Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Beeston and City by bus or tram? Today's the day we get to choose!

A 36 on Derby Road.

A tram on Chilwell Road.

Back in March I posted one of my most popular blogs to date: 'The coming transport war in Beeston' in which I wrote 'The tram and bus in Beeston will soon be at war because they are in commercial competition with one another. Of course the tram will take passengers and money away from the buses, at first, but there will be new opportunities. For the moment Nottingham City Transport and Your Bus are holding their fire and as for Trent-Barton we will have to see what strategy their parent company, Wellglade, have because they also own a stake in the tram'.

Back then we thought The Tram might start in late-spring. In the event it has taken there months longer and nine months in total. I suspect the delay could have been avoided, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. By any measure the two new tram lines are a great achievement and will be to the benefit of Nottingham, Beeston and Clifton in a number of ways.

I made the point in March that I would continue to use the L10, when able, to travel to and from the city centre, simply because it passes the end of my road, even though I am less than ten minutes walk from the new Beeston Interchange.

The Tram has very few seats relative to its carrying capacity — just 55 sitting and 100 standing — whereas the bus offers everyone a good chance of a seat and gets into the city centre nearly as quick as The Tram. Late yesterday the new Tram timetable was published for the first time, which enabled me to create the table below comparing daytime journey times:

I am sure you do not need me to do the sums for you, but just in case: for every six trams into the city centre during Monday – Saturday daytime hours there are 24–29 buses and if you want to go to the Victoria Centre, the 36 and Y36 do it just as quick because there is no walking involved. In fact the Y36 timetable allows 22 minutes for the journey, five minutes less than the 36, even though they follow the same route. I suspect the 36 is slower because it carries more passengers, so stops more often and this has to be allowed for in the running time.

The only drawback with all this choice is buying a ticket — there are FIVE systems, one for each operator plus the City Council's Kangaroo ticket, which comes with a 50% premium! We need a one, transferrable, ticket system and if the four operators refuse to do this and insist on the Kangaroo being overpriced, then there is a good argument for giving control of all public transport in our conurbation to a 'public transport authority' to control services and fares.

By way of an aside. As the Nottingham Post says on its front page today, the two new tram lines have cost £570m on top of the original £200m. Had this money been invested in improving bus services and frequencies seven days a week across the combination for a fifty year period that would have equalled an investment of at least £20m a year. The money could have been spent creating a ten minute bus network seven days a week across the conurbation which would have rivalled London. I have to accept, unfortunately, the will to invest in buses outside London on such a scale does not exist and what Nottingham has achieved with minimal finance when it comes to buses is fantastic.

The truth no one wants to accept is that the tram is not a good public transport investment by any measure, but the whole exercise has been to reduce car travel in and out of the city centre and in this respect it will, I am sure, be a success. I accept what was said back to me in the 1980s by John Taylor, the then Leader of Nottingham City Council, when I argued for a much larger trolleybus system instead. "Bob, trams are sexy. Buses are not".

The buses might lose out around Inham Nook and Field Lane in Chilwell, but nowhere else. People will only have to stand a few times for over twenty minutes on The Tram and be crushed on the section between The Treatment Centre and the city centre to go back to the buses. Who, in their right mind, will stand at Beeston Interchange and let a bus with a seat go by to run the risk of having to stand on a tram?

The Tram was designed to reduce car traffic in and out of Nottingham city centre and car users parking up at Toton Lane and Clifton will get the seats and will they give them up to the elderly who get on in Chilwell or Beeston? We shall see, but I suspect not, if the Bulwell and Hucknall trams are any guide!

The Tram will be a success and with fewer cars on the Derby Road, the buses will go a little quicker and just two minutes shaved off bus journey times will be enough to persuade more to be like me and stay loyal to the buses.

I am not anti-tram. It will make travelling by bus between Beeston and the city centre a more enjoyable experience.

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