Don Townsley : “NGT trolleybuses are likely to be bi-articulated with 200 mostly standing passengers”

Swiss-built Hess LighTram double-articulated trolleybus

swiss built h Swiss-built Hess LighTram double-articulated trolleybus

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Regarding the YEP feature on 9 January one particular item does concern me and that is where the ‘Metro spokesman’ in the final column refers to ‘companies interested in building the articulated 200 passenger vehicles’. Now ftr and most other 18 metre two section artic buses are typically reputed to carry 53 seated with 60 standing passengers plus 1 wheelchair and 2 buggies. The terrible artists impressions (no photographs) in Metro literature and press releases so far show 18 metre two section buses but this comment suggests that double artic vehicles are the intention, and have been all along. No wonder they are short on detail and have not published any photographs. The Swiss built Hess LighTram (pictured) of which there are three in Lucerne is a 24.7m long double-articulated trolleybus with a capacity of around 192 passengers of which only 68 have seats. Heaven help us with two of them together down Park Row and along Boar Lane! The standard Volvo/Wright Gemini 10metre long double decker as used in Leeds (standard or hybrid) takes 89 of which all but 21 are seated whilst the 12 metre long 3 axle version will take 125 of which only 44 stand. Two of these either hybrid or fully electric would more than equal the Hess and would be separate to avoid adding to congestion and could run more frequently. Most times in the day you do not need a 200 capacity monster but you do need a regular and short wait frequency.

City Alderman and Transport Consultant condemns NGT

A four car electric train. The £250m cost of NGT would buy 60 trains like this.

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In practice the NGT scheme would produce nothing that could not be achieved by conventional double decker buses in well maintained condition, on good roads, and to a specification at least compatible with that of Yorkshire Coastliner and Harrogate and District (Transdev) vehicles. Bendy buses, diesel or trolley, increase congestion because of their 80% increase in length with no increase in payload and a diesel bendy bus is roughly twice the cost of the double decker. The trolley bus is dearer still, partly on account of the smaller production volume. Mainly used in former Russian and Eurasion states the penalties in this country of using small isolated fleets with regard to spares and operating costs should not be under estimated. There are none currently in Britain and relatively few in Western Europe.

I am amazed at the promoters’ claims that the scheme will result in a projected increase in the annual GDP of Leeds of £176million, creation of 4,250 jobs and a substantial reduction in the City’s carbon footprint. At best these figures are nebulous and at worst economical with the truth. Five years on from its conception and at least six years estimated before completion it should be rebranded Next Generation Transport. These timescales are ridiculous for the solution of a problem that exists now. Surely it cries out for some highway improvements and a small injection of new up to date off the shelf buses to give benefit now without dipping into and wasting the DfT funding which would better be transferred to a sensible light rail scheme on the right route as allowed for in the Early Day Motion submitted to Parliament on 4 July. Thorpe Park to Leeds City Centre suggests itself as an easily realisable cost effective high speed tramway from a catchment point with great park and ride and local development potential for which the major cost could come out of the trolley bus funding. Couple this tramway and park and ride facility with a railway station at Thorpe Park (not Micklefield) and the combined effect on relieving traffic congestion would be enormous. Thorpe Park, at Junction 46 on the M1 with existing and expandable access to the M1, is not only an already committed growth area in itself but is the one place most ideally situated to absorb traffic heading into Leeds from most other areas of high population. Motorists will leave their cars for a fast frequent tramway service into the city centre or for a train to other destinations but they will not do so for a bus, diesel or trolley, which then stops every few yards to pick up the locals or serve the local hospital. There is no such thing as a fit all solution as hinted at by NGT.

A sobering thought is that the cost suggested for the NGT scheme would alternatively buy 60 four-car (240 vehicles) 100mph electric trains. I know which would produce the best return on capital and the greenest footprint. Under present operating conditions to replace NGT the bus companies would provide the standard buses as a normal part of their everyday business and take the commercial risk.

There are more opportunities available now for easing the transport difficulties than have been possible for some time. What is needed is a more pragmatic approach.

Don Townsley

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As well as being a former Leeds Councillor and now an Honorary Alderman, Don Townsley is a Chartered Engineer and Transport Consultant with a proven track record over more than fifty years.

NGT – Trolleybuses will add to congestion


The NGT

The NGT trolleybus scheme would produce nothing that could not be achieved by conventional double decker buses in well maintained condition, on good roads, and to a specification at least compatible with that of Yorkshire Coastliner and Harrogate and District (Transdev) vehicles. Bendy buses, diesel or trolley, increase congestion because of their 80% increase in length with no increase in payload and a diesel bendy bus is roughly twice the cost of the double decker. The trolley bus is dearer still, partly on account of the smaller production volume. Mainly used in former Russian and Eurasion states the penalties in this country of using small isolated fleets with regard to spares and operating costs should not be under estimated. There are none currently in Britain and relatively few in Western Europe.

(photo courtesy of Matthew Black)