

  339. John U.K. says:

    @Southern Heights – 27 August 2014 at 18:55

    @WW: a bit naive isn’t it? Everybody knows London buses always roam in packs of three! 😉

    During the current closure of Putney Bridge, ‘buses 74, 430, and 220 (which all share the route along Fulham Palace Road, & the 74 & 430 share far as West Brompton Station) are being despatched simultaneously from Putney Bridge Station. Which means that although the Countdown indicator at subsequent stops will show, e.g., 10 northbound ‘buses in 30 minutes, the actual pattern will be 3, 9 minute gap; 3, 9 minute gap, and so on!!!
    Add to which, the ‘buses will overtake on the shared route whenever there’s a chance.
    Traditions must be maintained???

  340. timbeau says:

    When one of our local routes converted from crew to OMO (as it was then) it was noticed that the buses, instead of going around in pairs, were now leaving the depot four at a time. it was concluded that it must be because a game of bridge requires four players.

  341. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – when the world’s first bus service was launched in Paris in the reign of Louis XIV, it quickly became apparent that buses would bunch together – the mathematics of that were even investigated by Pascal. So, nothing new there, then.

  342. Moosealot says:

    Why did TFL have to shoehorn the claim that this will reduce CO2 emissions into an otherwise reasonable press release?. Inductive charging is horrendously inefficient: expect the transmission loss between power station and induction pad to be 10% and a further 30%+ between the induction pad and the bus.

    Marginal electricity in the UK is almost always generated by gas, and by the time 40% of the power has been lost, the difference in efficiency between a CCGT [Combined Cycle Gas Turbine] power station and a diesel engine, and the difference in carbon density between gas and diesel will have been more than wiped out.

    There are lots of good reasons for running more on electric power, especially reducing local NOx and particulate emissions but these are to do with local air quality rather than global CO2 output.

    Batteries generally do not like being charged fast – it will reduce their lifespan – and this is what this looks like it is intended to do. If only there was a tried-and-tested way of getting electricity to buses as they were driving along that didn’t involve the transmission losses associated with inductive charging… That would allow the batteries to be charged at a slower rate, improving their capacity/lifespan so that they work better when away from their ‘linear electricity supply mechanism’.

  343. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I too dislike claims or reduced overall CO2 on occasions when it is rather dubious. But I cannot see that any such claim was made.

    The only reference to carbon was in the following statement:

    The buses have significantly reduced tail pipe emissions, resulting in improved air quality, and because of reduced fuel use will have lower carbon emissions.

    Surely that is completely true? The buses will have lower carbon emissions. Even if you take into account the emissions at the power station (which doesn’t have to be a CO2 emitting one) the improved efficiency of generating the power at a power station as opposed to an on-demand diesel engine rarely running at optimal efficiency should be enough to reduce CO2 emissions – however you look at it.

    It is true that there will always be power losses in transmission of electricity regardless of what purpose the use of electricity is put to. I would dispute the further 30%+ between the induction pad and the bus. In Milton Keynes they reckon this is around 9%. At 30+% you would have a considerable problem getting rid of the heat generated. I suspect at 30% loss the process would be completely unviable for that reason alone.

    As to reducing the live of the battery by recharging it quickly, I am not an expert but it is much more complex than this simple statement and battery technology is developing all the time. I am pretty sure there are sensors to monitor the charge and ensure it isn’t done at such a rate it significantly reduces the battery’s life.

  344. Moosealot says:

    The MK induction system has lots in its favour it in terms of efficiency: it is raised up to be closer to the bus than would be possible on a road at a bus stop; the bus can be very accurately placed above it, and the bus can wait a good while for a relatively slow charge. Basic physics states that efficiency will drop quadratically with distance between pad and receiver, and linearly with rate of energy transfer.

    If the 69 route has been chosen because the bus stations at either end have sufficient spare capacity for buses to sit for an extra 10 minutes while they recharge and can be guaranteed to go into the necessary bay, then that’s great, but it is only going to work on a limited number of routes where those criteria are met. Anything that it is possible to deploy at a bus stop will see transfer efficiency fall off a cliff.

    There are power sources that emit little-to-no CO2, but they are generally running at the greatest capacity they can all the time (subject to weather conditions), so marginal power — i.e. any additional load you are putting on the grid over and above what it is already supporting — will not come from these sources. With the exception of Dinorwig, marginal power tends to come from CCGT plants; when there is a high load on the grid, these are maxed out and less and less efficient modes of generation are brought online, including diesel generators.

    The efficiency of a diesel engine in a series hybrid is pretty good because it is turned off when idle and always runs in its most efficient power band. We’re talking around 38% efficiency from fuel tank to electricity coming out the alternator. A CCGT power station is 60% efficient at the turbine shaft(s), 55% at the generator and not-quite 50% at the consumer (charge pad). The efficiency of the charging pad/receiver is therefore crucial to this calculation, provided our marginal electricity is being generated by the most efficient means possible. A single-cycle gas power station is around 42% efficient at the turbine shaft, 38% at the generator and 34% at the consumer. Diesel generators are similar to single-cycle gas plants and single-cycle coal is worse.

    I was involved for a while with a company that was developing battery management systems for electric vehicles. In batteries, there is a 3-way trade-off between power density (how much current it can receive/supply for a given mass or volume), energy density (the amount of charge that it can store in a given mass or volume) and longevity. Yes, there will be continuous improvements in all three over time, but at any given point, reducing the demand for power density will lead to improvements in one or both of energy density and longevity.

  345. MarkyMar88 says:

    Whilst on the topic of battery / energy saving. Does anyone have any idea why TFL hasn’t looked into solar panels on their buses? I know it won’t bring much energy in but it should offset the battery kicking over to the diesel for awhile. Combined with @Moosealot comment regarding conductive charging it has the possibility to lower the need for the diesel engine further.

    The main issue (apart from cost) I can see with solar panels is the space for the transformer for the panels.

  346. timbeau says:

    I’m sure I’ve seen this discussed recently, and it was suggested that solar panels on a bus roof are heavy, absorb heat (obviously) so put more load on the aircon (bus roofs are white for a reason), and are prone to damage from overhanging branches and the like (including pigeon poo)

  347. @MarkyMar88,

    There would be all sorts of problems and very little benefit. Slightly more sensible is this idea where you put the panels on the shelters. In the example given it is used to inductively charge the buses (rather far-fetched at intermediate stops due to reasons Mooselot has given). Remember that Vauxhall bus station has photo-voltaic cells as does Blackfriars railway station. That would seem a more sensible way to go but even then one wonders if really makes any kind of economic sense.


    Can’t really disagree with you there. Only thing I would say is that we can’t really wait until it becomes economically viable before it should be tried out. We should learn about the benefits and pitfalls now and introduce it on a small scale so that if it ever is really economically feasible we are all ready to roll out an implementation programme.

  348. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Moosealot – the route 69 trial was discussed yesterday on another group. As part of that discussion I looked at the stand times as shown on the working timetable. It varies between 8-14 mins at Canning Town and 8-10 mins at Walthamstow on M-F. Both bus stations do have space for a dedicated stand for the vehicles. I take your point about the general applicability of recharging plates and that is obviously an issue more widely if this technology were to be more widely used.

    It may well be that TfL schedule the all electric DDs as extras on the route to give flexibility about charging etc. As the 69 and 97 corridor is very, very busy a few extra buses running won’t go amiss.

    The physics stuff goes way over my head but it is fascinating to see what expertise lurks on this blog. Always good to get an insight into the challenges that the engineers face with this sort of new technology.

  349. Malcolm says:

    Moosealot says ” Basic physics states that efficiency will drop quadratically with distance between pad and receiver…”

    But this means very little. Using invented figures, if an unachievable 1cm gap would result in a loss of 0.25% and an achievable 2cm gap results in a 1% loss, then it doesn’t rule out the technology at all.

    What does matter, of course, is the actual loss figure, and if this is anywhere near the 30% you mentioned earlier, then clearly, as is stated in so many papers, “more research is needed”!

  350. @Al__S says:

    What those who talk transmission losses often seem to ignore is the significant energy put into refining and transporting fuel. Of course, to a certain extent that applies as well with electricity, but even if we were to ignore the huge amounts of electricity used to distil crude oil just the costs of moving fuel from refinery to pump are large- and really should be accounted for if want to account for transmission losses.

    CO2 is, of course, in the context of city pollution a red herring. Anything that reduces particulate and NOx pollution at street level is very, very welcome!

  351. Stationless says:

    If inductive charging were to be rolled out across London, I would guess that routes and their terminals would altered to places where this technology could be installed?

  352. ngh says:

    RE PoP, WW,, Moosealot Al_S

    I was too busy when the article was originally published to do a decent response on the physics of inductive charging, losses as well as lifecycle analysis of vehicle fuel chains (i have real data on the hard drive if I have enough time to find it at some point). I suspect I’m the only LR commenter to have actually designed and built industrial sized induction coils.

    The current LCA view of marginal generation is tending towards meaning the worst polluter being the marginal fuel unless you actually own or have specifically contracted generating capacity i.e. additional grid load is assumed to be coal sourced unless you have your own CCGT and gas sourcing contracts from north Sea or Russia but not Qatari LNG etc.
    The liquid fuel supply chain in the UK is actually very efficient especially given the volumes that go through the pipeline network and relatively short road tankering distances.

    As an intro to inductive charging I suggest reading the following;

    It is written by the personal electronics industry consortium and is based around charging mobiles etc. via resonant inductive charging which is not used for vehicle charging (not least because it doesn’t work that well for high power output and secondly it would operate way above the safe radiation threshold so is a complete non starter if a human is anywhere near by.)
    [As an aside the figures they use for wired charging of personal devices are deliberately bad for making the comparison look good – you can’t sell a phone wired charger that inefficient in the EU for example]

    For electricity transmission losses etc look the flow chart on page 2 of Chapter 5 of DECC/HMRC’s Dukes report:

    The total transmission and conversion losses are roughly equivalent to the total amount of energy in the all the coal and gas burnt in power stations to put it into context before we even get to losses in charging!

    the firm supplying the technolgy for the TFL trial has some brief info here:

    Re Stationless
    “If inductive charging were to be rolled out across London,”
    We would have to spend at least £0.5bn on grid and network improvements for starters or the light will go out very quickly….
    (and at least 250MW of generating capacity as well!)

  353. Fandroid says:

    So what’s wrong with pantographs on these very specialist buses and a short length of overhead at the stands. Why is induction the magic solution, when direct transmission is just about as feasible?

  354. Greg Tingey says:

    Because that’s much too sensible, that’s why!
    And of course, the bus might look a bot like a (don’t tell the children) a TROLLEYBUS, or worse still a Tram … & we can’t have that either.
    Excuse the cynicism?

    [ P.S. You don’t even need a single wire or rail-overhead, you need a mesh grid, suspended, with insulators at the corners, so bus-stand positioning is even simpler.
    IIRC, from the one time I saw it, in Glasgow ( 1961?), they had something like this at really busy junctions … a “mesh” for the tram-bow/pantographs to pick up from, with the trolleybus wires in recessed “slots” so to speak. ]

  355. Anomnibus says:

    From what I’ve read on the subject, it seems induction is being applied primarily for aesthetic reasons, in areas where overhead wires aren’t considered acceptable. I don’t think anyone would have a big problem with that, but I can’t think of that many parts of London where this would apply.

    The City, and some parts of Westminster, might justify such systems, but they’re relatively small compared to the total size of London’s modern core. Neither Tottenham Court Road nor Oxford Street are popular because of their architecture, so overhead wires should be perfectly acceptable on those.

    ‘ngh’ raises a good point about power generation capacity too. The UK is struggling to keep up with demand as it is. HS2 alone is going add a fair bit to the national grid’s burden, as is the rolling electrification programme. I’m not sure wholesale electrification of bus routes is the way forward for the near term, but something needs to be done about those pesky particulates.

    Hybrid buses have some benefits here as the slow stop-start slog through the city core is a good fit for battery power. The engine would still kick in every so often, but this could be a GPL or petrol engine rather than a diesel if needed to keep emissions within acceptable limits. (In theory, the batteries could be replaced, or supplemented, by a flywheel system, similar to that used in the Parry People Movers, but that does add additional mechanical complexity.)

    In other words: there are alternatives to traditional diesel buses available right now, with hybrids already in use. Refinements to these are more likely than a return to trolleybus technology, I think.

    In part, this is because overhead wires and buried induction coils aren’t maintenance-free: once built, you then have to keep all that additional infrastructure working.

    If you can keep all the fancy technology in the bus itself, you can centralise all the maintenance at your depots, which reduces costs. You don’t need to pay teams to rove about the city inspecting and repairing wires and masts. And you don’t have the problem of a failed wire or induction coil effectively bringing an entire bus route to a standstill.

  356. Anonymous says:

    @Greg 0901 – why do you keep SHOUTING?

  357. timbeau says:

    The problem with any electric charging system is not really the range, but the time it takes. (As Top Gear demonstrated, you are never far from an electric socket – it is how long you have to stay plugged in to it that makes electric cars unsuitable for long journeys)
    Consider the following typical figures for petrol:
    Calorific value: 48kJ/g
    Density: 740g/litre
    Pump delivery rate: 40 litres/minute
    That means that a typical petrol pump can charge a car with energy at the rate of 48x740x40 kJ per minute, which is about 24 Megawatts. You really don’t want that sitting in the ground at a bus station, and transmitting it by inductance will cause huge heating and electromagnetic interference effects.

    Moreover, using a 240V supply, that would require a current of 100,000 amps. (“ye cannae change the laws of physics”).

    Needless to say, whatever technology is used, most electric charging points are several thousand times slower than this, meaning that a five minute stop at a petrol station becomes several hours for an electric vehicle.

  358. timbeau says:

    @Just to put 24MW into perspective, the rating of the main fuse in a typical house is 100A, equating to a maximum 24kW that the house can draw at any time (four three-bar fires, a kettle, all the rings on the hob and an immersion heater all on at once?) So a single petrol pump can deliver energy at a rate equivalent to a thousand houses’ maximum consumption. No wonder they don’t like you smoking near the pumps!

  359. Mark Townend says:

    A bus equipped for a selection of power transfer methods could provide the flexibility for day to day operation without additional charging breaks, although there’s no reason all buses cannot normally enter service from major depots each day fully charged.

    A wired central core could provide an opportunity to top up on the move with isolated sub networks over major hubs elsewhere and spot inductive pads or plug points at smaller layover points.

    The practicality of roof mounted photo-voltaic arrays should be revisited from time to time perhaps, as it is a fast developing technology.

  360. Moosealot says:

    If we’re looking at ‘fancy technology’ for partially switching from diesel to electricity as a primary fuel, there has to be some connection at some point between the bus and the grid. What TfL are doing at the moment is baby steps putting in the minimum possible off-board infrastructure (2 inductive charging stations) as a trial/technology demonstrator. The buses are still going to have diesel engines so if the technology fails all that will happen is they will run their engines more than they would otherwise. So this project is pretty low risk from a service disruption point of view.

    My concern is that there is minimal information about what this project is intended to do. That the technology basically works has been proved in Milton Keynes, so it’s not that. If it is an initial roll-out of intended technology I would be worried because the number of routes where this is practical is low and there would be better ways of achieving the air pollution reductions. If it is a cheap way of getting some range-extended electric buses on the road to see how they perform, what size battery packs should be specified for given amounts of off-grid running and testing their reliability on a heavily-loaded route then it is very good.

    I believe that conductor wires that can power a bus and recharge its battery as it drives along are the best solution, but they are going to be expensive and very… public. If everything goes wrong, it’s a lot easier for TfL to “disappear” a couple of boxes in bus stations and carry on as if nothing had happened.

  361. Moosealot says:


    I would disagree on a wired core, a wired doughnut would be better. As I think we’ve discussed before (probably on this thread), wired buses cannot overtake each other so routes such as Oxford Street are impractical to wire. If a bus can charge itself up as it approaches the core, it can run on battery through the core and then pick up the wires again as it heads out. Once it gets far enough out that bus density means it is no longer worth running wires, it will be able to continue with battery power.

  362. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I suspect a critical feature of this development is to see if what works in Milton Keynes also works in London. I can see all sorts of reasons why it might not. London has gone with off-road recharging. It is not clear if this recharger is the same one that will be used for the nightly top-up. In Milton Keynes the batteries are trickle charged overnight and boosted at the end of each trip. And in Milton Keynes it is only used for single deckers and not especially large ones at that. Also in Milton Keynes they have the luxury of the overnight charging point being in a separate dedicated area. I can see that being an issue in London where space is at more of a premium.

    I suspect the big lesson that needs to be learnt is whether or not one can do without the diesel engine altogether. Something that I understand is not resolved in Milton Keynes is what happens if a bus were to run out of juice.

    (And clearly your were referring to an American doughnut and not a British one).

  363. Long Branch Mike (Gardien de location) says:


    I would add that the double deckers in London are likely much more heavily loaded with passengers than the buses in MK.

    (by the way, what is the difference between an American doughnut and a British one?)

  364. @Long Branch Mike

    [Way off topic]

    A traditional British doughnut is a solid doughy ball with jam (jelly to you) in the middle and sugar coated. Very similar to what they have in Germany and call a Berliner (except in Berlin – just as Danish pastries aren’t called that in Denmark).

    So there is a very strange translation one can make of “Ich bin ein Berliner“.

  365. Paying Guest says:

    @ Timbeau – “No wonder they don’t like you smoking near the pumps!” True, but sometimes the risks are overblown. For example in Saudi Arabia it is the norm to refuel with the engine still running – the passengers cook otherwise, but during my time there I never heard of a car self-immolating.

  366. Paying Guest says:

    @PoP – “and call a Berliner (except in Berlin – just as Danish pastries aren’t called that in Denmark).” Actually they are fairly commonly called “ein Berliner” in Berlin. Kennedy caused the confusion because he said “ich bin ein Berliner” rather than “ich bin Berliner”.

  367. @PoP thanks for the culinary translation! BTW we North Americans are so pressed for time we spell it ‘donut’ now…

  368. @Paying Guest,

    [way off topic]

    You would not believe how much time has been spent discussing Ich bin ein Berliner in German classes. Ich bin Berliner would have sounded false and arrogant – especially with an American accent. Ich bin ein Berliner can mean I am at one with the people of Berlin. As in Ich bin Shauspieler (‘I am an actor’) and Ich bin ein Shauspieler (‘I am behaving as if I were an actor’ or simply ‘I am being theatrical’).

    As someone once pointed out, it appears that all the Germans who were there at the speech knew exactly what he meant so it is all pretty irrelevant.

    I now wait in anticipation of native German speakers on this site telling me I am totally wrong.

    @Long Branch Mike,

    Yes we know spelling doughnut is too much of a challenge for North Americans.

  369. Castlebar, - a crayon free zone says:

    No PoP. you’re not wrong…..

    ……..but you’re way off topic.

    I will have to get LBM to censor it, (even though some North Americans put an apostrophe in “do’nut”, being unable to spell it.) Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing in the middle of the doughnut, (like some you buy in Sainsbury’s)

  370. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – it can’t be a real doughnut unless it squirts jam up your sleeve the moment you bite it.

  371. Castlebar, - a crayon free zone says:

    @ GH

    You have reminded me of a British Rail breakfast c1975 where you put your fork into the half slice of fried bread, it immediately deflates leaving a pint of grease on your shirt.

  372. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – Did you have to? I’m just about to have dinner… BTW, the later version had tomatoes which simply squirted boiling hot pips and juice everywhere.

  373. Milton Clevedon says:

    The Final Run of the Brighton Belle 30th April 1972 offered simply loads of drinks, too much to dwell on here, and also you could partake of:

    Cheese & Wine: Selection of English and Continental Cheeses, French bread and butter, and Bordeaux (Médoc or Graves) or Burgundy (Macon or Chablis), Merrydown Mead.

    Cold Buffet Hamper: Paté Maison, Demi-Poussin & Ham, Mixed and Russian Salad, Sherry Trifle, Champagne Mercier Private Brut, Merrydown Mead.

    Think the hampers sold well.

    For food on buses or trams (to try to get back on topic a bit), the Wien Baden trams do I believe offer catering on some of the journeys.

  374. Paying Guest says:

    @ PoP – my German friends and colleagues who were there on that occasion all fell about laughing.

  375. Graham H says:

    @MC – I think the prize (at least in Europe) for eating and drinking on urban trams went to the Duesseldorf route K which had a separate speisewagen as part of the regular consist for many decades – they even included a speiseabteil in their postwar articulated cars although the menus I have seen suggest nothing more extensive than the odd bratwurst*. [The American interurbans were something else, of course, but we will be cut down if we pursue that here…]

    *But no Berliners or even Krapfen.

  376. Slugabed says:

    Milton Clevedon
    The Badner Bahn (Wiener Lokalbahn) is rather more than a mere tramway….they even carry freight…

  377. Fandroid says:

    I didn’t want to restart the debate about trolleybuses. My modest notion is that a suitably equipped bus could connect directly with a power source if it used pantographs (or some other retractable overhead collectors). Sticking up a few posts and wires in a bus station will have just about zero aesthetic implications, and is a lot less hassle than digging up the road at the bus stand. I guess also that direct connection is always going to have less of a transmission loss than induction. I don’t know what voltage they intend to feed the induction plates with, but well positioned overhead wires can operate at very high voltages, so are able to transmit a lot more energy in a short time. (Rumours have it that TfL are asking Network Rail to install overheads running at 25000v quite close to passengers and not a million miles from Walthamstow Bus Station as well!) However, for an urban bus station, a normal 3-phase supply is probably the limit.

  378. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – a large number of recent tender awards for TfL bus contracts have specified hybrid single deckers but in reality these will be equipped with flywheels. Several manufacturers and operators have signed up to develop different versions of “micro hybrid” flywheel technology.

    @ Fandroid – I have mused many times about whether you could put in an overhead charger as you suggest. I doubt there is no issue at Canning Town given buses stand well away from any public access and there are no trees. Walthamstow Bus Station is a bit different. I imagine they’d want an overhead charger near the edge of the bus station rather than installing poles in the middle of the stand area. This means any charger would be near well established trees, footpaths and not very far from flats which line the edge of the bus station where the 69 stands. I suspect there are a few too many variables to deal with for a trial plus lots of scope for scare stories.

  379. Graham Feakins says:

    @Fandroid – Of course, that principle has been used (or should I say tried?) before:

    @Graham H – The Rheinbahn Bistro still runs on the Krefeld route (U76):

    You forgot to mention the beer!

  380. Mark Townend says:

    @Moosealot, 29 August 2014 at 14:42

    Automated pantograph pick up coupled with onboard storage could allow vehicles to switch between wired lanes, whilst overtaking for instance, at any point without complex wired crossover sections all over the place. That could help solve the Oxford Street dilemma.

  381. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mark Townend – with the proliferation of traffic islands and widened pavements it is virtually impossible for any vehicle to overtake on Oxford St east of Oxford Circus. Given this is the end that is seeing big redevelopment I imagine pavements will widen further thus making a near impossibility actually impossible.

    Having slogged up the entire length of Oxford St today on a number 7 I was exasperated at the ridiculous antics of taxi drivers. They stop all over the place, slow down to crawl round junctions even when they’re clear and hook so many U turns you’d think they were in a competition to see which driver could do the “nicest” one. I think we were delayed about 8 times. Still for real entertainment the London Assembly Transport Committee meeting next week is on the taxi and private hire trade. Given how much taxi drivers *hate* TfL and their disdain for private hire / minicab operators I expect it will be a lively session.

  382. Mike says:

    Geneva has some overhead charging, which doesn’t appear to clunky – see

  383. Malcolm says:

    The Tosa system mentioned by Mike is all very well, but it relies on rapid charging. If this doesn’t suit the batteries, what about a physical battery swap? One per charging point being more slowly charged between vehicle calls, and at the stop as the bus drives in, the new battery pushes the old one out?

    Just a thought.

  384. Mike says:

    “One per charging point being more slowly charged between vehicle calls, and at the stop as the bus drives in, the new battery pushes the old one out?” – very similar to the Electrobus 108 years ago!

  385. timbeau says:

    “at the stop as the bus drives in, the new battery pushes the old one out?” ”

    Rather than taking the time to refuel, changing the entire prime mover at staging points on long journeys was a common procedure right up until the 1950s, whether they were iron horses or the flesh and blood variety.

  386. Greg Tingey says:

    Only for journeys of longer than about 300 miles: London-Newcastle was the longest “normal” run, excepting the corridor-tender ex-LNER summer Edinburgh trains) The x-LMS lines had to change locos at either, Crewe, Preston or Carlisle, depending on final destination … or a crew-change on the “Caledonian” by Kingmoor shed….

    Other loco-changes normally only occurred when different terrain, or weaker bridges,, or a reversal made a switch essential. Examples of these would be:
    Exeter, removing a “King” & putting two “Castles” on to get to Plymouth etc, Cardiff, because a “King” couldn’t go over the Landore viaduct (too wobbly), or Shrewsbury, before heading over the hump to Aberystwyth.

  387. timbeau says:

    @ Greg
    (loco changes were sometimes made for another reason as well – Crewe in the 1966-74 period or Sheffield Victoria 1954-1971.)

    300 miles may have been the limit in the later steam era, but earlier in history changes were made more frequently, hence the need for large stables of express passenger locos at places like Grantham. Indeed, one theory for the cause of the mysterious accident to a London-Doncaster train at Grantham in 1908 is connected with the locomotive-change at Peterborough.

  388. Anomnibus says:


    The TOSA technology is interesting, but boosting a battery’s charge in such a short time requires serious juice.

    Unlike trolley wire, where you can install power feed points independently of the locations of the bus stops, the TOSA system would require a high capacity electricity connection to each and every bus stop with a charger unit fitted to it. Although it does remove the allegedly unsightly wires from above the roads, I can’t see it being any easier or cheaper to install, though it should be cheaper to maintain. (Maybe. Each charge point clearly has moving parts, so there are more mechanical components to keep an eye on. A trolley wire has far fewer components that can go wrong.)

    Given the UK’s power generation problems, I’m not sure how popular this solution would be for politicians. So, possibly not an acceptable solution for now, but definitely one to keep an eye on in future.

  389. In case anyone is intrigued by timbeau’s comment on the Grantham 1908 rail crash, the Lincolnshire Council website has this page describing the theory advanced a few years ago.

  390. Graham H says:

    @PoP – yes,I was intrigued and many thanks for the link.

  391. Greg Tingey says:

    Grantham crash
    The train was actually the EC “Night Mail” for York & the North, the fireman was one of H A Ivatt’s premium pupils & a NER director ( R Philipson ) was also one of those killed.
    The “faulty/non-connected” brake hypothesis certainly fits the available facts as well as any other explanation.
    And, not the first or last time such a thing has happened.
    “Triple-valve” failure on ex-SR EP units was not unknown, either.

  392. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Graham H,

    As there is interest I will explain in more detail of what I recall the original Railway Magazine said was at the heart of it.

    The fireman that day was what we would probably call today a management trainee. The driver was considered to be a conscientious man who would not normally have omitted any safety checks.

    The theory is that, overtly or merely by his presence, the management trainee, pressured the driver not to make the necessary safety checks. They were eight minutes late and that could delay be explained by the trainee not being an experienced fireman. As such he may have been anxious that time was made up as he would not want to be seen as less good than a regular firemen. If the train was on time the previous two nights with the same driver it would be an obvious explanation for the delay and the need to make up time.

    The idea put forward was that there was a conflict as to who was in charge. Of course it should have been, without question, the driver but in those days the concept of the underling being in charge in order to have clearly defined consistent responsibility was not one that was generally accepted. Indeed only four years later the Titanic went down and there is a lot of speculation that the captain was similarly pressurised (overtly or not) by Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star line who should have been treated as just a passenger – albeit a very special one.

  393. timbeau says:

    I had not wanted to derail the thread (no pun intended) hence my only brief reference.
    I think you mean conscientous (thorough, painstaking) rather than contentious (argumentative)![Yep. Corrected. PoP]

    My understanding of the RM article was that it was not any pressure from the fireman (a “premium engineering apprentice” – i.e a trainee engineer in the British rather than American sense of the word) but rather his inexperience: he is thought to have failed to open the valve connecting the locomotive to the train, and only being used to firing light engines he was not alerted to this omission by the rapidity with which vacuum was established.

    In the days of steam, the brakes were not needed on the run from Peterborough to Grantham until after you reached Stoke Summit, but then you needed them a lot! (Nowadays trains have to brake on breasting the summit for the 100mph speed limit through Stoke Tunnel. The need for a speed limit there of all places would have seemed ludicrous to any steam-age crew: simply getting to the summit at all (the highest point on the ECML, in supposedly flat Lincolnshire) was often enough of an achievement .

  394. @timbeau,

    It was a long time ago since I read the article but I thought the point was it was ultimately the driver’s responsibility to check this with a proper brake test.

    For steam thinkers it is hard to appreciate that today the adage is “your right to speed is your ability to stop” and providing the power is rarely the problem. For this reason I believe that Pendolinos can go up Shap Summit faster than they can go down.

  395. timbeau says:

    Indeed it would have been – and if this theory is correct the driver obviously didn’t check properly: and given the fireman’s relative inexperience he should have been particularly careful. Rolt’s account suggests that there was Trade Union opposition to the use of premium apprentices as firemen (instead of having them gain the necessary operational experince by travelling as a third man on the footplate), so Fleetwood may have been less than happy about Talbot’s presence, and not as co-operative as he might have been with an ordinary trainee fireman.

  396. Greg Tingey says:

    Another point on this Grantham business …
    Many years before, when H A Ivatt was himself a premium apprentice, sharing Lodgings with J A F Aspinall at Crewe …
    He too was a fireman upon occasion & had to carefully lead his driver through the aftermath of the 3rd August 1873 crash at Wigan of the LNW’s preceding Night Mail train.

  397. Mark Townend says:

    @Pedantic of Purley, 1 September 2014 at 11:16

    “For steam thinkers it is hard to appreciate that today the adage is “your right to speed is your ability to stop” and providing the power is rarely the problem. For this reason I believe that Pendolinos can go up Shap Summit faster than they can go down.”

    Also whilst nothing to with the accident in question, speed could only be judged roughly by crews counting telegraph poles, milepost, or listening to the clickety clack of wheels over rail joints. Not until the very end of the steam age were locomotives routinely fitted with any form of speedometer.

  398. Theban says:

    Ordinary overhead wires can act as the distribution system to get power from the substation to different locations. If only specific locations are powered, for instance overhead wires or induction points at all the stands in a bus station, then separate power distribution is needed and in some locations that may not be a trivial cost.

  399. ngh says:

    The now slightly infamous EU Report of energy usage and efficiency in devices not covered by other rules:

    For background see here:
    High-powered hairdryers under threat as EU considers ban

    Has also looked at wireless charging including (commercial) vehicle charging the reckoned a 70 to 90% efficiency range with 90% pushing the limits.

  400. Southern Heights says:

    @Mark Townend, PoP: Rack railways normally go faster uphill than downhill as well. On the Wengernalp Bahn, the modern stock running to Grindelwald has a big sticker giving the speed limits on various gradients. The steeper it gets, the slower it goes….

    It seems that on the way up, the limit is simpler: As fast as you can go!

  401. Whereas on a funicular railway I can say with great confidence that they go up as fast as they go down.

    And having walked from Gridelwald to Kleine Scheidegg a few months ago I can confirm that the railway is much, much faster than walking and a lot less tiring. I didn’t notice the speed limit stickers on the stock on the way down (I would have walked but it was a bit pointless as visibility wasn’t that great). In any case it seemed that the critical thing was meeting the trains in the other direction at passing places.

  402. Fandroid says:

    The Chinese are always willing to try things out. I see from the October Tramways and Urban Transit that the city of Nanjing has just built a 7.8km tramline of which only 10% of the length has overhead power. The trams (32m long Bombardier Flexity 2) are mainly powered by battery and recharge these via pantographs at each end.

  403. From

    Bus innovation – how green can buses be?
    Wednesday, 17th Sep 2014 6:30 pm

    In this lecture, Leon Daniels from Transport for London (TfL) will explain the innovative and exciting green technology this being rolled out across the bus network and set this in the wider context of how Transport for London keeps London working and growing, to improve the life of the people who live, work and visit the Capital.

  404. timbeau says:

    “Whereas on a funicular railway I can say with great confidence that they go up as fast as they go down”
    And the speed of approach to the passing loop can be very disconcerting to people not realising what’s going on. I was on the Innsbruck one (Hungerburgbahn) recently and there was a sharp intake of breath from my companion at this point. at about 3m30

  405. Mayoral press release spotted by Greg which is easy to miss as curiously isn’t replicated on TfL site

  406. Nameless says:

    “The world’s first purpose-built purely electric double-decker bus will enter passenger service in London this year,” I think that the word “battery” is missing. If not, this statement is a trifle misleading.

    The bus is described as “zero emissions at tailpipe”. This would imply that it has one. There must be a less cumbersome way of expressing this. Any ideas?

    “Sir Peter Hendy CBE, London’s Transport Commissioner, said:…. ” presumably he was still in post yesterday.

  407. timbeau says:

    He is – according to this article Parry-Jones is to step down when he completes here years in post, some time next month (19th July, I think) so unless a spell of “Gardening Leave” is required between leaving one post and taking up the other I would assume Sir Peter is still at TfL until then.

  408. Malcolm says:

    @Nameless : I would agree about the word “battery” – or some other acknowledgment of the fact that double-decker trolleybuses were once widespread in London. Greg Tingey did point this out earlier today, but his comment was removed. For a range of reasons, but one of them was because the semantic issue of whether a trolleybus is a kind of bus has already been discussed at great length here, and the moderators do not wish that ground to be covered again.

  409. Malcolm says:

    @Nameless : “zero emissions at tailpipe”

    It could be argued that a tailpipe emitting nothing must be of zero diameter, and thus absent. But, as you realise, they are tying themselves in knots here, because they know that describing the bus as “zero emissions” will be challenged because a power station somewhere may be emitting something to power this bus.

  410. timbeau says:

    “zero emissions at tailpipe”. There must be a less cumbersome way of expressing this. Any ideas?”

    “No tailpipe emissions”. (If it has no tailpipe, it can’t produce any tailpipe emissions)

  411. Kit Green says:

    Do we have tailpipes in England?

  412. ngh says:

    Zero emissions at tailpipe is very different to no emissions at tail pipe.

    Zero emissions at tailpipe is actually shortened from “zero POLLUTANT emissions at tailpipe”. So fuel cell vehicles are included in this category (the only emission is water vapour) but not in the “No Tailpipe Emissions” category.

    The Zero category is the one that matters for air pollution in urban environments.

  413. Fandroid says:

    Does ‘zero emissions at tailpipe’ cover some suspicions that there may be ( minor ) emissions elsewhere on the vehicles?

    Awful mangling of English and facts. No tailpipes, so why mention them? Emphatically not the first all-electric buses in London, by a million miles. ‘Zero nitrogen oxide emissions’ would sum it up without strangling themselves in trying to re-use buzzy phrases from a previous press release. TfL’s techies should put their collective feet down and insist on factual wordings in press releases.

    Anyone have a link to a picture of these Chinese wonder buses?

  414. Fandroid says:

    Boris might be mildly embarrassed to find that York has had a battery powered double-decker bus running on sightseeing trips since last year.

  415. Malcolm says:

    @Fandroid : I don’t think Boris does embarrassed. This Guardian article has a picture, and includes mention of the York bus and indeed of 1909 Electrobus, but not trolleybuses. They remain airbrushed out of history.

  416. ngh says:

    Re Fandroid,

    See my post above.

    No – tailpipe is tailpipe or equivalent i.e. emission anywhere on the vehicle. (excluding driver or passengers)

    This usually means the only emission if any is water vapour. i.e no CO2, CO, HC, NOx etc.

    TfL aren’t using buzzy phrases they are using accepted worldwide engineering terminology with precise definitions that have been around at least 20 years.
    “Zero emissions at tailpipe” then became a legally defined term by California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2002 in California State law and is accepted as legal definition in the UK (DfT usage) that has been enforced by the Advertising Standard Authority. What is wrong with using it as the wording is incredibly factual and has a precise definition?

  417. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – there are no images of the new Chinese decker available yet. I assume that’s because BYD are still building them in RHD form.

  418. Long Branch Mike says:


    BYD is a Chinese bus (and auto) manufacturer. I believe from the context that RHD stands for right hand drive.

  419. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM – both correct. Sorry I wasn’t clearer.

  420. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I owe BYD and readers an apology. Seems the double decker does exist and is under test. There are photos on the CLondoner92 blog.

    The BYD website has some specification info and drawings.

    The rear lower deck looks like it might be very full of batteries and other kit!

  421. Anon5 says:

    From an aesthetics point of view the buses look similar to those from the a decade or so ago. They haven’t really caught up with more modern styling. Light blue plastic interiors remind me of catching the N3 from Trafalgar Square in the late 90s or early 2000s when Connex thought the Fisher Price look would subdue a stomach churning with too many pints.

  422. Nameless says:

    Over a thousand six wheelers at about 30,000 miles a year for about 30 years makes it more like a billion miles. (Although at the time it would have been called a milliard).

  423. Fandroid says:

    Those images of the BYD (Build Your Dreams?) bus have some shocking retro features (in the post NB4L era): A window at the back of the upper deck; modern seating; a bright interior and (worst of all) yellow grab poles!

    @ngh. While accepting that ‘zero tailpipe emissions’ might be the world-wide accepted engineering terminology, it doesn’t help in a press release sent out to mainstream media. Something that makes immediate sense to Joe Public would be a lot more in order. Too many such releases are either in jargon only understood by insiders, or are dumbed down into Janet and John speak. A happy medium is needed and that phrase ain’t it.

  424. Melvyn says:

    Even more revolutionary in age of 37.7c/98f tempertures BYD has windows that open – who knows maybe one day all buses will have this feature …!

    I notice it takes several hours to charge which begs the question as to whether charging facilities should be provided to terminus a proposal I read for a trial on route 69 at Canning Town and Walthamstow Bus Stations .

  425. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – it is worth noting that the induction charging panel is now installed at Walthamstow Bus Station. I haven’t been to Canning Town recently but I know works are ongoing there. The 69 trial is for a virtual all electric vehicle which has a diesel engine back up. There will be three ADL vehicles and the trial is scheduled for an October start date. At a guess I think TfL will try to run two of the three in daily service so they get regular recharging over a service day with the third bus as back up.

    The BYD bus is a different technology and the terrain is relatively flat and straight. It is also worth saying that route 16 terminates at a garage at one end so substitution with another bus will be easy if there are issues or a driver is rostered who is not familiar with the bus. It is worth saying that route 69 is possibly the tougher test as it carries a lot more people than route 16 despite being a suburban service. I have seen a floor plan today for the BYD bus which shows a limited number of lower deck seats and a large area at the back occupied by the batteries.

    All the other routes using all electric buses also terminate at (or very close to) a garage at one end of the route – the 312, 507, 521 and H98. Clearly this approach for the trial routes is entirely sensible in the event of problems. Once the technology becomes more reliable and effective then I expect TfL will equip a route where the termini are remote from a garage. London General have two new Irizar all electric buses due – one is definitely in London – for use on the 507 and 521. It is suggested that the new contracts for the 507 and 521 will require full allocations of all electric buses as preparation for the ULEZ. I suspect the same may apply to the C10 which is also out to tender.

  426. timbeau says:

    “I have seen a floor plan today for the BYD bus which shows a limited number of lower deck seats and a large area at the back occupied by the batteries.”

    So hard luck if you are mobility-impaired.
    And lots of dwell time as everyone has to negotiate the stairs.

  427. Greg Tingey says:

    t is worth noting that the induction charging panel is now installed at Walthamstow Bus Station
    I was there on Wednesday & noticed nothing – is it up in the NE corner?

  428. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – it is on one of the stands directly opposite Stop E (used by W11, W12, W15, 275 towards Higham Hill, Barkingside etc) on the east side of the bus station. Often has a bus parked on top but you can see it nonetheless.

  429. Chris L says:

    It is very difficult to have opening windows and air cooling on a bus.

    Travelled on a New Routemaster on the 73 on Wednesday and the air cooling was working well on the upper deck.

    If the windows had been open hotter air would have been drawn into the bus as it moved forwards.

  430. straphan says:

    The seating layout on the BYD is an absolute joke. There are 17 seats on the lower deck, of which only 4 (!) are accessible from floor level. By contrast, the new Enviro400 hybrid is only 10cm longer than the BYD (10.3m vs BYD 10.2m) and has 25 seats downstairs, of which 10 are accessible from floor level.

    Given how much emphasis TfL has put in recent changes to bus specifications on the number of seats accessible from floor level in double-deckers, this suggests to me their priorities have shifted towards air quality rather than bus functionality and accessibility.

  431. timbeau says:

    If accessibility were the absolute priority, we would still have the bendies. No reason why you can’t have a battery-powered one, either.

  432. Kit Green says:

    straphan: The seating layout on the BYD is an absolute joke.

    Your comment is justifiably harsh regards seating layout but reads as if you consider that the BYD is a prototype for a future squadron delivery. Isn’t the design more for technical assessment of future electric options?

  433. timbeau says:


    Only 54 seats in a double decker? It is almost, but not quite, a single decker, albeit with a very high floor.

  434. Fandroid says:

    It really does seem as if they should stop messing around and get those trolley wires up. No reason why a modern trolley bus should not be a hybrid as well with a reasonable off-wire capability outside some wired-up central areas (or the steeper hills).

  435. Malcolm says:

    Many commenters here would agree with Fandroid’s suggestion of trolley wires, some with enthusiasm. But I suspect a majority would also agree that it’s not going to happen any time soon. It would be interesting to understand why. Is it only due to a wish to be stepping boldly into the future and putting behind us things of the past? Or corporate inability to admit to mistakes? (Corporate in the loosest sense, because neither the authorities that scrapped them nor the then-controlling minds are still about).

    There are real difficulties about getting public acceptance of overhead wires, of course. But these have been overcome (often with difficulty and/or expense) in the case of tramways. There are also issues around road works, road alterations and so on. There is overtaking. Any other problems?

  436. straphan says:

    @Kit Green: Given how much pressure there is to reduce air pollution in London and how much political drive there is towards electric buses as the answer to this particular problem, I think we will certainly see electric double-deckers in service way before technological advances manage to reduce the spatial requirement for on-board batteries to the amount of space required by a standard diesel engine or a hybrid. As it stands, one of the principal user groups of buses – the elderly – doesn’t really have anywhere to sit on board that bus.

    @timbeau: Getting rid of the bendies is a slightly different story – it was far more an issue of perception than any real issues with them.

    @Fandroid: Elsewhere in Europe, the discussion is going much the other way: what is the point of all those kilometres of wires when hybrid/electric buses can match trolleybuses in almost every way. Trouble is there is no upper deck in their equation – the discussion is centred solely around rigid/articulated vehicles.

  437. @Kit Green

    Language question on the correct collective noun for a subset of buses. An entire group of buses is obviously called a fleet. But I’ve not heard the ‘squadron’ you’ve used. Is this the correct term? A ‘garage’ perhaps? Am curious.

  438. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM – I am sure I will be corrected by others but the bus quantum hierarchy that I understand is fleet —> garage allocation —> route allocation —> peak vehicle requirement (for a route). The PVR is vehicles on the road whereas the allocation includes spares / breakdown cover. When I see the term “squadron” used with buses I tend to think of a mass or group of vehicles of a given type entering service in a location or on a route. Clearly London sees quite a lot of this given type conversions etc although private bus cos now tend to put their shiniest new buses on the best performing routes or ones they want to improve. Allocations are now strongly linked to route rather than general upgrades as might have happened in years gone by.

  439. Kit Green says:

    I could have used “fleet” but I was trying to make a point about a large number of new vehicles being put into service in a short timescale. I have seen this used for new trains.

    For example:

    “When you combine the new fleets of Connex South Eastern and South West Trains to the Southern region the quantum of trains is such that the current power supply, which is 11 KV, is not adequate to cope with the squadron introduction of new trains.”

  440. peezedtee says:

    I suspect it was probably Cecil J. Allen who coined the use of “squadron” in relation to trains, typically in the phrase “(entering into) squadron service”, still used today in the railway press. I must admit I haven’t seen it used about buses before.
    See also:

  441. Kit Green says:

    Here is a bus related use in relation to the ‘Borismaster’:

  442. timbeau says:

    I first came across the term “squadron” in the railway sense in relation to the APT, to distinguish from the APT-E (evaluation or experimental – one built) and APT-P (prototype: three built). “Squadron service” essentially meant that they would be in normal operational service. (Unbdoutedly a term borrowed from the RAF, where an experimental type would eventually be developed to a type which could be used in an operational squadron)
    Although the APT-P was a PR disaster, pressed into passenger service before it was ready, squadron service of a simplified non-articulated version did eventually happen. The power car was moved to one end and although the carriages were designed to be retro-fitted for tilt, that has not so far come to pass. The name was also changed for the squadron version.

  443. Melvyn says:

    It seems Boris is to be challenged on the extreme high tempertures experienced on his Borismasters in the heatwave conditions we are having see link –

    The response given to ITV London was totally pathetic and as Malcolm inferred in an earlier post it seems whatever problem arises with Borismaster buses be it failing brakes or excess summer heat ” The Emperor ( Boris) is fully clothed !”

    As for Trolleybuses well they were seen as yesterday’s transport restricted to overhead wires which had never been updated or automated meaning clippies had to jump off and on buses to set frogs manually many times a day . While they made use of tram infrastructure which was around 60 years old and thus needed replacing and so the economics of diesel buses at a time of cheap oil meant Trolleys had no future !

    Who knows , the development of battery powered buses might lead to installing modern overhead as hybrid fully electric buses able to cover longer routes are introduced ..

  444. Slugabed says:

    All true,although modern battery technology coupled with a different design of current collection could avoid some of the intrinsic problems of the old system.
    A modern trolleybus could be fitted with a retractable pantograph which could be raised “under the wires” or charging purposes,and lowered for “off the wires” or overtaking (under battery power).There would also be none of the issues with route-selection and de-wiring that bedevilled the old system.
    I believe such a system has been adopted by Mercedes/Siemens for their experimental system for goods lorries.
    Apologies if this has been raised before….this is a very long thread….

  445. timbeau says:

    Pneumatic tyres mean that trolleybuses needed +ve and -ve wires, where railed vehicles can use the rails as an earth return. The trolley system ensured the contacts stayed on the respective wires. I don’t know how the siemens system keeps the two pantographs on the respective wires. There must be some very clever tracking going on,.

  446. Fandroid says:

    @straphan. The European cities that still have trolleybus systems are few and far between. It is very unlikely that any of those have London’s specific problems, although they would be subject to the same air quality standards as London. They have the luxury to be able to contemplate what the industry might come up with in terms of wire-less electric transport.

    London does not have that luxury. The city’s air quality problem is so serious that TfL should be demonstrating that it is vigorously looking at every potential technology. What seems to be happening is a bit of this and a bit of that, in the full knowledge that the only ‘new’ technologies for all-electric buses have severe disadvantages in terms of range, weight and passenger capacity. To totally ignore the only proven all-electric bus technology (and proven in a big way here in London as well as other places), is perverse and unfair on Londoners. As it is, there is an atmosphere of hoping that ‘something will turn up’.

    Perhaps it’s another fall-out from the Mayor’s gesture politics in retiring early all those bendy buses. Modern trolleybus systems tend to be single-deck and the high capacity versions are articulated. Is potential loss of face a problem here?

    It would be daft to suddenly go for wholesale wire erection, but it’s equally stupid not to have a trial route. Is someone afraid that such a trial would immediately demonstrate how good it could be? Although no-one builds double-deck trolleybuses, there are plenty of buses around with wheels driven by electric motors. Conversion on a trial basis would not seem to be a great challenge.

  447. Greg Tingey says:

    The city’s air quality problem is so serious
    Sorry, I simpy do not believe this.
    At all.

    Even compared to 20-25 years back, when almost all diesel vehicles spewed out clouds of choking blue-black smoke, things have visibly improved.
    It is still noticeable, mostly to the nose, especially at clogged & busy intersections, on still days, that the air quality is not what it might be.
    But – some of us remember real pollution.
    I do not believe the scare figures about the number being killed in London each year by exhaust emissions – I would love to see the full basis for such calculations.
    I suspect, that like the “Obesity” statistics, absed on a Body-Mass-Index, that was itself based on a study done in the USA in the dustbowl era, the entire underpinning of the operation is very dodgy, to say the least.

    Is someone afraid that such a trial would immediately demonstrate how good it could be?

  448. timbeau says:

    The perceived problems with fixed-infrastructure transport is its lack of adaptability to change – either short term for repair and maintenance or longer term as demand patterns change. However, this does not seem to deter the advocates of heavy rail, despite many examples of recent construction that have since become redundant – Charing Cross Jubilee, Island Gardens terminus, Waterloo International, North Pole depot, Stewrats Lane flyover, Fawkham spur etc.

    As far as trolleybuses are concerned, this problem is readily resolvable with developments in battery technology – why sit on a pad to charge up when you can do it as you go along?

    And as a recent digression-from-a-digression on another topic has highlighted (to be deleted as way off the point!) , some London bus routes have existed in more or less the same form for a hundred years or more. Indeed, although London only had trolleybuses for 31 years (less eight days), some of the successor diesel routes still faithfully follow exactly the same routes today – and indeed the tramlines that preceded them!

  449. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – I wouldn’t disagree with your general conclusion about the Godot approach to policy in this country but there is a cultural point behind it,perhaps – some European countries have a dense cluster of trolleybus systems – Switzerland, Austria, and everywhere east (albeit for a different reason), but some seemingly comparable jurisdictions eg Germany. One possible explanation is that these trolleyphile cities are in states where the local Stadtwerke has not been forced to divest itself of non-core activities and the synergies between power generation and local transport are easier to see and implement.

    @timbeau – indeed some bus routes are understood to be 150 years old and more, but – back on topic – one of the triggers for trolleybus abandonment in this country was the widespread introduction of one-way traffic management schemes where the cost of moving the infrastructure was thought to be poor vfm for systems that needed major renewal investment anyway. (The fewpublished accounts of municipal trolleybus operation that I have been able to turn up suggest that purely in terms of operating expenditure, trolleybuses were cheaper than diesel, as well as, of course, providing a welcome daytime load for municipally-owned power stations….)

    One thing that has puzzled me greatly about recent UK trolleybus projects has been their immense capital cost – Leeds was coming up with figures in excess of £800m at one time. For that money, it would have been cheaper to buy a modern tramway of the same size (and that would include moving the utilities, too).

  450. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Fandroid / Melvyn – the issue of high temperatures on the NB4L has already been dealt with in a recent Mayor’s Answer to a question from Darren Johnson.

    In essence the answer is “everything is OK” and “NB4Ls are no worse than other buses”. Whether that is believed or not is down to individuals. There have been loads of complaining tweets over the last week or so and a growing number of people are avoiding the buses where they can because they make people ill. Nice to know I’m not alone. Note the remark in the above answer about further small scale initiatives being trialled on route 73. Route 73 is also the first recipient of the “mark 2” NB4Ls which are supposed to have improved heat insulation / better air cooling. I haven’t seen one or been on one of these vehicles. I was forced to use a NB4L on the N73 a fortnight ago at about 0400 and it was warm with steamed up windows even at that time of day.

    My view is that we are certainly seeing a policy of avoiding Mayoral embarrassment by defending the NB4L to the hilt even when there is a level of vocal complaint on social media and issues being raised by politicians. The same applies to the denial of the merits of bendy buses in shifting large numbers of people and having more provision for buggies and wheelchairs given two bays on those buses. This is one of the downsides of political control – TfL has to defend the policies of the incumbent Mayor even if they are unpopular or not especially rational. I am sure there will be more questions from Assembly Members and the same answers will be trotted out. Nothing changes until at least May 2016 *unless* anyone suffers a serious health problem that can be incontrovertibly linked to travelling on the NB4L. Even then I can’t see 600+ buses being taken off the roads.

    I think there are two issues with electric buses / trolleybuses. TfL have clearly decided they’re happy to help “push” technological development of all electric buses. They’ve done this before with low floor bus development, then having a fully accessible fleet and then hybrid bus development. It has the influence and buying power to do this plus a political context of aiding the resolution of air quality problems. The downside is that commitment to specific vehicle designs can involve “locking in” a level of emissions performance that will quickly be overtaken by technological improvements. This has already happened with new euro6 buses being better than the euro5 spec NB4Ls. TfL’s locked in to a 14 year lifespan with the NB4Ls unless it is prepared to write off a very substantial investment.

    On the trolleybus issue I think it’s as simple as not wanting to make the huge investment in infrastructure for the wires, power supply and garage changes. That’s a big sum of money and there is the whole life cost of maintenance, replacement and upgrade. I also think there is a second issue of risk around securing powers and design / implementation. We have a zero or close to zero level of knowledge of modern trolleybuses which means time and money being needed to get round those problems. I also suspect that boroughs like Westminster, the City of London and Kensington and Chelsea would object to any wiring within their boundaries. If they don’t want cycle lanes then imagine the furore over wiring. The only thing that will get round this is a new Mayor requiring TfL to introduce trolleybuses but remember we’ve been here before and wires were argued away on the schemes for East London Transit and Waterfront Transit in South East London.

  451. timbeau says:

    @WW “I also suspect that boroughs like Westminster, the City of London and Kensington and Chelsea would object to any wiring within their boundaries.”
    plus ca change – they never saw trolleybuses last time round (except for very short encroachments a few yards into the City), and it was pressure to protect the streetscape in these areas that was a big driver behind using conduit rather than overhead wires for LCC trams.
    @Graham H
    “the cost of moving the infrastructure was thought to be poor vfm for systems that needed major renewal investment anyway.”
    You could have argued that, on the contrary, if it needed renewal anyway, that was the ideal time to reconfigure it. One of the reasons trolleybuses came along in the first place – the tram tracks, dating back to the horse age, were knackered, but the electrics (which were newer) had plenty of life still in them

    “Route 73 is also the first recipient of the “mark 2″ NB4Ls which are supposed to have improved heat insulation / better air cooling. I haven’t seen one or been on one of these vehicles. ”
    (that route again……)
    There is a significant change to the NB4L design. Here it is.
    https:[email protected]/19179321411
    and the old two-piece design for comparison
    https:[email protected]/19041393528
    The USP of the Borismaster was supposed to be the open platform, hop-on, hop off. The new arrangement seems to have designed out even the possibility of doing this.

    @Graham H
    “One possible explanation is that these trolleyphile cities are in states where the local Stadtwerke has not been forced to divest itself of non-core activities and the synergies between power generation and local transport are easier to see and implement.”
    That was not the case in London though. Despite nationalisation of the power industry in the 1940s, LT continued to generate its own electrictity at the former MDR power station at Lots Road until 2002, and retains the former LCC tramways generators at Greenwich (for standby purposes for the Underground ) even now.
    It was both private and municipal enterprise which built the tram network, and all but the initial trolleybus network was built up by London Transport. But, it was also London Transport which shut the whole lot down.

  452. Greg Tingey 09:25

    Whether you choose to believe that the air quality today is as bad as it used to be is up to you. Not for nothing is it called the invisible killer. There is no point in just recalling the belching fumes or smog of yesteryear to establish facts. What you need to do is draw comparisons of expected death (assuming no vehicle or other pollution to be investigated) and actual death of certain conditions, respiratory conditions in particular. As I understand it, consistently worldwide, there is a strong correlation between air quality and premature respiratory deaths and they run into the thousands every year. There is also a greater understanding of what the tiny particles involved do to the lungs.

    One could draw many comparisions. Which would you rather live next to: a coking plant that belched out masses of black soot or an asbestos factory that merely covered the streets in a light white gauze that children picked up and played with?

  453. Malcolm says:

    Fandroid says “The European cities that still have trolleybus systems are few and far between“. Far-between maybe, but from a quick count in this article I make it 228 cities . This does include Russia and Ukraine (not sure if it’s the whole of Russia), but even if you exclude these far-away countries of whose people we may know nothing, it’s still 103. Even if you exclude cities which were east of the iron curtain (not really recommended these days) , it is still a fairly respectable 42.

  454. Greg Tingey says:

    Your last point is only too apt.
    I was questioning the underlying supposedly statistical basis upon which these figures appear to subsist.
    I have no quarrel with a correlation between air quality & number of deaths – indeed the (Usually publicly under-stated) number of deaths in the two great smogs of 1952 & 1955 were the driver for the Clean Air acts.
    What I am questioning is the supposed correlation between the current low-by-historical standards pollution level & the current number of deaths …..
    Please note, I am not advocating that we should “do nothing”, merely asking for real justification for these apparently emergency measures, & that any real improvements in emissions be introduced gradually, since, in the nature of things, most of the older, more polluting vehicles will naturally waste away, anyhow.
    Especially if the new, less-polluting vehicles can be made either cheaper or longer-lasting or both, of course

  455. Ollyver says:

    The Supreme Court ruled recently that London and several other UK cities have levels of Nitrogen Dioxide which is above the EU limits, and that the government must do something about that. (See e.g. So it’s not necessarily a case of “worse than it used to be”, but definitely “worse than it should be”.

  456. Malcolm says:


    One thing you seem to be missing (unless I have misunderstood you) is that the pollution now, being addressed by the current restrictions and regulations on emissions from diesel engines, is of a different kind from the historical pollution addressed by the Clean Air acts. Visible (and smellable) smog and soot is indeed low-by-historical-standards, but that has no connection with the current restrictions.

    As for introducing things gradually, well yes, but that is, arguably, already happening. This silent killer has been understood for at least 20 years, but very little was done, at first. (Witness the once-lower rate of taxation on diesel fuel as against petrol, now rectified, but which influenced many car buyers towards going for diesel). Of course a balance has to be struck between acting too fast, and foot-dragging, and that balance is ultimately left to the politicians, as it has to be.

    But there is one form of pressure on politicians which seems to work to some extent. That is competition between cities. Even allowing for it being the Evening Standard, this article (with some scientific backing) accuses Oxford Street of being the worst place in the world for toxic pollutants.

  457. Slugabed says:

    While seeing your point,I think that the hyperbolic claims made for Oxford Street fuel the scepticism which Greg demonstrates and to which I,to some extent share and,mirabile dictu,we boh share with our Mayor.
    Oxford Street clearly isn’t the most polluted place in the world and although much hangs on the definition of “place”,(there are some places which are immediately lethal to all human life) and to say so makes a mockery of all the efforts to provide workable solutions to real problems of quality,and a gradual reduction of what I consider,based on my own 50 years’ experience of living in London,to be historically low levels of air pollution.
    Tottenham Marshes,for instance,with which I am very familiar,hosts species of Lichen (a proven indicator of air quality) which 40 years ago I had only seen on holiday in the Channel Islands and Cornwall.
    This is shouldn’t be taken to say further improvements can’t be made still,though…

  458. Anomnibus (Lewisham People's Front [Catford Branch]) says:

    It seems to me that one problem with reinstating trolley-wire infrastructure across London is that it’s a low-voltage DC power system and thus suffers from the same drawbacks as 3rd-rail and 4th-rail systems found on the railways: you need a lot of substations to support it.

    The old network went out of service around 60 years ago and it’s unlikely any of what remains of its support infrastructure—mainly the HV connections to substations, and the substations themselves—is viable today. Such a network would therefore need to be built from scratch. And that’s expensive. It’s not just the installation of the trolley-wires themselves, but getting them all connected to the national grid.

    When the original tram network was built, there was no national grid, so this is already a big change. National Grid Plc. is also a private corporation, so they’re unlikely to connect it all up at cost, which will inevitably add to the price tag. They’ll have to dig up roads to lay the new HV cables. The fewer of these you need, the better, which is why talk of on-route current-collection systems appears to be mainly in favour of short stretches along common route sections. (E.g. along High Streets and the like.)

    Another issue is operations and maintenance expenditure (“OpEx”). At the moment, most of that is offloaded onto the bus operators: TfL only has to maintain the roads, which they’d have to do regardless, so their accountants pretend the wear and tear is all down to LGVs and white vans. Bus lanes and the like can also be maintained by the same teams that paint all the other lines and symbols onto the roads—i.e. you don’t need specialist teams for that. But trolley-wire infrastructure would require specialists, which means additional ongoing costs for TfL.

    All of which may explain why TfL are more interested in buses that can carry their own energy supply, rather than feeding off a wire or induction system. It may make the buses themselves more expensive, but it’s the bus operators who would pay for them and their maintenance, not TfL.

    (I suspect this is also why TfL has also been less than enthusiastic about new tram projects, despite the success of Croydon’s Tramlink. You can’t offload the track and trolley wire costs onto the operators, unless you charge them track access fees, which would mean TfL creating a mini-Network Rail entity of their own…)

    As is so often the case, it boils down (mainly) to politics.

  459. Malcolm says:


    I think I now see where I am differing from you and Greg, thank you for making it clearer.

    You both see one thing called “air quality”, and are stressing how good it is, by certain measures. And of course you are right. The particular pollutants which previously killed the lichen you refer to, or previously killed many Londoners through smog, are not there.

    And I do accept that a one-dimensional measure like “air quality” is useful for many purposes. But it does not tell the whole story. We can have better quality air than we had 40 years ago, and yet still suffer from a particular subset of pollutants (NO2 and some specific particulates) in particular areas of the city, to an extent that is dangerous to human life.

    Pedantic provided the most telling illustration of this. Another would be a person advised by a doctor to give up smoking, who responds by saying how much better he has been since he gave up drinking, ate more vegetables, got more exercise, a more fulfilling career, and a dog. All very true, but all irrelevant to the smoking.

  460. Slugabed says:

    Indeed…and I am,in no sense,saying “that’s it,the air is clean!” there is still a lot to be done…the doctor in your instance would say “Well done,now all we have to do is work on the smoking” rather than saying “You have the most cancerous lungs on earth” which is not only an absurd statement but also demonstrably untrue.

  461. Malcolm says:


    You are probably right about the factors of cost allocation and so on, the specialists, and “who pays for what”.

    I am less convinced by your arguments about provision of High Voltage supplies and substations. Yes, of course that would all cost money. But a similar amount of money would be required by widespread adoption of battery buses. They would all need charging, and a similar amount of power would have to be delivered to the garages or charging stations. In fact slightly more energy in total, due to battery losses (assuming these are greater than the substation losses). (Maybe a somewhat lower peak demand, if they can all be charged overnight).

    Although third-rail trains also require expensive power delivery infrastructure, no-one as far as I am aware is suggesting replacing them by battery trains.

  462. Purley Dweller says:

    Malcolm – It is true that no one is suggesting replacing 3rd rail with battery trains dud to the amount of grid connections, but neither is anyone electifying the three remaining diesel islands, partly due to the increased cost of sub stations.

  463. Melvyn says:

    It looks like the new version of NB4L kills off the justification of being able to hop on and off these buses as with the narrower entrance available such an act will be almost impossible. And it aids these buses being even hotter !

    These buses are pure dogma which can be seen in TFL adverts which prise their three entrances which when it came to Artics were condemned for allowing fare dodgers.

    The development of batteries which have far more power than those Trolleybuses had mean that there is no need to fully wire routes but to look at where wires could be used to charge batteries say at northern end of route 149 between Edmonton and Dalston Junction with battery power onwards to London Bridge thus not needing to wire more sensitive central central section.

    However when one compares the round traction poles with the ugly metal supports used on Tramlink then this aspect needs to be more like the old . While more use of supporting wires from buildings with Rosettes helps to reduce poles .

    The real problems are not just the overhead but the way bus routes are tendered on short 5-7 year awards with routes no longer always having garages en route as London Transport Trolleybus Depots were in most cases.

  464. timbeau says:

    @Purley Dweller/Malcolm
    “Malcolm – It is true that no one is suggesting replacing 3rd rail with battery trains, but they are talking about conversion to ac ohle – initially Basingtsoke to Southampton, as part of the “electric spine”.

  465. Anomnibus (Lewisham People's Front [Catford Branch]) says:


    My main point was that TfL is unlikely to adopt any system that places the OpEx burden directly on them, hence their preference for alternative systems that put the financial burden (and risk) on the operators. The short concessions means operators aren’t going to be funding massive trolleybus infrastructure out of their own pockets. You have to change the rules of the game for that to happen.

    That said, running HV cables to bus garages and other strategic locations for charging duties is still going to be substantially cheaper than running HV cables to brand new substations right across central London, which would be required for conventional trolley-wire infrastructure. Just finding suitable sites for those substations would be very difficult—not to mention the staggering cost of building anything in that part of London.

    If you’re only running in electric-only mode for relatively short stretches, there is no need for a continuous power supply along the entire route, so the rise of the hybrid bus is logical given the rules and interfaces the various entities involved are stuck with.

  466. Melvyn,

    I am not saying which is right or wrong but I do notice that inconsistencies abound when it comes to the air-conditioning issue be it on buses or trains.

    For years I have been reading the claim that one of the reasons the New Routemaster was so hot was because the open doors made the air-conditioning less ineffective. Now I am interpreting your comment to mean that because one of the doors will be not only be normally shut but also less wide it will help make the buses even hotter.

  467. Purley Dweller says:

    What range would a plug in hybrid bus have before the engine needed to run. Buses sit on the stand for quite a while on routes that serve central London so could they be plugged in at one end of the route, and would that give them enough charge to get out and back say 20 miles worth and then the engine could cover when there was a lot of traffic. Euro 6 keeps the soot down when the engine is running.

  468. Walthamstow Writer says:

    A couple of comments on previous posts.

    @ Anomnibus – TfL only look after a minority of roads in London and several stretches of the A13 and A406, for example, have no bus services at all. Boroughs have the lion’s share of road maintenance responsibilities and their funding is even more imperiled that TfL’s. They are also sacking highway engineers to save money so expertise and knowledge is being lost. That is another significant impediment to introducing new technology on or near the highway network. That situation will worsen for possibly the next decade and beyond. It will also imperil cycling and bus priority improvements too. More ludicrous short term, short sighted politics.

    @ Melvyn – can we please stop the hysteria over the NB4L please? It is no shock to anyone who takes more than a passing interest in TfL matters that the “mark 2” NB4L is not going to have an open platform or a customer assistant. TfL said this in their policy paper. It has been evident *for months and months* that no more twin crewed route conversions will happen. Depending on the outcome of the May 2016 election and the funding situation I’d expect customer assistants to be removed from NB4L routes in pretty short order. Some people won’t like it but tough. The routes were all OPO before the NB4L turned up so what’s the issue? The temperature situation is different – clearly a proportion of people are finding the NB4Ls far too hot in warm weather. Some of them are voicing their concerns on Twitter and elsewhere. However nothing will happen because to do anything substantive would mean conceding they don’t work and we can’t have that for reasons already discussed. That’s politics for you.

    I would also point out that the NB4L sets the precedent for what could be done with Trolleybuses. TfL would have to buy the vehicles and lease them to the operators. No different to what’s being done now. Ditto the infrastructure. To suggest TfL would be so daft as to impose the cost and risk of unique vehicles and infrastructure on operators would then charge TfL an absolute fortune for the privilege is to ignore TfL’s stance of costs and risks. It knows where best to place such things and there is loads of evidence to support that. Please don’t create ludicrous scenarios just for effect when the evidence suggests the opposite would be true. The same applies for electric buses. I understand many of the initial vehicles are owned by TfL and leased to the operators. The same thing happened with the early low floor buses on routes 101, 222 and 144 and also the trial hybrid buses. All of this allowed in service operational experience to be gained with minimal risk to the operators and no risk premium being passed to TfL. TfL took the risk and also obtained european funding where this was possible. That looks like sensible stewardship.

    @ Purley Dweller – I think the current level of in service operation for “plug in” buses is about 3-4 hours before some level of recharge is needed. You’ll see this if you look at the vehicles’ history on London Vehicle Finder and they do chunks of work and then recharge at the garage and came back in to service later. When one is recharging then another takes its slot on the route. In effect you have twice as many buses to cover a duty. The BYD buses on the 507 and 521 seem to do a bit better whereas the Optare Metrocity electrics seem to be doing better than in their early days. I’ve just looked at some vehicle and route history and they seem to be out for longer hours than I recall so being honest I’ve just slightly contradicted myself but hey that’s life! I confess I have yet to travel on any of the electric buses – they’re a long drag away from WW Towers.

  469. IslandDweller says:

    On the range / time question. The Tesla Model S (a large and startlingly rapid car – stealing customers from Mercedes/Jaguar) can add about 170 miles to range in a 30 minute charge – if it’s charged at a specific Tesla charging station.
    I appreciate that this car is nowhere near as heavy as a bus, but it shows how charging technology has come on.
    On the NB4L and heat. The tfl statement that its no worse than other buses is about as believable as the soviet “grain harvest spectacular” claims. I was on a route 135 (new hybrid, not NB4L) and that bus has cooling that actually works.

  470. timbeau says:

    “The BYD buses on the 507 and 521 seem to do a bit better ”
    Possibly because the service levels (and thus PVR) on those two routes is extremely “peaky” and it is therefore easy to charge them up between the peaks. I never see them in the off peak. Might not be so easy to do this if the route is entirely operated by battery buses.

    “The routes were all OPO before the NB4L turned up so what’s the issue? ”
    The issue is that the hop-on hop-off facility was the USP of the design – one of the few things actually specified in the brief. Without it, these buses are merely rather heavier, longer, dirtier (as not Euro-6 compliant) and more expensive, than off-the-shelf designs.

  471. Melvyn says:

    @ WW I agree with Timbeau as to the main reason advocated for the New Routemasters in the 2008 Mayoral Election was bringing back hop on and off facility ( despite deaths and injuries especially sprained ankles associated with open platform buses !) . In fact I watched the latest Mayoral Questions and Boris was arguing with two of his party members over which one came up with the idea which he pinched all thinking these buses are the ultimate in perfection !

    As for argument over air conditioning well I found the old buses with opening windows and cold air blowers far more comfortable and far better looking with proper size front windows .

    On the subject of BYD buses on routes 507 and 521 are electric Artic buses available to help reduce the number of buses required if charging time means more buses are needed on electric routes ?

  472. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – fair comment about the BYDs but I have seen them out and about off peak from looking at LVF. Clearly they get a rest at weekends as Waterloo garage is closed and the 507 runs out of Mandela Way.

    I know some people get very “hot under the collar” about the alleged hop on / hop off facility on the NB4L but it’s never been a plus point for me. From seeing how the “customer assistants” were instructed to act as guards for the rear door and yelling at people who had the audacity to descend to the platform when the bus was moving but approaching a stop I quickly realised it was a load of nonsense. Nothing like coming down the stairs on a RM and being able to hang on with the breeze in your face as the bus pulled in to a stop. It’s simply not the same thing at all so why bother with the pretence?

    The Mayor spouted his usual load of flowery prosed nonsense about the “open platform and personal freedom” when the thing was launched which was enough for me to consign it to the dustbin. I refuse to call the NB4L the N** R********** because it simply isn’t such a thing and never was. A senior TfL person called the NB4L a double deck bendy bus with the trailer being the top deck which is marginally nearer the operational reality but without the bendy bus’s obvious benefits like high carrying capacity. It’s simply another entry in the annals of London Bus History and others will no doubt give it its “place” in said history. One day professional bus men will be allowed to buy appropriate vehicles for London without needless political interference. The waste from bad vehicle purchases and political interference in vehicle policy over many many decades must mount into the hundreds of millions of pounds.

  473. timbeau says:

    “the alleged hop on / hop off facility on the NB4L but it’s never been a plus point for me.”

    Whether open platforms are a good thing or not (and I think they are, having been imprisoned in buses stuck in traffic between stops far too often, and missing trains/appointments/connecting buses in consequence) BoJo was an enthusiast, and the design brief for the NBfL required them.
    “Key features designers must consider include an open platform to allow passengers to get on and off quickly and easily”

  474. Malcolm says:

    This article has attracted 474 comments. Obviously the subject is still a live one, and still of interest. But it is clear, looking back, that some more recent comments are restating things that were already said, 6, 9 or 12 months earlier. There are also restatements of points made by Pedantic in his original article. (I find that I am as guilty as several others are of inadvertent repetition).

    Comments can and will continue. But it would be strongly preferred if everyone would try to ensure that they are saying something which is new. (And, as always, interesting, well-argued, supported by facts, and on-topic).

  475. Graham H says:

    Just jogging back to the electric bus technology for a moment – and hopefully (Malcolm!) making a couple of new points – if we are looking at a fleetwide use of recharging technology, then the power demand will be comparable pari passu with the demands of the former trolleybus fleet and require similar amounts of supporting distribution, albeit to a smaller number of points. (Of course, modern technology and materials will have reduced transmission losses,and a complete network of wires andpolesis not needed, but the total power draw and its associated infrastructure will still be substantialand far beyond the scope of the present handful of experimental charging points).

    The second point is that even 30 minutes to recharge a battery (as with the cited example of a Tesla car) every 170 miles(presumably a different lower figure for a much heavier bus which is starting away frequently, even if it has bigger – but heavier – batteries), implies an additional number of buses off the road being recharged. An additional cost therefore.

    The third point of the two I had in mind(with apologies to the Spanish Inquisition) was simply to remark that the key to all this taking off is presumably a high degree of standardisation, for example, by permitting battery swaps as easily filling up with petrol. I see little sign of that being taken seriously just now.

  476. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “power demand will be comparable pari passu with the demands of the former trolleybus fleet ”
    With three differences:
    1. modern buses are heavier than they were fifty years ago – even before you take the extra weight of the batteries into account compared with a trolleybus
    2. overall energy take will be greater because of conversion losses in the batteries.
    3. the demand profile will be very different – TBs highest power draw would be in the peaks, which is exactly when no battery bus will be sitting on its charger

  477. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – another aspect of the switch to electric buses is the cost of power. Currently the bus companies in London are nearly all part of big groups who can hedge their fuel costs. Clearly there’s a risk either way given fuel price volatlility in recent years but bus cos don’t pay either close to the price the public pay. I am left wondering what flexibility there will be for bus companies to become bulk buyers of electricity so they can benefit from the advance purchase / spot market for power. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens to tender prices and whether some companies gain or lose depending on the scale of electricity buying power.

    I also wonder quite what TfL is funding directly up front (e.g. charging points in garages for trial vehicles?) [1] and what will be funded indirectly via the contract costs. Unfortunately TfL have not yet updated the tender award info for route 312’s award which is with an all electric fleet of single deckers.

    [1] that’s me speculating btw – I have no clue whether TfL have funded power infrastructure for the trials of all electric buses.

  478. Malcolm says:

    In my earlier message I forgot to also stipulate that comments should ideally be written in the English language. Pari passu means “in equal steps”, and I think in this case Graham means something like “in proportion to the sizes of the respective fleets”. In timbeau’s message I presume “TBs” means “trolleybuses’ “.

    (timbeau also forgot to throw in the dreaded air-conditioning).

  479. Stationless says:

    It would seem that Geminis with A/C = good. NBfLs with A/C = bad. but then what is it that makes the difference?

    Also, the Tesla is an extremely impressive car, but isn’t its boot entirely filled with laptop batteries?

  480. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – entirely agree. Even without being able to put numbers around it, it’s difficult to see battery buses as being the answer to lowering emissions – lower at street level-probably – lower in total – unlikely. But then – that’s what comes of managing to (thoughtlessly chosen) targets…..

    BTW, as a small aside on your point about the timing of demand – well into the post war period, and quite possibly even afterwards, electric public transport provided a key daytime load on the generation system – a role which it didn’t lose until industry switched away from belt-driven steam powered plant on a large scale, an event probaly marked in our area with the modern factories along the Great West Road and at Park Royal.

    @Malcolm -you are probably right to chide;it’s just that sometimes – asindeed your very own translation shows – Latin is the soul of brevity, perhaps even the mot just.

  481. IslandDweller says:

    Stationless. We’re in danger of being edited out for veering away from buses. But no, au contraire (to further inflame Malcolm…), the Tesla ModelS has massive luggage space with two boots. A normal one and another where a conventional engine would be. The batteries sit in a thin tray under the floor plan.
    Malcolm. Understand the point about sticking to English. But I’d say ‘Pari passu’ is now adopted, it’s widely used in financial markets. Mind you, Apple agree with you. I’d a huge fight with “predictive suggests” before I could type that…

  482. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stationless – on the basis that A/C in your post means air conditioning then I need to say that no London double deck bus on TfL service has air conditioning in the passenger saloon. Younger vehicles have an air cooling system which may be a unit over the stairwell and ducting on a Wright’s Gemini body or a unit at the rear on an Alexander Dennis bus – you can see the fans under the rear upper deck window. Conventional buses also have a variable number of opening windows on upper and lower decks. In short there is the prospect of some air circulation with opening windows although the air cooling works best on the upper deck when it isn’t fighting with air coming through the windows. To be fair the performance of normal air cooling systems is variable – I assume because the level of care and attention by operators varies.

    On the NB4L the key difference seems to be the concentration of heat generation at the rear of the vehicle which is also where the vents are for the air cooling system. There are also no opening windows anywhere on a NB4L. It’s also worth saying that there are large expanses of glass near the staircases on the NB4L which can cause the steps and step edges to be very hot. To be honest I’ve not encountered a NB4L where cool air has come out of the air ducting although I hardly ever use them so the usual warnings about tiny sample sizes apply. Some people on other forums have used NB4Ls which have had cool air coming out of the ducting. If you believe comment on social media then a lot of NB4Ls are very warm / hot during warm weather. Also many people believe the buses have air conditioning that simply isn’t working. On one level that’s correct because the buses don’t have air con at all!!

    I understand that many drivers cabs on both single and double deck London buses do have air conditioning. I believe that Mercedes Citaro single decks that run on a small number of London routes (203, 227, X26, 507 and 521) are also air conditioned the the passenger saloon but that’s it. All the other single decks have opening windows to create some air cooling effect / circulation. They don’t have ducted air cooling systems. Happy to be corrected if I’ve missed something.

  483. timbeau says:

    I’d have thought “mutatis mutandis” was the appropriate term, but if Latin is verboten we’ll have to stop discussing omnibuses altogether.

    As for the Tesla (I wonder how many owners actually know who Nikola Tesla was?) , the Roadster is rather short on luggage space, but in the big limousine (Tesla S) the Observer’s car reviewer reported only yesterday:
    “…. peer into the empty [bonnet] cavity and see only decent storage. You pop the lid on the boot… Nope, just more storage. [the engine] is the size of a handbag and is hidden behind the back seat. A giant battery pack powers this handbag and it takes up the entire floor of the car.”

    Ah, but there are handbags and handbags. Are we talking about the minuscule clutch bag or purse that a lady might take to the opera, holding little more than a credit card and a mobile phone? Or the Lady Bracknell-type “HANDBAG?!” in which the infant Ernest Worthing (as he would subsequently be named) was discovered in the left luggage office at Victoria Station (the Brighton line)? (what we would probably call a Gladstone bag)

  484. Nameless says:

    @Graham H
    Did you meant to say “pro rata”.

    Battery buses with air conditioning? How will that affect power consumption and therefore range, recharging times and the size and weight of the battery pack? Surely with prohibitive effect.

  485. Graham H says:

    @Nameless – I very much agree that aircon and other bells and whistles (but mainly aircon) are not only a big addition to weight but require a substantial power draw to operate them. On aircon railway rolling stock, the additional power requirement has exceeded 20% (I have heard of cases of up to 40% but not from wholly reliable sources).

    Pro rata would be banned, too. I am now initiating a project to produce posts only in basic English with a vocabulary of no more than 800 words. [Eg ” I will start work to write. I will use no more than 800 different words.”] Only joking…

  486. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Graham H,

    I suspect that the premise is made that “if the air-con is fully working it is drawing additional current of up to 20%” then it is compared to a base load for having the train in operation. This is rather misleading as to implications. Point to bear in mind:

    – For much of the year the air-con will not be on at all. For most of the time it is on it should not be running at maximum output.

    – When it is running at maximum output would probably be very hot without it and potentially be dangerous. Personally I am amazed we haven’t had an old person die on a train or pregnant woman or young baby rushed to hospital as a result of severe hyperthermia in a train that is stationary for a long period of time for whatever reason. As the SAS tragedy showed last year, just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t happen – actually there are recorded (by the coroner) deaths of young fit soldiers in Iraq due to hyperthermia.

    – You could also look at train heating in winter. So one really needs to look at how much more capacity above a train heated in winter is required to run air-conditioning in summer.

    – If air-con takes a trains beyond permitted power output the answer is simple – switch it off! I believe that 12-car trains between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings are not allowed to have the air-conditioning on for this reason. The trains are normally 10-car maximum so this could fit in with your 20% figure. Of course if the train becomes stationary for a period of time and is not drawing power for traction it would seem reasonable to switch the air-conditioning on. If the controls were more sophisticated maybe trains could run air-conditioning when coasting or even regeneratively when braking.

    To keep this comment on topic, a lot of the points made could also apply to buses, trolleybuses or trams.

  487. Graham H says:

    @Nameless – Actually I did mean, for the avoidance of doubt,that if you increased either a trolleybus fleet or a battery fleet by X units, then, assuming they consumed similar amounts of power per unit, you’d require that much more power distribution (so, pari passu); if they consume different amounts of power, for all the reasons discussed – and we don’t have any actual data for that at the moment – then it would be pro rata.

    @IslandDweller – yes, predictive text is infuriating; I am waiting to see when Apple and Microsoft launch “predictive thought” – should be a good marketing opportunity there…

  488. timbeau says:

    “pari passu” or “pro rata”? Ca ne faire rien – it’s verboten.

    It’s all Greek to me anyway.

  489. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Failure to stick to the correct lingua franca of this site may lead to deletion of comments.

  490. timbeau says:

    I think this polemic has reached its terminus.

    (Victoria, or Mary-le-Bonne?)

  491. RichardB says:

    @ WW on your point about the provision of air con to drivers cabs I recently learnt through chatting to a driver of a K1 bus that Abellio’s policy is to remove the fuse so rendering the air con unit so much dead weight. The drivers are required to grin and bear it. The reason is apparently to save on additional fuel costs. I can’t see this happening on a train as the RMT would rise up in wrath….

  492. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Richard B – wonder what TfL would say about that? I bet the tender prices are set on the basis that the air con is on. I also suspect that cab air con is specced by TfL – if it wasn’t then surely Abellio would just order vehicles without the kit? If true then it seems pretty shoddy to me given the stressful nature of bus driving and the need to ensure a safe / healthy working environment for someone charged with the care of up to 90 passengers.

  493. Anonyminibus says:

    There has been very little mention of supercapacitors. These can be charged very quickly and do not deteriorate like batteries. This means wired sections can be shorter, and regenerative braking can be used on unwired sections. I understand these are used in Seville, where there are no wires through the historic city centre, and wires on the boring dual carriageway reservation in the suburbs. Like batteries, the technology is apparently advancing well.

    There has also been little mention of swappable batteries, which seems a sensible idea, and is a much better use of resources than swapping the whole bus, as suggested.

  494. Fandroid says:

    Can I make a modest suggestion as an alternative to having masses of batteries actually on the bus, thereby restricting its passenger capacity? Why not a trial with modified hybrids hauling battery trailers? They might look a bit like bendy-buses on the cheap, but it would avoid a lot of the problems now being faced, and the good old ‘ London icon’ of the red double-decker remains.

    Existing all-electric buses spend too long charging up. That means all those seats are doing absolutely nothing while this happens. As I have already stated, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to modify an existing hybrid, so current basic designs can be used. It only needs for the trailers to be designed for easy decoupling and plugging in, and hey presto ( language?) we have a versatile solution to a serious problem.

  495. timbeau says:

    Going back to the good old days, when the entire power unit was changed when it needed recharging.,_2010_Cobham_bus_rally.jpg

  496. ngh says:

    Re Anonyminibus 6 July 2015 at 15:22

    Seville is supercapacitor and battery with charging for 20 seconds at every stop.
    The main purpose of supercapacitors is to make regenerative braking more efficient as the batteries can’t be charged as fast as the energy is supplied during regenerative braking so they provide a short term buffer allowing the batteries to be charged over a longer period of time.

    Battery + supercapacitor has a range of 1400m, supercapacitor only just 100m.

    As previous discussed on LR supercapacitors are good for (dis)charging fast but have a low energy density (Wh/kg) compared to batteries so take up a large volume to provide the same range.

  497. Fandroid says:

    @timbeau. I admit that I had thought of comparing the idea of massive on board batteries with that of carrying a spare horse on the original omnibuses!

  498. timbeau says:

    Changing horses rather than making refuelling stops continued well into the iron horse era of course. Although, like trolleybuses, they could also take on supplies on the fly!

  499. Malcolm says:

    ngh says ” but have a low energy density (Wh/kg) compared to batteries so take up a large volume to provide the same range” (my emphasis)

    Sorry to be picky, but this would mean that they require a larger mass to provide the same range. They may also take up a larger volume, of course, if they have a low volumetric energy density (Wh/m^3) compared to batteries.

  500. ngh says:

    Re malcolm,

    Oops but the difference between the 2 metrics is far less than a rounding error in reality. The difference between battery and supercapacitor is several orders of magnitude in comparison .

  501. Greg Tingey says:

    Richard B
    The obvious answer to that is to get your own “spare” fuse & carry it around with you ….

    NOT a new idea
    & then {CTRL+F} for: “STs at War” ..
    Brings up a drawing of an ST-type, towing a “Producer-gas” trailer.
    Quite common, apparently.

    Indeed – usually coal capacity wasn’t a problem, but water was.
    J Ramsbottom’s invention of the water-trough + pick-up scoop for the LNWR, for running the “irish Mail” to Holyhead in a specified time, solved that one.

  502. Fandroid says:

    @Greg. Those STs with their coke-fired trailers are almost exactly the sort of scale I was thinking of. 2-wheel boxes close-coupled to the bus, but with physical and electrical connections that can easily be detached to allow substitution in the garage or even at somewhere like Walthamstow bus station!

  503. Nameless says:

    Hmm…. add an extra 2 or more metres to bus length – not exactly desirable at box junctions or near pedestrian crossings- and of course they would have to be lit, signalled and braked. The number plate would also have to be swapped when the trailer is replaced. And who would carry out the work if replacement was needed away from the garage or battery trailer park/charging substation.

    I still reckon that ohle would be more energy efficient and cheaper in the long run.

  504. Nameless says:

    And heaven help the driver and nearby vehicles if you have to reverse on road to get round an obstruction. Also lower 40mph speed limit on unrestricted single carriageway roads.

  505. Nameless says:

    And no doubt a further menace to passing cyclists.

  506. Milton Clevedon says:

    Surely LT-operated BEA buses from Gloucester Road air terminal had such trailers. I don’t recall any fuss at all about those.

  507. James Bunting says:

    Been there, done that?

    Here is the 1970s version.

  508. Anomnibus (Lewisham People's Front [Catford Branch]) says:

    For the research and development phase, a trailer might be okay, but the production models could take a standardised battery pack unit that just bolts onto the rear of the bus. It would be designed for easy swap-out at the garage to avoid having these buses sitting around depreciating maliciously at passing accountants.

    This approach also means that improvements in battery / energy storage technology can be more easily accommodated without having to perform major surgery on the vehicle itself. As this is the most rapidly-evolving component, making it easy to upgrade, as well as replace, would be sensible.

    Rear view cameras would get around the “can’t see out of the back window” problem.

  509. Malcolm says:

    Anomnibus says ‘Rear view cameras would get around the “can’t see out of the back window” problem’

    This is a straw man. There would be plenty of difficulties with your suggestion, but that is not one of them. Bus drivers have never been able to see anything useful through the back window of a bus, any more than white van drivers have. Some passengers and tourists might have occasionally enjoyed views of St Pauls through the back window of buses which happen to have them, but they are unlikely to be mollified by a screen picture, and when have 21st century bus designers ever cared about passenger views anyway?

  510. fandroid says:

    I was only suggesting a trial guys! That’s the time to find out if the apparent problems exist, whether a few no-one had thought of might occur, and take the opportunities to make mods. As for a 40mph limit, that sounds really fast for for London!

  511. timbeau says:

    @Milton Clevedon
    “BEA buses from Gloucester Road air terminal had such trailers. I don’t recall any fuss at all about those”
    A quick belt down the A4 and M4 is a rather different matter to negotiating some of the more intricate of one-way systems. Both the bendies and the NbFL had have routes adapted to fit – e,g the closure of the 501 (with all buses taking the newer 521), the extension of the 73 to Seven Sisters to avoid the tight turns at Stoke Newington (and a whole new garage to put the longer buses in) and, I understand, some limits on what routes the NBfL can work.

  512. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I can assure you that bendies on the 73 went round all the twisty bits whether terminating at the Common as part of the service did or running from Seven Sisters to Victoria. Obviously n/b buses to S Sisters had rather fewer turns.

    Photo evidence of a bus from Seven Sisters running via the Common to serve the same stop as buses starting from the Common.

    https:[email protected]/6097833060/

    I used to enjoy bagging the front seat and watching the drivers get the bendies round that turn. Even better when done with a little pace but nice and smoothly. Proved to me that the buses were perfectly manoeuvrable.

  513. timbeau says:

    My mistake – I had assumed that was the reason for the extension to 7S. I recall there was concern about the twisty bit in Islington too.
    (Why does the 73 keep coming up?)

    Bendies did seem remarkably manoeuvrable – I once saw one performing a 3-point turn in Cheapside (well, seven actually, but still quite an achievement for something almost as long as the width of the street) after its driver had missed a diversion sign.

  514. Graham H says:

    @timbeau/WW – the artics seemed to cope extremely well with the 507, which includes some very sharp corners in the Horseferry Road – took them with the ease of a tram…

  515. Greg Tingey says:

    This may, or may not be relevant.
    Having just returned form my annual German trip, I found M.A.N. “bendies” on a local route .. going through some very narrow village streets & around sharp bends.
    I can’t get Google Street view to operate on that location, more’s the pity.
    But, it would seem (again) that the complaints about “bendies” had no real foundation in fact.
    [Very minor snip PoP]

  516. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – anyone who has travelled to mainland Europe and has a reasonably open mind will have seen a range of “seemingly impossible in the UK” transport practices working perfectly well. I’m not the least bit surprised by your observation. LT / TfL has been plagued by irrational [1] vehicle design / vehicle purchase decisions for decades.

    [1] some self inflicted, some imposed by politics.

  517. Ed says:

    What were the traffic levels like? One issue with bendies for me was that heavy London traffic meant they were often partly or wholly over crossings as they edged forward in heavy traffic at junctions.

  518. Graham Feakins says:

    @Ed – I don’t think traffic levels actually come into it. What does, however, is something called lane discipline, which e.g. the Germans are very good at (and far better than here), both in layout/planning and subsequent obedience to those lanes by the users. Then add to that, over there, drivers simply do not enter junctions unless their way is clear to exit completely the other side. That of course is also related to obeying traffic lights, which means holding back any temptation to pass an amber light just on the off chance that the exit will clear itself.

  519. Greg Tingey says:

    Ed & GF
    Traffic was low
    Actual route was from village of Bevergern (Junction of Dortmund-Ems & Mitelland Kanals) to Rheine, including a loop through the narrow village streets of Rodde, if you want to look it up on the map/ariel view …..

  520. Philip says:

    It’s not just a case of heavy traffic or junction discipline so much as specific pinch-points on London roads where traffic lights are particularly close together and the length of bendies was just impractical. (In particular, see discussion in earlier posts about the Gower Street/New Oxford Street junction and on into Oxford Street proper, and approaches to London Bridge bus station from the north.)

  521. Anomnibus says:


    There are plenty of other cities with medieval road layouts that manage to cope just fine with articulated buses. I’m not sure what makes London such a special little snowflake. Besides, how did all the cranes that currently dot London’s skyline get there? Were they airlifted into position? Or did they bring them in on… articulated LGVs?

    If the problem was poor junction design, the correct solution is to correct that underlying problem and fix the junctions. Removing the buses solves nothing: double-deckers aren’t always an option due to low bridges, and even where they can be used, they are a less efficient use of road space than their articulated cousins. (Also, in a country with an ageing population, mobility is going to become a major sticking point: people who have trouble walking aren’t going to climb steep stairs.)

  522. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – not quite sure I understand where your evidence for road space efficiency comes from. Double deckers are space efficient – depending on the internal layout, vehicle weight and length then you can get 100 people onto a 10.6m double decker. Bendy buses claimed around 140 people in 18m but I’m not sure that ever really transpired in UK spec bendies with more seats. Perhaps in continental format with rather larger standee areas that might well be achieved? – certainly in Rome I’ve seen immensely packed buses. Do you have some evidence re road space efficiency? – I’d like to read it.

    I think there is perhaps a little bit of an unstated TfL policy that keeps single deckers on a fair proportion of suburban routes because of the need to provide a reasonable number of easily reached seats for older passengers. It certainly takes a lot to get TfL to shift to double deckers – usually intolerable crowding conditions and people being left at stops is what is needed to trigger TfL into paying the extra costs of running double deckers instead of single deckers. As you say some routes can’t take double decks anyway for physical or “local political” reasons so they’re lumbered with single deckers even if it means difficult travelling conditions for people. I’ve long wondered that if we’d had a rational approach then there are routes in the suburbs where the extra “on one level” seating capacity of a bendy bus would be an attractive way of adding much needed capacity while still giving old passengers easy access to seats near doors plus much more buggy and shopping trolley space. As we only have a lunatic approach to bus vehicle design in London we are left with a right old mess (in some places) instead.

  523. straphan says:

    @WW: I think bendies have the advantage over double-deckers of being able to exchange passengers at stops more efficiently due to their layout. Plus they do offer more accessible seats than double-deckers no matter their configuration.

    The Citaros in London had about the same number of seats as I have seen in a typical bendy for the German market. Of course those for routes 507/521 should have had some removed in favour of more standing room.

  524. Slugabed says:

    It was the determination to “fix the junctions” (rather than,say,adapt the scheme) that led to the abandonment of the Uxbridge Road trams a few years back and,it is said,cost more than one local councillor their seat….it ain’t so simple…

  525. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – I’ll just say “noted” as I fear we may be inadvertently heading towards a debate we really don’t need to have again.

  526. Anomnibus says:


    The stairwell is the reason for their inefficiency. Those 100 passengers had better not have any mobility problems. For those who do, that top deck might as well not be there. With an artic bus, all those passengers can access all of the bus. With no stairwells, all that space is usable too. It seems odd to advocate accessibility features like low floors and wheelchair spaces, while also advocating inherently non-accessible upper floors in buses.

    Given its price, I’m shocked to discover that the New Bus for London doesn’t include lifts.

  527. Malcolm says:

    @Anomnibus: You may not have noticed, but WW asked whether you had any evidence for inefficiency of deckers. Instead of evidence, you have offered your personal explanation of the alleged inefficiency.

    But in any case, it does rather look as if the discussion of the relative merits of double-deckers versus artics is running on well-worn tracks, with no particular insights being offered that have not been heard many times before. Granted that it is an important issue, but restatement of old arguments does not really take us anywhere useful.

  528. timbeau says:

    Even more specifically, WW asked Anomnibus for evidence that DDs “are a less efficient use OF ROAD SPACE than their articulated cousins”
    I don’t think anyone could dispute the contention that a double decker can get more people in a given area of road than a single decker – an articulated bus clearly takes up a greater length than a double decker with the same capacity. Anomnibus’ assertion is that, regardless of how many people you CAN fit in a double decker, there are many people who can’t or won’t go upstairs. Evidently, if upstairs is not being used, the stairs are a waste of space.
    If the number of people using the top deck is less than the number who could have sat or stood in the area lost to the stairwell, then the DD is indeed the more profligate. But for how many routes is that the case?

    The other factor, dwell time, is only relevant where large numbers of people are boarding or alighting at the same place. At a stop where only one or two passengers board or alight, the number of doors is not a rate-determining factor.

    A multi-door artic is the answer where most passengers are making short trips between busy stops, like the 507 – an airside shuttle bus is an extreme example. A single-door DD is the better use of space where the majority of passengers are making long trips and each stop sees only a few passengers – the 25 and 73 were silly choices for artics.

    A problem with many modern DD designs is that there is so much space taken up with front platform, engine bay (which are getting bigger as batteries, aircon, exhaust scrubbers etc get added), stairwell, and wheelchair spaces, that it is getting to the point where you can’t get a seat downstairs unless you bring your own – and remember that most disabled people do not use wheelchairs. Indeed, we are rapidly approaching the point where a double decker is, to all intents and purposes, a single decker with a very high floor.

  529. Anomnibus says:

    What timbeau said.

    Where you have massive passenger demand, it makes sense to go for a big box on wheels with lots of doors on the side. Like this. (Come to think of it, the only single-deck buses I’ve ever seen in Rome that have only one door are these, which don’t seem to have an equivalent in London.)

  530. Anomnibus says:

    For the curious, that second link shows the tiny electric bus used on Rome’s 116 bus route that passes through the city’s historic centre.

    I’ve just found a video of the bus in action. Note the narrowness (and condition) of the roads, particularly the lack of pavements along many of them. So no, London doesn’t get to cite its medieval road layout as an excuse for anything.

    As timbeau implies with his comments on the 25 and 73 bus routes, you need to pick the right tool — in this case, the right kind of bus — for the job. Rome can clearly teach TfL a thing or two about this.

  531. Milton Clevedon says:

    Where the logic of this discussion is pointing, is of course a triple-decker, to maximise available seating capacity for the bulk of passengers, who will be ambulant – possibly with a lift to the 1st floor as suggested by Anomnibus, to improve facilities for the mobility impaired. Stop dwell times would of course need to be adjusted. Please consider the options shown in this link – at least several are real, including a modified Routemaster, and one Italian Job that ran in Rome.

  532. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – or maybe only two? (The front and rear bays of the middle deck look decidedly non-standard, with the general impression of a modified middle deck spliced between a traditional top and bottom deck). In any case, a shocking waste.

  533. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – I’m sorry but I don’t think Rome can teach TfL very much about buses. TfL’s bus fleet is 4 times larger and I would venture that bus usage is vastly higher in London than in Rome. I’ve only found some old stats but based on those London’s buses have more pass jnys per day than the entire ATAC (Rome’s public transport organisation) network of bus, tram, suburban rail, metro and trolleybus.

    Clearly Rome has particular stresses in the centre because of the difficult construction environment making Metros a very time consuming thing to build. One thing that is being ignored is the impact of history and culture. For whatever reason there is a greater willingness to accept more standees on European city buses than there is in the UK. The Brits seems to be prefer having a seat which may explain our preference for double deckers. There are also long standing differences in ticketing practice which can also mean different boarding and alighting practices. Italy has different practice which explains the different physical layout of buses with large centre doors for exit. I expect funding arrangements are also somewhat different but I can’t find anything in English about ATAC’s budget or fare evasion levels.

    I just think we have to be very careful in making sweeping statements. The issues facing London and those facing many European cities have some similarities but there are many important differences that make comparison difficult at best and impossible at worst. At a generic level there are modal advantages which may well have their place in London but we’d be rash to say “do it like Berlin” or “do it like Grenoble” in terms of assuring a successful introduction in London (or the UK).

    I could argue about the 25 and 73 examples but won’t given the risk of tired arguments. There are very few routes with the same characteristics as the 507 and 521 but that doesn’t mean that bendy buses are not satisfactory on a number of other TfL routes.

  534. timbeau says:

    “There are very few routes with the same characteristics as the 507 and 521”

    I’m not sure the 507 and 521 share many characteristics anyway. Certainly, from observation, the numbers boarding the 507 at Waterloo are a mere trickle compared with the 521.

    After this incident
    double deckers were drafted in to the 507 (and after the fire at Oxford Circus Tube station back in the 1980s, also onto the 500) and coped. The Strand underpass is not the only reasons why this would not have worked on the 521!

    And the 521 is not the only one to have huge numbers boarding at Waterloo in the morning peak – I can remember a time when inspectors were based at Waterloo for the specific task of speeding dwell times by allowing Travelcard holders to board by the centre doors of double deckers – this was in the pre-Oyster days when a ticket could be checked by a Mk 1 human eyeball. But for most routes this is the only place, and only time of day, when long dwell times occur.
    And a route can have very different characteristics at different points along its route, or at different times of day. A friend of mine got quite vocal on the idea that London Transport (as it then was) was being wasteful by running almost-empty double deckers past his house all evening, and suggested they could use minibuses at those times instead. He couldn’t grasp the logistical nightmare that would be involved in swapping over vehicles at the end of the peak, or finding garage space for the extra vehicles, or indeed that further down the route (which was quite a long one) there may well be more passengers using the route even at that time of evening.

  535. Anomnibus says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    Continental European cities, including Rome, tend to be much more compact than London, with a much higher density of housing stock. Rome is apartment buildings almost all the way out to the suburbs, so every bus, tram, trolleybus and metro stop has a much bigger catchment area than an equivalent in, say, Streatham, Balham, or Catford. This also makes it much easier to justify spending more money on expensive transport infrastructure: it tends to pay for itself, either directly at the farebox, or indirectly, in the form of a boosted economy.

    Some recent work in the CAZ aside, Greater London is (as I believe I may have mentioned once or twice in passing) very much a low-rise, low-density conurbation. That means Londoners have to make longer journeys. A longer journey makes buses with few seats less attractive.

    Right technology for the job. Devolved powers for planning and construction of transport infrastructure. A willingness to try alternative technologies – Rubber-wheeled, cable-driven elevated & underground metro in Perugia, (note all the medium- and high-density housing). Properly integrated ticketing. Need I go on?

    The UK has a serious infrastructure and public transport problem: it costs a fortune to build, takes forever just to get off the drawing board, and involves so many interfaces, it’s a miracle most of it works at all. It’s fundamentally a political / interface design problem, not an engineering one, and there are going to be some very tough political decisions needed to solve it. [Over-dramatization snipped. LBM]

  536. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – And a route can have very different characteristics at different points along its route, or at different times of day.

    Well precisely which is why I’d quibble with your remark about bendies on the 25 and 73. Some of the traffic on those routes is completely ideal for bendies while some of it, the longer distance riders, were probably disadvantaged from the reduction in seats when compared to a double decker. While not as severe as Waterloo there are huge queues at Victoria in the peaks and not just for the 507. Bendies were extremely good at clearing those hence why quite so many bendy routes served Victoria. I’d still go back to a point that I’ve made about the Overground trains’ seat layout is that what commuters usually want is to be able to board the first train. The same surely applies to buses which is why I suspect some people were not happy to lose the crowd busting capabilities of the bendy buses. Note that I’ve been careful to say “some” and not “all” so we don’t need to go into a debate about the exceptions and some people needing seats etc. We’ve done that and I understand there are always exceptions to my general statements.

    That final cartoon link is precisely how Leon Daniels described the NB4L to Darren Johnson AM in a Transport Committee session on buses. “We’ve just put the bendy bit on the roof”.

  537. Greg Tingey says:

    I noted the tiny size of each single vehicle on that Perugia system
    Uneconomic – straight off, I’m afraid, simply because of the small numbers transported per carriage [Snip. LBM]

  538. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – hadn’t seen that Perugia system before. Looks like a scaled down version of the VAL technology. Certainly the high frequency, low vehicle capacity form of operation is similar to VAL although the latter’s vehicles carry more people. Singapore has similar feeder elevated transit routes in Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang. They’re reasonably well used and link to the MRT and supplment local buses. I am afraid I can’t see any application in London for what is just another variant of airport monorail technology – well done for getting it under the LR radar!! 🙂 I can only think of a few bus routes in London that use 25 person capacity vehicles. Most routes requires higher capacity than that because the demand is way higher although none are operating at 1.5min headways as that Perugia system apparently does. It still looks like an awful lot of infrastructure to shift 3.5m pass jnys a year.

    I also don’t really agree with you about London’s density. If it was really as low density as you suggest then rail transport wouldn’t function very well and yet we have rail systems that are completely overwhelmed in the peaks with demand from within Greater London never mind bordering counties. Ditto the bus network. When I read of low density cities I tend to think of places like Los Angeles where the car rules despite Metro, light rail and bus transit developments. London quite clearly is not LA but it does stretch for very considerable distances and will continue to do so given some of the housing infill is inevitably going to be in the outer suburbs because people can’t afford £1m flats in Hackney or £3m houses in Camden.

    You keep promoting your singular densification agenda but I doubt it would ever happen in London. While people want more housing there is already a backlash against the creation of high rise blocks as they’re creating areas that are out of character with their surroundings and also unaffordable. The riverside in Wandsworth borough being a classic example and parts of east London fringing the Thames being another. You can create denser housing but keep it in an appropriate scale. You also need to keep the transport capacity growing in scale with the housing expansion. Going to be interesting to see the impact of two large housing developments in E17 and what that does to buses that are already overloaded in the peaks. What has happened over many decades, if not longer, in European cities is simply not going to occur in the UK in a short timescale.

  539. Greg Tingey says:

    You can have quite high-density housing commensurate with the “scale” of traditional London living.
    It was done about 60 years ago, just around the corner from here & won lots of awards.
    It wasn’t continued with because the first cost was high, though the running & maintenance costs were significantly lower.
    Try this:
    But the 212 bus route is very well used – double-deckers along this suburban road ….

  540. Anomnibus says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    Minimetro appears to be owned by the Leitner Group, though it’s similar in scale to the VAL systems.

    [Remainder of text snipped as off-topic and repetitious. Any further more comments on Perugia or this rail mode will be dispatched henceforth. LBM]

  541. timbeau says:

    @Greg – the link doesn’t work I’m afraid, but looking at the route of the 212, I suspect it will be very busy next week…………

    [Nothing wrong with link. Works fine for me. PoP]

  542. AlisonW says:

    As I understand it, new NB4Ls are to be manufactured without the opening rear platform – making a complete mockery of the original idea.

    In which case is there actually any good reason to continue building them, rather than buying the cheaper/lighter ‘off the shelf’ designs previously seen on London’s streets?

    (Note I haven’t mentioned Boris once!) [Snipped for politeness. LBM]

  543. Gordon says:

    Not quite, I think – there will still be a rear door but it will be an external-hung plug door which projects when open, so can only be opened when stationary, as opposed to the current design which retreats inside the bodywork. Perhaps it’s cheaper and the money saved will go to beefing up the aircon and the battery?

  544. Ian J says:

    @Gordon: Perhaps it’s cheaper

    Certainly cheaper to operate because it won’t need a second crew member. If I was a New Routemaster conductor platform supervisor I’d be wondering about my long term career prospects.

  545. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – apart from ditching the need for a “conductor” the revised door design removes the risk of people being thumped / having their foot crushed by the inward swinging door design. I’ve seen several photos and read many tweets on social media from people who’ve sustained injuries from that door design. I think part of the issue is that in OPO mode the rear platform area can become crush loaded meaning people can’t move out of the way when the door opens. It brings back the problems of the original DLR trains that had inward swinging doors and people getting thumped by them.

  546. timbeau says:

    @Ian J
    “Certainly cheaper to operate because it won’t need a second crew member. If I was a New Routemaster conductor platform supervisor I’d be wondering about my long term career prospects.”

    As far as I am aware there are no plans to modify the existing buses – the change in door design simply confirms that there will be no more than the six existing open-platform routes – 9, 10, 11, 24, 38, 390. Even these only operate with conductors on weekdays. The others, (8, 12, 15, 55, 73, 137, 148, 453) operate in OPO mode all the time.

    All but one of the open-platform routes were introduced in 2013. 2014 saw the 148 as the first OPO route, followed by the No 10.

    Incidentally, it would appear that CSAs, like witches, do not like crossing over water.

    Wikipedia claims the next five routes will be 16, 88, 91, 149 and 159

  547. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – sorry but route 11 has CAs and open platform operation on Saturdays. I also think they work Sundays but am not 100% certain about that and the old press releases, Surface Transport MD reports and Commissioners Reports from 2013 are all distinctly unhelpful on that point.

    In terms of the future conversions then my only quibble with your list is route 16 which I’ve not seen TfL confirm yet although it’s been mentioned in Buses Magazine. You’ve also missed route 168 which TfL have publicly stated will be converted but there are issues with the stand at Hampstead Heath. The buses for the 88 are apparently on delivery now and the other routes you list are all contract awards. The 159 converts to NB4Ls one day after the 10th anniversary of the last day of regular full RML operation in London.

  548. timbeau says:

    Yes, sorry I misread my source: the No 11 (and ONLY the No11) operates open-platform seven days a week.

    Which is why it was singularly fortunate that there was a CSA on board to assist when THIS happened one Sunday lunchtime

  549. Fandroid says:

    @WW. I am mystified by the notion that longer distance passengers were disadvantaged by the lower seating capacity on articulated buses. Yes, they may have to stand for a few stops, but after that they have first dibs at any seats that are vacated. I use the Tube very often between Waterloo and points north. About fifty per cent of journeys I have to stand from Waterloo, but am almost guaranteed a seat from Charing Cross onwards. Same principle applies to any bus route.

  550. timbeau says:

    “I am mystified by the notion that longer distance passengers were disadvantaged by the lower seating capacity on articulated buses. Yes, they may have to stand for a few stops, but after that they have first dibs at any seats that are vacated.”
    That depends on the amount of “churn”. It may work on the Tube, but I frequently find I can only get a seat when my SWT train gets to Vauxhall – by which time its hardly worth it.
    And on my fifteen-stop odyssey on the NLL this morning, only one of the four of us in my group ever got a seat.
    (BTW, I don’t know why they bothered installing windows on the 378s – they are too low for standing passengers to see out, and for seated passengers they are in the wrong place (behind them!))

  551. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – err well having stood from Stratford to Aldgate on a bendy 25 I think I’d disagree somewhat. Also the 73, even in double deck days, was always full and standing from Newington Green to the Angel. While many alighted there just as many got back on and you’d have to be swift on your feet to grab a seat. It was usually standing room only earlier than that in bendy days – sometimes Church St, usually on Albion Road. If you board at or near a terminus then yes you can get a seat but on several of the bendy routes there were / are substantial flows of people travelling medium to long distances – largely because there is no tube link. The Islington – Dalston – Hackney / Stoke Newington, Old Kent Road, Whitechapel Road, Walworth Road and Victoria – Camberwell corridors are all examples of such. You’re perfectly correct to say there is a decent volume of short hop travel but there is a lot of other distance travellers.

  552. ChrisMitch says:

    I agree with you about the train windows. I think the people who test these trains must be 5ft tall. None of the ‘modern’ trains have windows high enough to see out of when you are standing up, which makes them feel more claustrophobic that the older ones.

  553. timbeau says:

    @Chris Mitch
    I am told that the seats on the trains on my local line are designed with the average person in mind. That automatically means half the population won’t fit.
    (leaving aside that the average person also has (approximately) one ovary, one testicle, 1.999 legs, 1.4 siblings, and lives somewhere in Northamptonshire (the geometric centre of gravity of the population of England & Wales)

    I think the trains were designed for twelve-year olds – and quite possibly by them!

  554. Ian J says:


    no plans to modify the existing buses

    I remember the days when Ken Livingstone had no plans to get rid of Routemasters… It will be interesting to see whether any prospective Mayoral candidates promise to keep open platform operation.

  555. straphan says:

    As per the following routes are due for NB4L conversion:

    Route 91 (Trafalgar Sq – Crouch Hill): 6th Feb 16
    Route 149 (London Bridge – Edmonton Green): 17th Oct 15
    Route 159 (Marble Arch – Streatham): 12 Dec 15

    I think these are only routes for which contracts have been signed.

    Aside from that I can only laugh through tears at the change in the type of door on the NB4Ls. Boris claimed that the ‘New Routemaster’ should fix the following ‘problems’ with bendies:

    – Taking up too much space on the road (check)
    – Too much ticketless travel (you can still board a NB4L through any door)
    – Not enough seats (64 seats on NB4L – I think that’s 8 more than on a bendy?)
    – No ability to get on/off between stops when bus is in traffic jam (even on those routes with conductors they hardly ever let you jump off between stops)

    All at a unit cost higher than a conventional double-deck hybrid or bendy bus. Congratulations to all involved. Job well done.

  556. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – with the greatest respect to Mr Munster who runs the Londonbusroutes website he’s not always bang up to date with everything. Given most NB4L conversions have been via contract variations which TfL never publish or give details of it’s not really correct just to rely a contract tender award as somehow being the only definitive source of decision making. TfL have certainly said publicly that the 168 will convert. It’s also clear the 88’s buses are due very soon indeed.

    In terms of your other comments, and I’m not NB4L fan, I’d just say the following.

    1. The NB4L is really rather long which has caused clearance problems on some routes. I happen to think bendies are actually very manoeuvrable but you’ll never get past people’s perception of them.

    2. TfL say that fare evasion levels on the NB4L are only slightly higher than for normal buses and aren’t anywhere near those on bendies. There was a TfL paper about this. I can’t see TfL not being candid about this issue given Board members requested the info as have some London Assembly members.

    3. Unfortunately the NB4L is so heavy that it cannot and does not meet TfL’s own standard carrying capacity for double deckers – 87 people. Most recent NB4Ls carry either 80 or 81 people [1] but earlier ones are nearer 84 people. Most NB4L operated routes have therefore seen a reduction in capacity overall compared to what they replaced. Only one route has seen an increase, the 55, because it had a frequency increase for its new contract. The typical reduction ranges between 3-6%.

    4. Of course the rear platform aspect was always something a tad mythical given the hyperbole from the Mayor being contradicted by what happens in practice. The rather “over the top” actions of customer assistants doesn’t help but then they’re between a rock and a hard place in trying to run safety rules that are contrary to Boris’s own hype about “freedom” and “banning H&S nonsense”. Unfortunately for him TfL and the operators and their staff are all subject to the law of the land.

    [1] euro6 spec buses are heavier but the recent ones for the 73 with the revised rear door arrangement are not as heavy as “crew” versions so can carry 1 more person.

  557. AlisonW says:

    Given the removal of CSAs on the routes getting the revised door then presumably that adds one extra passenger option instead,

  558. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – there are no plans so far as I know to retrofit “mark 1” NB4Ls with the revised door arrangement. It is only buses built after LT511 that have the new door design and they never had CSAs anyway. I know the point you’re trying to make but I can’t remember precisely how the weight calculation works. Logic suggests it must take staff numbers into account but that rather implies that a NB4L with a carrying capacity of 80 passengers can really carry 82 people (driver & CSA). Anyway let’s see what happens to the CSA role post May 2016 – I’ll be astonished if the role survives although route 11 has been retendered and relet with the same level of CSA coverage as at present. That, of course, doesn’t stop TfL from triggering a contract variation to remove it when it wants to do so. It may even have a cost reduction value already set in the contract but we can’t see that sort of detail.

  559. Graham Feakins says:

    ITV reports:

    “Transport bosses in London are to spend £2m correcting a flaw on Boris Johnson’s Routemaster bus after passengers complained of overheating. The controversial double decker is to be ‘retrofitted’ with windows which open. All 550 buses in service will get the modification. The new windows will also be fitted to a further 250 buses which have yet to be built.”

    [Any comments on this matter to go in the part 1 article please. Malcolm]


  560. Paulwoking says:

    I travelled today (for rugby related reasons) on a Brighton bendy. Anyone who believes that a bendy cannot manage tight, narrow and sinous bends should try the 25 on the approach to Sussex University.

  561. Graham Feakins says:

    @Paulwoking – Glad that you noticed that there. To your comment I’ll add the steep inclines that the 25 also manages at and around the stadium/Sussex University stops.

  562. Greg Tingey says:

    Not sure if this is the correct thread for this ( Mods- please move to appropriate if necessary?)
    Apparently, all major London Mayoral candidates want to pedestrianise Oxford St
    See HERE
    Where will the buses go?

    In this continuum, however, what are the practical possibilities & great difficulties this will produce?
    Time for an article, maybe?

  563. Greg,

    It has been talked about. Initially it was considered because Sir Peter Hendy called for the issue of Oxford Street to be reconsidered. That looked like something might happen but then days later his move to Network Rail was announced.

    Certainly it will be interesting what the approach of the Mayoral candidates are as John Bull speculated a week or so ago. We now have some idea.

    I would remind everyone that Oxford Street is “owned” by the City of Westminster so Mayoral candidates can say what they want – it is all irrelevant unless they have the City of Westminster on board.

    If there is something substantive to report then it may well get an article. Meanwhile it appears we just have the usual background chatter coming from politicians.

    So could all please refrain from typing your thoughts for the moment. If there is a worthwhile time to discuss this we will try and publish something.

    Update: 1 3 comments deleted so far

  564. Slugabed says:

    It is with regret that I have to announce that the Trolleybus traction poles on Ferry Lane bridge, Tottenham Hale (possibly the last ones surviving in London?) are no more.
    Only the stumps remain.

  565. Greg Tingey says:

    See also “Lea Bridge” thread (I think) – apparently there’s work ongoing at track-level, too.

  566. Melvyn says:

    The DFT has awarded money for buses most of which will be electric and with funds for new electric buses for TFL .

    See release below –

  567. Melvyn says:

    [Deleted. Unlike previous comment, this comment has no obvious relevance to the article and is a routine announcement about a consultation for modifications to various bus routes. PoP]

  568. Andre says:

    As a London bus driver I thought I’d give some perspective on the current bus technology from a drivers perspective. I frequently drive a route that uses a fleet of both new (less than a year old) parallel and new (18 month old) series hybrid buses. In general driving the amount of time spent in hybrid ev mode is vastly dependent on how heavy you are with your right foot and from my experience bus drivers do not get any training in how to get the most efficiency from the respective bus types.

    In driving the two types of hybrid bus are surprisingly similar. In stop start traffic the series hybrid model generally spends more time in hybrid ev mode but this is negated by the need for it to run the diesel motor at consistent high revs when accelerating hard unlike the parallel system.

    Whats interesting if you listen to the engineers the actual fuel savings compared to older diesel only busses isn’t as large as you would be led to believe by the manufacturers marketing material. Those big heavy batteries make for a significant weight penalty it seems. Having spent time driving 14 year old Plaxton president bodied Volvos you can feel just how much lighter they are in the way they drive.

    It seems the maufacturers must strive to reduce weight with improved design and weight in order to improve efficiency.

  569. timbeau says:

    Are there official figures for the fuel consumption in service of different bus types on the same route?

    And can you explain the difference between series and parallel in the context of hybrid buses? And what types are which?

  570. Malcolm says:

    Indeed. The “marketing material” may perhaps compare fuel requirements for hybrid and non-hybrid for the same gross vehicle weight. This would be more favourable to the hybrids than a “fairer” comparison of buses with the same total weight of passengers only. (And it’s not just the batteries: hybrid buses also have to carry more moving parts around, and the structure has to be heavier to carry the heavier weight).

  571. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – this link explains the difference between series and parallel hybrid technology.

    I have not seen comparative fuel *consumption* numbers for various technologies for a long while. Most of the research has been about emissions performance. However doing a bit of digging around on the web has uncovered an interesting site about low carbon buses.

    There are some very detailed guides and presentations (incl two from TfL) if you use the left hand side links to “Low Emission Bus Guide” and “UK Bus Summit”. The latter has the first detailed info I’ve seen about electric buses in London. There are downloadable presentations there although other bits of the site is hidden for “members only”.

  572. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    LowCVP (originally a DfT / BIS / DEFRA funded quango) does far more than just buses and is probably the one of the best peer analysed and reviewed sources on low emission vehicles and fuels / energy sources, and the only place in the world where vehicle manufacturers, fuel companies and Greenpeace sit down constructively and work together. As a former member rep the member only area is decidedly unexciting and just contains meeting agendas and minutes…
    I pointed PoP in the direction of LowCVP when writing these articles.

    The original “founder” of LowCVP went on to join T&E and helped blow the whistle on the NOx emission gaming by car manufacturers.

    Re Timbeau,

    Serial vs Parallel is covered in the article above by simply it refers to where there is serial or parallel transmission.

    Serial transmission is electric only transmission similar in concept to new RN warships and Diesel (Electric transmission) railway locomotives. The classic example is the New Bus for London aka Boris Bus etc. or the hydrogen buses on trial on RV1. A current car example would be BMW I3 with range extender (petrol) engine as power source. (RN have also had issues not to dissimilar to the Boris Bus battery and power issues).

    Parallel Transmission is mechanical transmission from the engine with electric transmission for energy recovery and reuse (and stop start etc.) and includes all the other Hybrid buses. The car equivalent would be most hybrids including the Toyota Prius.

  573. Malcolm says:

    Another approach would be to categorise transmissions by what drives the wheels. In a serial hybrid, it is only electric motor(s), in a parallel hybrid, some of the power can be delivered to the wheels by mechanical means directly from the internal combustion engine.

  574. quinlet says:

    Can I take it then that a serial hybrid is much the same as a plug-in hybrid?

  575. timbeau says:

    A plug-in hybrid can also have its batteries charged from an external supply, like a pure electric car. In railway terms, it is the difference between an electrodiesel and a diesel-electric

    (not a perfect analogy: substitute petrol for diesel in most cases, and an electrodiesel locomotive takes electric power on the fly rather than via a battery).

    Plug-in hybrids can be considered as electric cars with a backup “get-you-home” (or range extending) internal combustion engine. Hybrids with no plug in facility ultimately take all their power from the i-c engine, although some of the energy delivered by the engine is not used immediately but stored in the battery, or as kinetic energy to be recovered through the brakes.

  576. ngh says:

    Re Quinlet,

    Plug-ins are available with both serial and parallel transmission depending on the design philosophy of the rest of the vehicle, so never any simple definitions.

  577. Mark Townend says:

    You can have a plug-in battery charging facility with either a series or a parallel transmission. Plug-in hybrid cars from major manufacturers are available in both configurations and some have series-parallel capability, presumably with a sepearate generator coupled to the engine as well as a conventional mechanical transmission and traction motor. With series transmission, no complex and heavy variable mechanical transmission is required and the engine, usually smaller than necessary for maximum performance alone, can run at optimum constant speed when required for economy and emissions. Also there’s much more freedom in siting a range extender engine within the vehicle bodyshell for this type as there is no need to align it with a low slung drive shaft. On a bus or tram, small engine-generator modules might even be placed on the roof!

  578. Graham H says:

    @MT – “On a bus or tram, small engine-generator modules might even be placed on the roof!” I doubt it: for one thing it would reduce the clearances, and secondly, at least as far as buses are concerned, the roof is not designed to be load bearing.

  579. 100andthirty says:

    Graham H…. there have been one or two types of rail multiple units with a diesel engine on the roof and Alstom are experimenting with hydrogen fuel cells on the roof ( and the compressed hydrogen tanks too, which probably weigh more!)

  580. timbeau says:

    Multiple units with roof-mounted equipment are common (as Cross Country finds every time its Voyagers venture along the Dawlish sea wall in a southerly gale, it’s not always a good idea) but the drive train would be interesting if you put an engine up there – but I’m willing to be educated

    @Graham H
    For obvious reasons, double decker bus roofs are very lightweight, but there are plenty of single deckers with equipment pods on the roof, e.g for air conditioning, hydrogen tanks, batteries etc, or indeed:

  581. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – easier for heavy rail vehicles where the roof is a fairly solidly integrated piece of the vehicle and which has to bear weights such as pantographs, but putting an engine on the roof of a bus is something else – the roof is hardly load bearing for anything other than the trivia you mention; an engine is something else altogether. In both cases, the loading gauge is relevant and although you can add things to the rooves of single deckers, you do have to design for it and you do have find homes in the interior for such things as ducting, fuel lines, drive shafts (as noted) and the like. Sticking luggage/bicycles on the roof as in India or Peru requires a bespoke vehicle…

  582. 100andthirty says:

    Timbeau…..Re drive train – all the diesel engine on roof designs I know use electric drivers, so no drive shafts

  583. Mark Townend says:

    I was definitely thinking an all electric transmission would be a prerequisite for roof mounting of a power unit, and clearly a body shell designed to carry the weight! Range extenders tend to be smaller engines than the full size power units used in parallel hybrids, as the intention is to run primarily on stored battery energy, not ever in normal operation with the engine providing the sole source of motive power.

    I was aware of low floor single deck rail cars built with all kinds of modules on the roof. Adding a small power unit to accompany these does not seem a major leap of the imagination, and single deck buses could conceivably share such an approach. Depot access and lift equipment for aircon, battery modules etc mounted high up could also be designed to handle the power modules too. Exhaust outlet up at high level like a traditional DMU would not require a pipe through the car body or around its end, and that could equally be applied to street vehicles, a great improvement on noxious gases and particulates being expelled at ground level. Some thought would be required as to how fuel and other engine fluid storage and containment would work safely as clearly any leakage through the ceiling to the passenger compartment would be unacceptable. On the other hand an engine fire on the roof would probably be safer and cause less widespread damage than in an underfloor or rear compartment.

    Anyway, it was just a top of the head suggestion!

  584. Graham H says:

    One issue arising from having -inevitably -mixed fleets of stock,some of which have roofmounted kit and others, under floor, is the problems this makes for fleet engineers. The problem here is how to anticipate the way in which the various types of vehicle are presented for their nightly exams, so that the tools and jigs can be laid out accordingly, which require scaffolding,which need fork lift access, and so on. Central Trains fleet engineers used to complain that they had to waste half the time available rearranging a variety of subfleets that had arrived in a random order.

  585. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Sort of off-topic and sort of not …

    I was once told that the decision to put all a lot of the gubbins of S stock into the roof to allow for step-free access onto the train and the inevitable rejig necessary as soon as you change the length of the train and where equipment is located meant that Neasden Depot had to be refurbished at a cost of £200 million.

    The obvious use of the roof of a single deck bus is to put the batteries (or hydrogen reservoir) there – as depicted in one of the pictures in the article. It still seems inherently unsatisfactory though when it comes to stability.

  586. 100andthirty says:

    PoP… the only piece of “gubbins” on S stock roofs which requires roof access is the air conditioners (AC). From the first sketches shown in Metronet’s tender, the AC was always intended to be on the roof. The decision to lower the floor came much later. Even with the lower floor, there is a lot more space under the floor for equipment than there is on the Victoria line trains whose under floor equipment is quite similar.

    Neasden needed much work as a) it was old and tired, and some features were worn out b) S stock is fixed formation and it is undesirable to separate cars for lifting c) Neasden is the location for all major work on all 192 trains and d) facilities were needed for features of S stock reinforcement of the power supply and sand dispensing points. (As well as providing for access to the AC[AirCon]).

    Amongst all this was the replacement of Neasden depot’s signalling system which was based on LU’s first ever solid state interlocking.

    Sorry, way off topic.

  587. 100andthirty,

    Pleased to hear there was a lot more to it than suggested to me.

    Presumably once any significant amount of equipment is housed in the roof, even if just one item, the depot has to be re-thought out. And that applies to buses equally to trains (so we are not off-topic).

  588. 100andthirty says:

    PoP…..indeed. air conditioning is generally on the roof these days, the propulsion equipment on low floor trams is also on the roof, and as for any trains with a pantograph. The extent of the roof level staging and manual handling kit (eg crane) dependes on the frequency and extent of work that might be required. ……..

    By the way and to get us back on topic, I visited a trolleybus depot recently and went up onto the staging to see the electronic propulsion equipment and trolley poles on the roof. Then we went round the back of the articulated trolley bus to see how they raise and lower the poles. Then they opened the back and showed us the diesel engine….but thet’s another story.

  589. Reggie says:

    “Dementia rates ‘higher near busy roads'”
    – seems to be well-researched although no clarity yet on the actual cause. I suspect that there will be a lot of assumptions outside scientific circles that it’s somehow pollution related, in which case the generated fear factor may well spur more evaluation of electric buses and the like.

  590. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Correlation is not causation!

    There could be loads of simple explanations not involving pollution. An obvious one is that houses near main roads are cheaper so attract the less wealthy who can’t afford a more healthy diet or access to private medical care. Or maybe people who live on main roads get less exercise walking to the bus stop because it is closer. All these things could be a factor in dementia as no-one is really sure what causes it.

    For similar reasons you can show that life expectancy goes down if you live near a high voltage power line.

    One of my concerns is we will adopt a load of anti-pollution measures and people will be disappointed with the failure to detect a statistically measurable health benefit. This doesn’t mean I am against such measures but claims about pollution shortening thousands of lives have to be treated with caution. It is statistically true but the average length of life shortened in a large sample often amounts to just a few days hypothetically calculated.

  591. Greg Tingey says:

    Like the “killer diesel” claims being made in London, right now, you mean?

  592. Greg Tingey,

    Exactly that. The claims are, strictly speaking, true. There is also little doubt that a small portion of the population is severely affected. I suspect it cuts more lives significantly short than road traffic collisions – which are actually a cause of very few deaths in London when compared historically or globally.

    However, some of the figures bandied about are highly misleading to the average member of the public who cannot be reasonably expected to correctly interpret their true meaning. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about it though. Even if it didn’t even cause any premature deaths it hardly enhances our city and some people find it very unpleasant.

  593. Reggie says:


    Absolutely! However given that some journalists – and politicians! – do like to “simplify” anything scientific for their audience, I only meant to flag up the possibility of this report being used to justify pet hobby-horses.

  594. Reggie says:

    If – just to speculate with absolutely no factual basis – the cause were, say, to turn out to be inhalation of extremely fine rubber particles from tyres, then all measures for reduction of tailpipe emissions would have no effect on the correlation highlighted in the research.

  595. Mark Townend says:

    Tetraethyl lead in petrol came into focus back in the 1970s as a particularly harmful pollutant. It has been phased out slowly across most of the World since them, and some researchers are claiming possible links between the resulting reduced lead exposure and the corresponding fall in crime levels:

    Lead poisoning symptoms include decreases in cognitive ability and psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety. Damage to the central nervous system is not reversible and evidence suggests age-related mental decline is correlated with lead exposure. I expect many urban dwellers in the age groups now becoming prone to dementia were exposed to significant lead over their lives, including from traffic emissions. A connection worth exploring perhaps? While the NOx and and nano-soot from traffic may be slowly destroying our lungs, I would have thought accumulated lead could still represent a more likely culprit for accelerated mental decline.

  596. Graham H says:

    @MT – and there was a similar move amongst some historians a few years ago to blame the fall of the Roman Empire on the introduction of lead piping. (Not to mention the coinage of the word Saturnine).

    Lord Dawlish writes – when I read this,I immediately instructed my servants to take the Roederer lead crystal glasses tothe nearest charity shop.

    …and to think we used to ask voluntarily for a couple of shots of Redex.

  597. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @MT, GH: The phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from the use of lead in the process of making felt for hats…

    Has Lord Dawlish checked the water pipes? Southern Heights Towers was built with lead pipes for water back in the previous millenium. A handy bit of pocket money when the manservant took them to the Scrap metal merchants…

  598. Graham H says:

    @SHLR -we did check them – v necessary as we moved into a house that had belonged to the village blacksmith family turned plumbers for the previous century and a half. Getting rid of the lead pipes (not to mention half a ton of failed horseshoes and a small but very heavy portable anvil) that the Luck family had installed over that period, was a priority.

  599. IslandDweller says:

    Have the experts on here been able to interpret the announcement from the Mayor yesterday?

    – Does this represent purchase of more lower emission buses than previously announced?
    – A rearrangement of the routes on which existing buses are allocated?
    – A rehash of previous announcements?

    Incidentally. Followers of diamond geezer will have been alerted to another example of poor proof reading in this press release – some of the routes specified aren’t logical. Despite what’s written in this announcement, the route from Abbey Lane to Woodgrange Road doesn’t take in the Mile End Road.

    I’m certainly not arguing against the introduction of lower emissions buses, but will this make much difference to pollution levels when tfl’s own figures suggest that buses are only 5% of vehicles.

  600. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ ID – I don’t think it makes any material difference to the numbers of greener buses being bought. TfL were clear, in evidence to the Assembly Budget Cttee this week, that “hybrid DDs or cleaner” would be mandatory post 2018. The few single deck routes in Z1 have been put in a new tender tranche for early retendering to give time for the introduction of electric or hydrogen infrastructure before vehicles arrive. I have also seen comments that the requirements for greener buses have been in scope of “in progress” retendering for a fair while. This means that new buses are already in place or will be delivered in the near future to allow a significant boost to the air quality performance of buses. Examples include a lot of routes in Putney and others in the Streatham area. There is also the euro6 conversion programme, yet to start, which can also be targeted geographically if needed to convert diesel buses which are too young to be replaced.

    I think the announcement is merely adding some flesh to the “bones” of a previously announced initiative. We only knew Putney and Brixton/Streatham were in line for “greening” before but now we have the main package. In terms of your “5%” comment then that’s perfectly correct but I expect the Mayor / his advisors are seeing the wider picture with the proposed “T charge” and ULEZ enlargement being seen as other elements that will change behaviour and impact volumes. You’ll note that none of the proposed corridors stretch beyond Zone 3/4 which roughly aligns with the ULEZ boundary.

    I think the basic elements of bus fleet improvements are there. The one main variable is the speed of progression to the use of electricity and hydrogen powered vehicles, especially double deckers. Other than the “public acceptance” risk around ULEZ and the charging regimes (no ranting please on this point!) then the other main risks are the speed of vehicle development and uptake of greener buses and taxis. Some of this is just a repeat of two development phases we’ve vanguarded in London – low floor buses and then hybrid double deckers. LT and TfL pushed the market (and thus supplier development) for both of these and is doing the same for cleaner propulsion in buses.

  601. Eddie says:

    Has there been any figures on whether bus use has stabilised in recent months, perhaps due to the hopper ticket?

    In an entirely unscientific experiment of just me I’ve taken about 10 bus trips since it was introduced compared to none the year before as it compared favourably price wise to train and/or tube. Unfortunately despite it I’m still very reluctant to take buses as congestion is so high now on many routes.

  602. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Eddie – the London Datastore has periodic updates for all TfL modes (except TfL Rail). I track this info and changes. Bus patronage is showing no improvement at all. Thus far patronage is down on last year (nearly 59m pass jnys for P1-8) with no sign of increases or variation from seasonal trends. Clearly this is on network level aggregated numbers that will hide changes at area or route level. TfL will have this data but it is not routinely published for public consumption (unfortunately).

    TfL were asked about the Hopper ticket by the Assembly Budget and Performance Cttee this week. The query related to the cost of lost revenue given the apparently much higher than predicted use. TfL were “accused” of having the “wrong” numbers but they explained that if people are now using two buses rather than waiting for one through bus there is a use of the Hopper facility but no revenue impact compared to before (through bus cost £1.50, two buses now cost £1.50). TfL said they are tracking use in detail and regularly but it was too early to reach any firm conclusions on patronage growth / modal transfer / impact on routes (I’ve read a little bit in to what they specifically said there). I’m not sure two Assembly Members were entirely convinced on this but AMs are never convinced about TfL’s numbers – every budget time there are accusations of numbers being wrong, “smoke and mirrors”, lack of transparency.

  603. timbeau says:

    “The phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from the use of lead in the process of making felt for hats…”
    It was mercury, not lead, that was used in the felting process.

  604. MikeR says:

    If the introduction of “Hopper” had occurred before I got my Freedom Pass, it would have been income neutral. I used to wait for the 340 to get from Stanmore to Harrow, rather than get the H12 to Harrow Weald and then a 140/182/258/340 onward. Which is what I do with my pass.

  605. Reynolds 953 says:

    @IslandDweller – buses may be only 5% of vehicles but TfL’s figures say their buses are responsible for 20% of NOx pollutants from transport sources. However I’d like to see a comparison between vehicles with emissions normalised by vehicle kilometres and person kilometres for a more rounded picture.

    Again according to TfL, private cars are the single largest source of NOx pollutants (36% made up from 24% diesel, 12% petrol vehicles). A story in yesterday’s Times (paywalled…) claimed that even new Diesel cars had worse real world performance than new buses and HGVs because cars are only measured under lab conditions which bear little relationship to real world emissions, even when manufacturers aren’t cheating.

    I can see that TfL need to announce bus-related measures so they can say “See, we are doing our bit…” when the ULEZ impact upon other drivers becomes more apparent.

    Regarding the impact of pollution for people living beside major roads, see the following interview with one Mr David Wetzel of Brentford (now where have I heard that name before….?)

    Although for issues at this particular location, TfL buses certainly can’t be held responsible.

  606. NickBxn says:

    Living within earshot of Brixton Hill, I can certainly say that diesel-drive buses are responsible for a very high proportion of the engine traffic noise, particularly when going uphill/southbound, so I imagine it is commensurate to some degree with emissions. Life has begun to get a noticeably more peaceful now that hybrids have started taking over. (It’s a similar step-change from the days when cronky old Titans added to the racket by letting off sudden whip-like air brake hisses at random moments with excruciating decibel levels. Things do improve!)

    It’s dismaying to see the statistics from the air monitor in the High Street. If the completion of having all buses on the A23 corridor hybrid or better gets their proportion of the offending emissions down from 20% to, say, 5%, it’s still difficult to imagine what other measures could bring down the levels to the EU limits anytime soon. Even with the Ultra Low zone, I can’t help feeling there will still be simply too much traffic puffing out ‘ultra low’ emissions, and that it won’t really improve until electric (or any other properly zero-emission technology) really impacts the car market and makes meaningful inroads into the commercial and haulage sectors. As some manufacturers make both buses and trucks, one would hope that experience gained from hybrids on the former will help with the evolution of the latter – even though it’s only a stepping stone to zero emission – but I see no evidence of their being in a hurry.

  607. Andre says:

    @NickBxn I have to admit I am guilty of dragging some tired old busses up that hill. Having said that i’m not sure how quiet it’s gonna get as some of the hybrid buses are gonna be pushing their diesel motors quite hard to get up that hill at any sort of speed.

    @timbeau I don’t know if the engineers keep the much of an eye on it. Though i’m sure the bean counters in head office are right on it. I would assume a lot of the fuel savings of the hybrids comes from not running the IC engine when stationary rather than the minimal driving in EV mode. Which begs the question should we bother with heavy hybrid systems at all where a lighter bus with stop start may be just as efficient

    The bus types are the Envio 400mmc (Series) amd a volvo B5LH not bodied by Wright bus 🙂 detectives in this thread can probably work out who I work for but i’d rather not say as I think they are pretty funny about drivers talking about such things.

    Both are nice buses though I prefer to drive the volvo mainly for personal reasons. The buzzers in the Enviro for indicators and such drive me up the wall and I struggle to get comfortable in the cab as I have long legs and short arms and the way AD mounts their pedals and consoles doesn’t help that. Id also say that if your inclined its easier to keep the Volvo in EV mode than the Enviro. It tends to want to kick in the diesel motor a lot earlier wheres as if you are gentle you can get pretty close to 20mph in the volvo in pure ev mode between stops though the enviro does seem to want to operate in EV mode more often. Maybe this has something to do with the differing hybrid systems.

    I don’t have a set route so I’m constantly trying different machinery its quite interesting how the bus types are all designed to tfl spec but are so different. Personally for pure driving pleasure nothing beats a well looked after Volvo B7TL and most drivers I chat to in the garage agree with me which is a shame as they are rapidly being replaced. Interestingly as I was dropping my bus off to the garage tonight a brand new bus was being delivered with a rather large BYD badge on the front…

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