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Home / Abingdon / A case for an Oxford to Witney tram network

 

Nicholas Newman

Tram 2548 calls at Arena tram stop with a Beckenham Junction service

In recent years, various people and groups have suggested solutions to the growing traffic congestion problems that face commuters traveling along the A40 between Witney and Oxford; these have included new bus lanes, heavy and light rail solutions including trams. Today, the A40 is used by more than 30,000 motorists every day and according to figures from the county council, 91 percent of eastbound users in the morning rush hour came from West Oxfordshire and 72 percent were travelling into Oxford. One thing is clear, doing nothing is no longer sustainable or justified, especially given that Oxfordshire is rapidly expanding.

In recent years, various people and groups have suggested solutions to the growing traffic congestion problems that face commuters traveling along the A40 between Witney and Oxford; these have included new bus lanes, heavy and light rail solutions including trams. One thing is clear, doing nothing is no longer sustainable or justified, especially given that Oxfordshire is rapidly expanding local economy, with a growing number of people setting up home in the area.

 

A potential Oxford to Witney tram service looks viable for a number of reasons:

 

The market for tram users in Oxford is similar to that of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Trams is the latest tram system to open in the UK, it released figures in May 2015, showing that that there were approximately 4.92 million passenger journeys made using Edinburgh Trams during its first year of operations – that’s around 370,000 ahead of the target set before launch[i]. That works out at 13, 479 people a day uses the Edinburgh tram service. In comparison with Oxfordshire, for instance, every day at least 11,833 enter Oxford from West Oxfordshire to work; study and leisure. [ii] Add to this the 17,060 that use Oxford station every day. [iii] As for costs, it depends, as much on how extensive is the need to relocate underground utility services. In the UK, costs for tram building have been higher than expected due to often-unnecessary work by utilities.[i] In addition, although bus lanes look cheaper in the short term, due to low capital costs, in the long term the overall cost of trams is cheaper and provides more room for expansion of capacity.

As for funding of such a network, it could be funded by:

  • Using the uplift in land values from housing development around the city’s edges[ii]
  • Introducing a levy on employee car parking spaces as in Nottingham.
  • Introducing a congestion charge for Oxford

 

The traffic and environmental problems are similar.

Latest traffic surveys suggest on the A40 between Eynsham and Oxford at least:

  • 75% of the traffic is cars and vans,
  • buses making up 4%,
  • with trucks, motorcycles and cycles making up the rest.[iv]

 

Congestion on this route is worse at peak times and especially during term time Monday to Friday between 7 AM – 10 AM and 3 PM and 7 PM. It is clear that operating an Oxford to Witney tram service would help reduce congestion on the A40, decrease road maintenance costs, cut emissions, and enhance employment and affordable housing prospects.[v]

It would also enable Oxford and London commuters living to the North, West and South of Witney and Eynsham to have improved travel times, say twenty minutes rather than an hour plus between Oxford and Witney.

 

The distances are similar

The Edinburgh tram service is about 8.1 miles long from end to end; Witney to Oxford via Eynsham is around 13.5 miles distant, not much difference. Unlike Edinburgh tram’s project, most of the proposed route is along existing or closed railway lines. So would mean little actual construction on Oxford’s road network. In addition, trams stops could be constructed at Wolvercote and Eynsham, making those areas more accessible for locals, tourists and commuters.

 

Actual traffic usage of the Edinburgh tram network is better than expected

Another plus point is since Edinburgh Trams started operations on Saturday 31 May 2014 at 5 am, Edinburgh Trams has surpassed revenue targets set out in its business model by around 3%. In addition, concessionary cardholders are currently accounting for 10.9% of passengers, which is well within the Council’s budget, which was set to ensure that Edinburgh’s cardholders get free travel on the tram.

 

In addition, Edinburgh Trams received a 95% overall customer satisfaction rating following an independent UK-wide survey by Passenger Focus and operated with 99% service reliability. This means that reliability and satisfaction levels are among the top performing public transport operators in the UK.

As for future expansion

In addition, a tram train service could easily be built using much of the existing rail corridor, linking Central Oxford, Abingdon Park and Ride, Cowley, Radley, Abington town centre, Culham, Milton Park and Didcot.

 

[i] http://edinburghtrams.com/news/almost-five-million-use-edinburgh-trams-in-first-year

 

[ii] http://www.oxford.gov.uk/Library/Documents/Statistics/TTW1_totalflows.pdf

 

[iii] http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/may/19/train-stations-listed-rail

 

[iv] https://m.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/sites/default/files/folders/documents/roadsandtransport/majorprojects/MajorTransportProjects/A40BaselineReport.pdf

 

[v] https://m.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/sites/default/files/folders/documents/roadsandtransport/majorprojects/MajorTransportProjects/A40BaselineReport.pdf

 

For further info about a proposed tram solution https://witneyoxfordtransport.wordpress.com/

 

https://edinburghtrams.com/

[i] http://publictransport.about.com/od/Transit_Projects/a/How-Much-Do-Rail-Transit-Projects-Cost-To-Build-And-Operate.htm

[ii] http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/Light-rail-and-trams/oxford-metro-plans-receive-early-local-support-

 

About the author: admin

 

Oxford based journalist and consultant, who writes about business, especially the global energy business including exploration. Also editor Oxfordprospect.co.uk. Writes about a variety of topics including production, power generation including renewables, innovation, investment, markets, technology, regulation, leadership, policy making and management.

 

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