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  • Gareth Davies

HSTG Response to the DfT Consultation on Light Rail. May 2019

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

In February 2019 the Department for Transport issued a consultation document entitled: Light Rail (and other rapid transit solutions) A Call for Evidence on the opportunities available to introduce new Light Rail Systems or other rapid transit solutions into towns and cities in England.

In the foreword to the document the Right Honourable Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire and then Minister of State for the Department for Transport wrote:

"In recent years, the Department for Transport has provided funding to extend existing light rail systems in operation in a number of our cities. We have also been working closely with UK Tram and the sector in reducing the costs of systems for the future.

We have carefully considered recommendations from various reports. These include the 2010 All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group Report on progress in developing modern trams within the UK, and how barriers to the development of further tram schemes could be tackled.

The 21st century is seeing rapid shifts in how mobility is provided, with the adoption of broader and more sustainable approaches, such as cycling and car sharing.

Social and economic trends are also changing people’s behaviour and attitudes. The digital revolution, emphasis on smart cities and places, and a greater emphasis on sustainability and environmentally friendly ways of travel, create new transport challenges and opportunities. Transport is changing and over the medium to long-term we will be seeing radical changes to mobility services offered in our towns and cities.

It is clear from the evidence that light rail (and other forms of rapid transit system) continues to play a very useful role in many communities, and has the potential to play a still greater role in future. In England, there are currently eight light rail systems in operation and the latest light rail statistics for 2017/18 underline how popular they are with the travelling public. Over 267 million passenger journeys were made on the eight-light rail and tram systems in operation. Three per cent of public transport journeys in England are made on a light rail or tram system.

The time is now right for us to consider how light rail, or similar rapid transit systems, could be incorporated into the transport networks in our towns and cities in the future, and how they will help to complement and integrate new modes and trends. These include autonomous vehicles, car sharing, bike sharing and initiatives that offer Mobility as A Service, in addition to rail, buses, cycling and walking.

This Call for Evidence invites your thoughts on how we can help harness the opportunities for building on the popularity of light rail, with the hope of introducing these systems into our cities and towns. A key further element is the need to look at how we can build industrial capacity for a new generation of light rail and related systems in the UK, in line with Government’s industrial strategy.

We want this Call for Evidence to act as a trigger, as a stimulus for new ideas, and as a means to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, including those overseas, on the scale of the opportunity for light rail. This will form an important part of our work on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge established in the Industrial Strategy and on “smart places”, which is considering the use, value and deployment of emerging transport technologies and services.

I look forward to hearing from you."

Jesse Norman

Minister of State for the Department for Transport

Conscious of the fact that Hereford has an ex-railway route in public ownership that could be adapted for very light rail use, the Herefordshire Sustainable Transport Group made a detailed submission to the Department. The conclusion to the submission is reported here. The full seven-page submission is available as a pdf document via email from Gareth Calan Davies at


This submission is accompanied by a Hereford Basic Fact Sheet (pages 6/7) in support of the need for a detailed assessment of ULR for the City of Hereford. The need for further study arises from the realisation that, as the minister stated, ‘Transport is changing’. Transport has to change with the growing awareness that city air pollution is reaching a high level and that even with new roads and electric cars, congestions will increase with city land use developments. Most trips are local and internal to the city. Basic transport figures indicate that the reduction in city traffic by means of a bypass amounts to less than 20%. This reduction benefit is soon lost by the amount of additional traffic generated by new housing and employment areas. There is also a need to strengthen the economy and attractiveness of the city centre in order to maintain its role as a major city of the Marches and a sub-regional centre. An efficient, high capacity, environmental public transport system is essential for achieving this in the future. In this respect a ULR system for Hereford can significantly add to Hereford’s transport requirements for the future.

Hereford Ultra-Light Rail - Basic Fact Sheet

The land use evidence

Population of city - 58,896 (cf Valenciennes 44,043)

Topography of City – mostly flat river plain rising gently to north

Population south of the river – existing 22,300 (37.8% of total)

Land use developments (see maps) –

Enterprise Zone inc. University site at Rotherwas (6,000 new jobs)

The Edgar Street Grid development area progress including student accommodation

Need for Central area and Commercial Road regeneration.

Proposed residential development populations –

Bullingham (south city 1,000 houses) 2,300

Three Elms (west city 1,000 houses) 2,300

Holmer (north city 500 houses) 1,150

Existing Transport evidence

Average trip length – 3-5 miles

Traffic volume on A49T Greyfriars Bridge – 45,000 trips/day

Through traffic – 17-20% 7,650- 9,000 trips/day

Traffic generation predictions from new housing sites –

Average 7 trips per house per day = 35,700 trips

Average 5 trips per house per day = 25,500 trips

Opportunities of radial road improvements – minimal (ref: Hereford Transport Package)

Opportunities for bus lanes – minimal (ref: Hereford Transport Package)

Between 2002 and 2017 the number of scheduled bus journeys per weekday declined by over 50%. A similar trend is seen on Saturdays; Sunday and evening services have all but disappeared.

For heavy commercial vehicle traffic, it is estimated over 50% of trips are destined for or generated by existing employment zones within the city.

ULR route and land use connectivity evidence (see maps)

Route: - Enterprise Zone – Bullingham development area – A49T interchange – Redhill housing area – Oval Interchange – Hinton housing area – Riverside – Barton Road – Whitecross Rd Interchange (for Plough Lane employment area) – Courtyard Theatre – Widemarsh Common (for Grandstand Road employment area – Holmer (for retail park) – College Road – Barrs Court Station transport hub – Commercial Road (for County Hospital) – Kerry Arms (for Hightown) – Newmarket Street (for Hightown and Old Market Retail centre).

Route mileage – Hereford approx. 9km (cf Valenciennes 54.4km)

% route mileage on street – 1.5km

Number of tram stops - 20

Number of interchanges - 6

% of route already in public ownership - 80%

ULR specifications evidence

Type of vehicle – lightweight battery/hydrogen cell powered units utilising regenerative braking

Track construction – metre gauge PCAT very light weight slab system

Tram stop design – modern lightweight low floor platforms, covered shelters with solar lighting, cctv to central control

Segregated walk/cycleway adjacent to whole length of route with disabled ramp access where necessary

Environmental benefits evidence

Nil emissions - Segregated route - No overhead power lines - Self-generating electricity

Modern environmental image

Modal transfer typically 27-30% of car trips (to be assessed)

Compatibility with local authority LTP objective for reductions on use of private car

Compatibility with local authority LTP objective for a safer and healthier city

The next stage: A full study of ULR potential for Hereford is now needed.

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