For those who are contemplating “light rail” options for carrying passengers from Ellenbrook to The University of Western Australia, from Armadale to Cockburn, from Mandurah to Halls Head and Pinjarra, or anywhere else for that matter, please think again. The idea of “light rail” (otherwise known as trams, or, as one Melbourne celebrity called them “battering rams”) is economic nonsense.
Please consider the following:
- it takes years of planning, discussion with locals, and financial planning just to get plans in place;
- it takes months or years, depending on the length of the line, for the construction phase;
- during that construction phase there is major disruption to businesses and to traffic flow;
- whenever the tram tracks cross, or run along, roads there is major damage to the road network caused by the trams running on those tracks, and that adds huge amounts to the cost of maintenance;
- once the track has been laid the route cannot be changed without more upheaval for all parties;
- if a tram breaks down then all trams on that line are forced to stop, once they get to the breakdown, and no-one can get past to get to their destination;
- trams cause both visual and noise pollution;
- trams require electricity, which is more often than not generated by coal-fired power stations which are heavy emitters of greenhouse gases;
- unless the trams run on tracks between cars and the kerb every time a tram stops all the following traffic has to stop, pumping out more pollution, increasing the cost of travel through extra use of fuel, and making drivers frustrated, especially if they can’t pass at any other time;
- the Sydney trams network, which is under construction at present, is costing a huge $88 million per kilometre;
- when trams have to climb the same hills as cars, trucks and buses, they have to be much heavier to overcome the very lack of friction which makes rail transport on level tracks energy efficient, and that extra weight adds significantly to the cost of running the service.
On the other hand:
- gas powered buses create relatively little pollution;
- advances in solar technology will soon make totally electric buses, using renewable energy, economical;
- bus routes can be introduced with little lead time if the buses are available;
- bus routes can be changed with little or no notice and at virtually no cost;
- buses can be much lighter than so-called “light rail”;
- a fleet of buses can be bought for the price of one tram;
- buses do not require all following traffic to stop when they do;
- in the event of a breakdown of one bus every other one on the route can continue to its destination unimpeded;
- buses create little noise pollution compared with trams, and no visual pollution;
- dedicated peak period bus lanes which are policed provide for rapid movement of buses through other traffic, and thus encourage commuters to use them;
- buses do no more damage to roads than do trucks and large cars.
In view of those comments there can be only one economically sane decision: DO NOT BUILD A LIGHT-RAIL NETWORK.