Trams are smart - whichever way you look at it...
Posted on 14th June 2023 at 13:52
There are nine light rail systems in the UK and each has had a positive effect on the cities and regions in which they operate. So what exactly are these benefits? Read on to find out....
Light Rail. Not an easy term to define or describe and an infinitely varied mode of transportation. Ranging from the classic street-running tram all the way up to the underground running Metro of the larger cities, all light rail, no matter its form or vehicle type, shares a common function. To provide an eco-friendly, regular and cost-effective public transport solution for urban and city environments.
From almost disappearing entirely during the 1950’s, the UK is now home to nine separate Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems and, across the world, there are over 650 systems in operation. But why? What benefits can possessing a light rail system bring to a city and its population? Let’s find out…
1. Light rail benefits the environment
Light rail systems have the significant potential to reduce emissions and the issue of congestion by acting as a viable alternative to the private car. There is ample evidence to prove that the light rail systems in existence within the UK are doing just this. In Nottingham, for example, 30% of the tram users switched from using their cars to travel into the city. This means that cities that make use of LRT enjoy cleaner air.
The secret to the success of light rail in reducing congestion is not just that it provides a reliable alternative to the private car but that it focuses on moving people – not vehicles.
As light rail is powered by electricity, this means that it is an energy-efficient mode of transport which produces zero emissions at point of use. In fact, in 2020, light rail across the UK only contributed to 0.13% of the total UK emissions. This is set to decrease further with the use of green electricity, the adoption of hydrogen-powered trams and using regenerative braking for battery charging means that even less energy is required – even as route and fleet numbers increase.
2. Light Rail benefits the economy
A system’s very creation generates employment ranging from city planners, to track makers to tram drivers. Over the (estimated) 100 year lifespan of any LRT system is the need for regular maintenance, fleet renewal and adoption of new and innovative technologies – all of which require sustained investment in employment opportunities, training and innovation.
Light rail can also revitalise neglected city centres and hard to reach urban areas. Cursed by congestion, dense population, lack of parking space and more and more amenities moving out to the suburbs, city centres in the UK have suffered a decline in recent years. However, in cities that possess a LRT system, they have seen increased investment, better uses of available space to benefit pedestrians and cyclists as well as boosted property prices.
3. Light Rail benefits society
Light Rail does more than just boost the local (and national) economy. It promotes social inclusivity by providing easy, reliable and cost-effective connections to jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities.
Not only this, but the adoption of a light rail system can help promote better lifestyle and health choices as it encourages more people to think outside of the car for their transport needs – whether this be on foot, by bike, e-scooter or bus.
Light rail is also an inclusive and fully accessible form of transport due to trams’ low-floor design, spacious interiors, smooth and jerk-free acceleration and braking; clear and fixed routes and well positioned stops. This means that light rail is an attractive option for any traveller looking to leave their car at home. In fact, research conducted by UKTram (the light rail advisory body for the UK) found that in 2021, there was a 87-97% customer journey satisfaction rate across all of the UK systems.
In conclusion then, light rail, as part of an integrated public transport network, can provide many benefits for the system’s city, its citizens, the economy and the environment. With more and more cities looking to light rail as a public transport solution, trams really are the smart choice.
Tagged as: Trams, Benefits
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