A Tramway for Oxford Street
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2. Background

Other Light Rail systems that will be looked at in these sections are the Metrolink in Manchester, Tramlink in Croydon (London) and the tram network of Düsseldorf (Düsseldorfer Strassenbahn). Features of these systems that may be either useful or interesting for the situation in central London and differences to the situation on Oxford Street will be outlined.

2.1 The Manchester Metrolink

Metrolink opened in 1992 and is very successful in terms of patronage and relieved congestion. This system is the first new Light Rail system in Great Britain that includes on-street running after most British cities had abolished their tram networks in the 1960s (Appendix F).

Fig. 2.1: Metrolink Network (source: Metrolink)


The first proposals for Metrolink were made by the Rail Study Group in 1982. They were investigating the questions how railways around Manchester could be improved and expanded and how links to the city centre could be created. Manchester experienced a city centre chaos because local road transport services carried so many people and had to mix with other traffic. City centre congestion increased with the decline of public transport and the increase in car use from the 1960s onwards. Hand in hand with the increasing traffic problems of pollution and noise were arising.

The railway network of Manchester has a lack of central area accessibility because the central area stations are only on the edge of the central business district and there is no north-south cross-city link. Other problems were the outdated rolling stock and worn out infrastructure on suburban railway lines of which some received heavy subsidies.

Finally the Light Rail option was chosen as a solution for the accessibility and congestion problems with a good environmental performance and the ability to perform well in cost-benefit terms.

The network

The core of the Metrolink network is the City Centre section which links the mainline stations Victoria and Piccadilly and the former Central Station that is now G-Mex Exhibition Centre. This section has eight stops and follows the highway alignment with a few short sections off highway. Fig. 2.1: Metrolink network

Two branches using former British Rail lines link the city centre with the suburbs Bury and Altrincham. The Bury line was operated as a segregated rapid transit line independent from the rest of the BR network and the Altrincham line originally formed the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway.

Three lines are operated, namely Bury – Altrincham, Bury – Piccadilly and Altrincham – Piccadilly.

Vehicles and stops

Fig. 2.2: Manchester Tram (source: BS)

The Light Rail vehicles were produced by the Firema Consortium in Italy. Since there are 18 former railway stations in the system the use of low floor vehicles was not possible. Therefore it was decided to use high floor vehicles and to construct small stations in the city streets and to arrange for a section of these station platforms to be at the same height at railway station platforms. These on-street platforms have ramps on both ends to provide access for wheelchair users and passengers with pushchairs. Level access to the vehicles is guaranteed at the two middle doors. A careful design of the city centre stops was necessary to achieve maximum access and aesthetic appeal.

Planning and funding

A DBOM concept was employed for awarding the licence to design, built, operate and maintain the system. This concept was so far untried in the UK but saved time and money when planning Metrolink. Only the wish of the government to put the full risk of the scheme to the private sector could not be realised. The method of funding the Light Rail contract from a partnership of private and Government capital was also new. Though one single contract it had to be split into a design/built and a operate/maintain part in order to take into account the different requirements for the companies.

Once in operation the Public Transport Executive owns the system but it is operated as a franchise by the Greater Manchester Metro Ltd (GMML). GMML is a company owned by the construction consortium. Operation of the service does not require any ongoing public subsidies.

2.2 The Croydon Tramlink

Croydon Tramlink in the south of London is currently under construction and will open in November 1999. It is interesting for the London situation because it is the first Light Rail system in London since the last tram ran in 1952 and it is constructed under a different political structure from the rest of England. This is because the bus market in London is not deregulated but a franchising regime of competitive tendering and London’s division into 23 boroughs with the absence of a greater London authority.


Croydon can be regarded as the third city of London because it has seen large office developments in the past and it has a large shopping street and shopping centres. But the road and rail network in Croydon is focussed on transport into London, thus provides good north-south connections but the public transport within Croydon is rather poor. Therefore there was the need to link the suburbs of Croydon with the centre and to provide attractive public transport for the city centre itself. A Light Rail system for Croydon was first envisaged in a study undertaken on Light Rail options for London in 1986.

The network

Fig. 2.3: Croydon Tramlink network (source: CTL)

The proposed tram system for Croydon consists of three lines radiating from the central area. Tracks in the city centre form a ring of clockwise one-way operation with interchange at the BR stations of East and West Croydon and good penetration of the shopping area. There is segregated in-street running with some streets closed for traffic.

Interestingly there are some sections shared by buses and trams with provision of bays at bus stops so that trams can overtake stationary buses. The branches to Wimbeldon and Beckenham Junction/Elmers End make use of existing or disused railway structures and connect the centre of Croydon with the railway stations at the termini. The New Addington Branch links the residential areas of Addington with Croydon (including extensive feeder bus services) and is to a large degree newly constructed rail track. The integration of tram network and feeder bus services is one feature made possible by the regulated public transport services in London.

Vehicles and stops

The Light Rail vehicle (LRV) chosen for Tramlink is the City-Tram built by Bombardier Eurorail (Appendix D), which is already in use in Köln (Cologne), Germany. These are low floor LRV’s with a floor height of 350 mm so that full accessibility is guaranteed without complicated stop arrangements in the city centre. Tram stops in the city centre will be incorporated in the pavement and be equipped with shelter, ticketing and information systems. On most former British Rail stations the platforms will be rebuilt at a lower level, at two stations the track will be raised to give level access.

Fig. 2.4: Tram in Köln (source: LRTA)

Planning and funding

Forecasts for the system predict a patronage of 25m passengers per year. The total costs of the scheme are £200m of which 40 % are privately funded. Development of the Tramlink scheme was undertaken by a project development group (PDG) that consists of the responsible authorities – London Transport and the Borough of Croydon – and private companies for construction (Tarmac), rolling stock (AEG) and operation (Transdev). After dissolving the PDG a contract to design, build, maintain and operate the system was set out for tender.

Tramtrack Croydon Limited (TCL) was the winning consortium of the bidding process and was awarded with a 99-year concession. Its members are Centre West Buses Ltd (operation and maintenance), Bombardier Eurorail (vehicle supplier), The Bank of Scotland (finance) and Sir Robert Alpine/Amey Construction Ltd, who will be responsible for the whole construction of Tramlink (civil and electrical engineering). It is assumed that the revenue from fares will more than cover the operation costs so that no subsidies are required.

2.3 The Düsseldorfer Strassenbahn

The Düsseldorf system is a well-established tramway (Strassenbahn) with an extensive network that operates in combination with a modern Light Rail system (Stadtbahn). The interesting point is the combination of the two systems. (In this report the German terms Strassenbahn and Stadtbahn are used for the Düsseldorf Systems in order to avoid any confusion.)


The Strassenbahn was one of the first infrastructure projects rebuilt after the Second World War and therefore has established a fine meshed network that reaches into the neighbouring cities. It undergoes continuous modernisation and is heading towards a modern Light Rail system using low floor vehicles and segregated operation.

The Stadtbahn network (also called U-Bahn) is a modern Light Rail system in the first place. There are sections in tunnel beneath the city centre, then reserved on-street running and the outer sections are on separated track. The system offers high speeds even in the city centre and connects Düsseldorf with neighbouring cities such as Krefeld and Duisburg.

The network

The tram and Light Rail network of Düsseldorf consists of 13 Strassenbahn and 7 Stadtbahn lines, of which a network map is attached in appendix C (map 5). The core of the Stadtbahn network is the tunnel section between Heinrich-Heine-Allee and Hauptbahnhof (central station) with two intermediate stations. From Heinrich-Heine-Allee there are two branches to the north: One goes to Messe/Rheinstadion (exhibition centre/stadium) (U78) and to the city of Duisburg (U79), the other crosses the river Rhein to Oberkassel and then splits into branches to the cities of Neuss (U75) and Krefeld (U70, U74). South of Hauptbahnhof there are two branches to the southern suburbs. The Strassenbahn network covers the whole central area of Düsseldorf with lines to the suburbs and to Ratingen. It also runs through the pedestrianised city centre (Altstadt) with its shopping places, pubs and restaurants, thus provides access by public transport.

Vehicles and stops

Figs. 2.5-2.6: Trams in Düsseldorf (source: BS). Left: Strassenbahn, right: Stadtbahn.

The fleet consists of a variety of vehicles with the Stadtbahn using modern high floor Light Rail vehicles and the Strassenbahn a mixture of vehicle types from different generations. Some Strassenbahn lines already use low floor vehicles that allow full accessibility. All Stadtbahn stops in the tunnels section (12 underground stations) and some on the open track have platforms that allow level access. However there are some stops at pavement level where access to the vehicles is by folding steps.


The whole public transport system of Düsseldorf (apart from suburban and regional railways) is operated by Rheinbahn AG, which is publicly owned and receives subsidies. All public transport companies of the area (Rheinland/Ruhrgebiet) are member of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr that co-ordinates all services and sets the fare policy. Rapid suburban railway lines (S-Bahn) complete the public transport system. Therefore all modes are highly integrated and there is a single fare structure for the whole area.

2.4 Comparison with the situation on Oxford Street

i) Lessons can be learnt from Metrolink in Manchester are:

As far as the modal split is concerned it should be noticed that 75% of people who work in central London use public transport (Transport Statistics 1996). This figure was much lower for Manchester (it is 13% for the rest of the UK). Thus the potential for a change in modal split was greater in the Manchester case and therefore the effects on city centre congestion in London will be different.

There are differences in the layout of the city centres of Manchester and London. London, in particular Oxford Street, has more narrow streets and less open space. Another point is the different organisational structure of public transport. It is reported that the Supertram in Sheffield suffers from competition of private bus services. The situation in Central London is more similar to the one in Croydon.

ii) Interesting features of the Croydon Tramlink:

The City of Croydon offers many features that can also be found in central London, but all on a smaller scale. To what extent these can be transferred to the situation on Oxford Street requires more detailed investigation. The difference is that Central London already has a relatively proper public transport network, whereas in Croydon it is delivered by Tramlink for the first time.

In both the Croydon Tramlink and Manchester Metrolink on-street running forms just a small fraction of the system, whereas in central London large parts of the system will have to involve on-street running.

iii) Elements of the Düsseldorf system:

Though the history and the development of the public transport systems in London and Düsseldorf are very different they have to cater for the same needs. These are especially the requirements of the city centre as shopping and leisure area. The Strassenbahn network is an example for a possible tramway in central London provided that access from the suburbs is delivered by the underground, which is the Stadtbahn (U-Bahn) and S-Bahn network in the case of Düsseldorf.

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