TramTrain is now the term generally given to any vehicle which can operate both in city streets as a tram, and on fully segregated ‘heavy’ rail tracks as a train. TramTrain operation is ‘green’, and enhances the environment by reducing traffic congestion, and avoiding generation of emissions at point of use (most tram-trains are electically powered although diesel and diesel electric versions are also available).
There are many cities, both in UK and overseas, where the main railway station is a significant distance from the town or city centre, and other major features and facilities in the city. A TramTrain style of operation has obvious merits in making the link between main railway station and city centre etc. more convenient, easier for mobility impaired people, and quicker for all users.
Capital expenditure for TramTrains can be minimised by making the greatest possible use of existing railway infrastructure, and, where they exist, the present tramway lines. Short lengths of special connecting tracks and ramps are, however, required in some cases. Where no tramways exist, short extensions on street may enable tram-trains to reach major central destinations.
Through operation between railway and street environment has been utilised since the earliest days of rail guided transport systems, but has received a particular impetus in the last 20 years for urban transit networks. Examples include Kassel. Karlsruhe and Saarbruecken in Germany. Tram-trains also now operate in the Netherlands and France.
In the UK, several of the second generation tramways utilise very substantial lengths of former ‘heavy’ rail infrastructure, with addition of city-centre trackage. Only shared running with main line trains is missing. This applies to Manchester, West Midlands, Croydon and Nottingham.
A particular window of opportunity in the UK will present itself over the next 15 years with the need to replace local service heavy rail vehicles built in the 1980s, such as Pacers and Sprinters. There are at least 20 cities and conurbations where TramTrain schemes could be implemented, and deliver a major improvement to the environment and public transport.
LRTA is now urgently drawing to the attention of all relevant bodies the need to seize this opportunity. It is essential to initiate project development as soon as possible because legal and financial authorisation procedures are protracted in the UK.
Many TramTrain systems should only require modest capital outlay from Local Authority/PTE sources but with substantial passenger and non-user benefits. Funding for vehicles is virtually assured from heavy rail sources. In many cases, only relatively short lengths of new street track would need to be installed.
The energy required to propel TramTrain vehicles can be derived from a variety of sources both on-board and off vehicles, most of which create zero emissions at point of use.