It’s official: trams are soaring in popularity and the travelling public wants to see more of them.
Bucking a less happy national trend, a recent Passenger Focus survey shows passenger satisfaction levels at 90 per cent. Light rail systems are performing well. Trams in major cities are picking up more passengers with volumes up almost 6 per cent nationally since last year.
According to the Department for Transport (DfT) trams accounted for 239.8 million passenger journeys during financial year 2014/15 a rise of 5.6 per cent over the previous year. Docklands Light Railway, Tyne and Wear Metro and Manchester Metrolink saw the biggest annual increases.
Edinburgh Trams carried 10 per cent more passengers than expected in its first full year and passenger revenue was 3 per cent ahead of target.
Passenger satisfaction was 95 per cent. Trams make good economic sense and contribute real value to the cities they serve.
Says Raymond Johnstone, rail director at Nexus, ‘The growth in (Tyne and Wear) Metro passengers has been matched by growing revenue from ticket sales, which is good news because, whilst Nexus makes no profit from Metro, we also do not need to ask for a penny from local councils to support running costs in the year ahead. Metro remains the most affordable light rail network in the UK.
We have kept prices low and this has helped to stimulate rising patronage.’ To cope with rising demand Nexus is investing £389 million in the modernisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro, including refurbished stations, bridges and trains.
Manchester Metrolink recently launched its 100th tram. ‘We’ve come a long way since 1992 when the first fleet of just 26 trams started running on the Bury-Altrincham lines,’ says Andrew Fender, chair of Transport for Greater Manchester. Bombardier and partner Vossloh-Kiepe manufacture the new- style ‘M5000’ yellow and silver trams in Vienna.
The last old-school T68 model tram was retired last year, meaning the 100-strong fleet is now completely modernised. Flexity Shift trams, like the M5000, run in Cologne, Bonn, Rotterdam and Stockholm.
Nottingham’s NET tram system is the most popular with 96 per cent satisfaction – a big thumbs up to all staff involved. NET recorded an impressive 2.9 per cent increase in tram use in the city during the 2014/15 financial year.
Says Jamie Swift, NET Marketing Manager, ‘We are absolutely thrilled at these latest figures which reflect the growing popularity of the tram in Nottingham. This is the second year in a row that the total number of passenger journeys has increased and, in response to growing demand, we have further improved service frequency to provide extra seats during busy times of the day. In fact there are now trams every three minutes during peak periods as customer numbers pass the eight million a year mark.’
The new Mango Smart card will make it easier still to use NET trams. The extension of services to Chilwell and Clifton will further expand what looks like remaining one of Britain’s most popular tram services.
Tram to Serve
Work is pushing ahead on a new tram platform at Wimbledon this month. The additional track and platforms will bring more trams and services for people along the busy route to Croydon. Around 12 trams an hour will run once the scheme is completed and help increase passenger services by 50 per cent. The scheme, part of TfL’s investment programme, will improve services and support the local economy as demand for the tram network grows.
Trams in Britain mark one of the rail industry’s most coherent triumphs. The equation of frequent services using new, well presented rolling stock proves a winner with the public.