Where have all the double-deckers gone?
Posted on 24th February 2023 at 12:39
Once a common sight on our streets, double-deckers have fallen out of favour in recent times. Seen as unwieldy and, frankly, old-fashioned, they have been superseded by a preference for longer articulated vehicles. But as our cities become ever-more crowded, is longer really better for maximising capacity?
In this special blog, we take on five of the common arguments against the use of the double-decker tram and make the case for their re-adoption.
‘They’re too big’
If a double-decker bus can safely navigate our city streets, why not a tram? Yes, there may be a few infrastructure issues, but none are insurmountable. A modern double-decker could accommodate up to 40% more passengers in the same footprint – and be easier to navigate tight and narrow city centres at the same time.As for length, modern articulated trams can reach up to 60 metres. That’s all well and good, but they need longer platforms and if they break down chaos can ensue as they can block junctions and long sections of our city centres. They are also fairly difficult things to recover. Surely that is a case for simplification and looking up at all that empty space…
2. ‘They are just not accessible’
Any public transport vehicle in the world has to obey the accessibility regulations and a modern double-decker tram would be no different.Clever design would allow for the same pushchair and multi-purpose areas as a single-deck tram, with the upper deck available for the more mobile.A common concern is also that of anti-social behaviour on the top deck. Again, much like on existing buses and trains, CCTV can help address this. Or how about using security gates to close off the upper deck on night services – this would control access and offer potential savings on heating and lighting for the unused areas.
3. ‘They would be slower and more unstable’
Who says? As long as an average service speed of 20-30km/h is maintained, they should be no slower and the advances in modern suspension, as well as better tracks to run them, on should ensure a smooth ride.In fact, the first-generation double-deckers (which were far more primitive in many ways) could easily reach speeds of up to 50km/h in comfort so it’s about matching the vehicle to the route – which we should be doing anyway!As many of us now use contactless ticketing, any issues seen in decades past of extended dwell times at stops would be removed and more regular stops (every 400-500 metres as is already common) should minimise any delays caused by loading or unloading passengers.
4. ‘They’re old-fashioned and only belong in museums.
’Tell that to the people of Hong Kong. You’ll struggle to find a city which manages to combine the height of modernity with such a rich heritage and they’ve never run anything but double-deck trams. A tourist attraction in their own right, Hong Kong Tramways maintain a very high patronage and are one of the best ways to see the city.The same is true of Blackpool. Taking away the double-deckers would be the same as taking away the Tower, and no-one would ever suggest that…
Anyone who has ever spent any time in London also can’t help to notice the fleets of open-top buses at any one time. Most have a pre-recorded guide piped through the seats which could be an easy way to boost local tourism. If we’re trying to get people back into our cities, what’s not to like?
Blackpool is the only town in the UK to make use of the double-decker tram
5. ‘Being heavier, they will be more demanding on the tracks’
Why? Modern lightweight composite materials mean that a double-decker tram could actually be lighter a single-deck articulated tram per passenger. The traditional design would obviously have to change as the modern equipment needed to operate a tram takes up a considerable amount of space on the roof.
If you look at the top of any modern tram or LRV, you will see boxes full of complicated kit. So in order to keep the tram low-floor, and fully-accessible to all, these would need to be moved and incorporated onboard the vehicle. Luckily, advances in energy storage should mean that incorporating all this kit – as well as supercapacitors, batteries, flywheels or fuel cells – could be stowed away in under-stair compartments. Technological advances as the wheelmotor could also make them simpler to design, build and run than current articulated LRVs – thus actually lightening the load.
So finally…As the population of a city grows, so does its buildings – upwards. So why can’t public transportation do the same?
Think about this logically. The more land space that is required, the more expensive things become – this is why bungalows are more expensive than houses for the same amount of living room and why you don’t see many in cities.We need to think about efficiency. Cars with one occupant require ten times the road space to carry the same number of passengers as well-loaded public transport. As no-one likes congestion, double-deck vehicle options for certain circumstances would therefore seem like a great idea and one worth exploring.We’re not suggesting double-deckers replace all modern LRVs, but with their obvious benefits, why aren’t they even considered as another option in the transport planner’s toolbox in our struggle against congestion?
They’re also very cool, as who doesn’t like the front seat on a double-decker to get the best view of a city? Our case rests..
What do you think? What would need to change in order to have these heritage style trams back on our LRT networks?
Join the discussion on our Linked In Page and let us know what you think…
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Tagged as: double decker, blackpool transport
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