4. Outline for the Oxford Street tramway
4.1 Requirements for the scheme
In order to study the impacts and the feasibility of a tramway on Oxford Street one particular system is assumed to be implemented in this chapter. The suggested route mainly focuses on Oxford Street since this is the study area but remarks are made about further developments. The system to be implemented in the West End underlies the following requirements:
4.2 Core route of the tramway
The initial network of the proposed tramway consists of a route from Marble Arch via Oxford Street to St. Giles Circus and then via Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square and back (see appendix C, map 1). This route gives optimum access to the shopping area of Oxford Street and to the leisure centres of the West End on both sides of Charing Cross Road.
Currently private car traffic is banned from Oxford Street and access is allowed only for buses, taxis and delivery vehicles. Oxford Street between Marble Arch and Oxford Circus is a normal single carriageway and at the bus stops bays are provided for overtaking. As a result of that there is space for wider pavements and some trees. Between Oxford Circus and St. Giles Circus Oxford Street is a wide carriageway that allows overtaking everywhere and no special bus bays are provided at bus stops. Here the pavement is narrower and no trees are planted.
Oxford Street will be pedestrianised to increase the space available for pedestrians and to avoid obstruction of the trams by other traffic. That means that buses will have to be diverted and access for delivery vehicles must be restricted to morning hours. In the long term all shops should make provision for delivery from the back so that also goods vehicles can be banned from Oxford Street.
The tram will then run on a double track in the middle of the street. Overhead wire masts should be as little intrusive as possible and could be combined with lampposts. Provision for cyclists must be made in form of parking facilities but cycling in the pedestrianised area must be restricted to out-of-shopping hours, i.e. alternative access via parallel streets. That is because of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians in the busy hours. At some places resting facilities (e.g. benches) should be provided, which in combination with the planting of trees leads to a more relaxing atmosphere.
One important point is that the path of the tram is clearly visible in order to avoid conflicts between pedestrians and the vehicles. This can be done by different paving patterns and plants or bollards alongside the track. A continuous railing or chain is not desirable since that would obstruct the free movement of pedestrians.
Charing Cross Road
The situation on Charing Cross Road is not subject of this study but in order to achieve a certain penetration of the area it is part of the core route of the tramway. Therefore some thoughts about this section is given here: It is not planned to pedestrianise Charing Cross Road but the option here could be a bus only street. Currently the stretch between St. Giles Circus and Cambridge Circus is two-lane one-way for general traffic with the provision of a contra flow bus lane. The remaining bit down to Trafalgar Square is a normal two-lane road with mixed use by buses and other traffic.
On the former part there is enough space for a two-way tram-track that could also be used by buses; capacity for one-way general traffic would then be reduced to one lane. The latter part is too narrow for mixed traffic, so that this has to be transformed into a bus-only street with mixed use by trams and buses. Generally Charing Cross Road should be closed for through traffic and become the major public transport axis in the area. How mixed use by trams and buses can work will be seen after opening of the Croydon Tramlink.
4.3 Interchange facilities
Major interchange stations with buses and taxis will be located at the termini Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square and at St. Giles Circus. At these locations there is also access to the tube network by Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross stations. Tram stops will replace the current bus stops and in particular be located close to the underground stations Bond Street, Oxford Circus and Leicester Square.
Apart form providing the interchange facilities the tram system must be integrated with the bus network. This is in terms of co-ordination of the services as well as in terms of accessibility. Feeder buses must provide the same degree of accessibility, that is the use of low floor buses according to the low floor LRV’s. The three major interchange facilities require a redesign of the locations.
Interchange facilities at Marble Arch will include improved facilities for pedestrians. Currently the only possibility for pedestrians to cross from Hyde Park to Oxford Street is via dark and unpleasant subways. The road space on the surface is acquired by completely by road traffic. On the central island there is a bus stand and a small square in front of the arch, which is isolated from the surrounding area by the roads and therefore not really occupied by the public. Bus stops are located along the streets radiating from Marble Arch resulting in long walking distances for interchange.
The optimum solution to locate traffic where it belongs – pedestrians on the surface and motor traffic underground in tunnels – is not considered here because of cost reasons. The tramway will cross the southbound carriageway under signal control onto the central island where the interchange stop will be located. There can be a loop for reversing the trams and if the core route is extended the line will continue across the northbound carriageway along the north of Hyde Park (The Ring). A new bus station should be located adjacent to the tram stop to allow easy interchange. Pedestrian level crossings can be introduced in combination with the signal control for the tram.
Alterations to the road layout are also necessary at Trafalgar Square. Currently the northern road forms a barrier between the square and the National Gallery. The best option would be to put the road in a tunnel, which is not considered here for the same reasons as above. There are two options for the tram alignment. If Trafalgar Square is planned to be a terminus the line could form a inner ring around the square with possible stop locations at either side. Alternatively a double track can be laid at the eastern side of the square with a tram stop close to the entrance to the underground station (Charing Cross). This is ideal in case the tramway is continued southwards via White Hall.
The detailed design of these ‘hot spots’ – Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square – must be subject to further studies.
4.4 Extensions and railway connections
The core route alone will not be viable because of insufficient passenger demand due to the shortness of the line and the problem of depot location. It is clear that a tram system can not be justified only for travel within a certain area, it must also carry a amount of access travel. A depot location within the central area of London is almost impossible or at least very expensive Also for this reason an extension of the line out of the central area is necessary.
Thinking of extensions there are two possibilities, namely connections to railway tracks or a Light Rail based extension on a new alignment. If the wish is to connect the line with suburban railways this would be possible at Paddington Station (via an alignment north of Hyde Park) or at Charing Cross Station adjacent to Trafalgar Square. There are two problems: First the connecting sections itself are quite difficult itself and probably would require tunnels and secondly the platform levels on railway track do no correspondent with a low floor design, so that also there adjustment are necessary (as on the Croydon Tramlink).
Separated Light Rail extensions could be eastwards along the north side of Hyde Park towards Shepherds Bush or Hammersmith and southwards along White Hall towards Parliament Square and further on. A link to Shepards Bush is already formed by the Central line but an extension through Hyde Park to Royal Albert Hall and then via High Street Kensington to Hammersmith would offer new connections to theatres, museums and shopping areas. There is also the possibility of a branch via Piccadilly Circus along Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. All these plans are not subject of this study, but they interact with other plans of tramways and pedestrianisation on Regent Street and White Hall, for example the plans of the Crown Estate (Garner).
4.5 Vehicles and stops
The tramway will use of low floor vehicles in order to avoid high platforms on the pavements and to guarantee full accessibility. A possible option is for example the Bombardier City Tram from Cologne that will be used for Croydon Tramlink (Appendix D). Stops will replace the current bus stops, therefore located at the same distances. The design of the stops will follow the design applied to the city centre tram stops of Tramlink (see section 2.3). Where the road space is shared with buses provision must be made for the trams to overtake stopping buses.
According to the present situation tram stops on the core route would be: