Network Rail today publishes its ‘alternative solutions’ network route utilisation strategy – the result of a wide-ranging consultation with industry stakeholders and which looks at future, cost-effective options for growth.
The study examines five main areas for development: further use of trams, tram trains, hybrid light rail, innovative ideas for electrification and further expansion of community rail initiatives.
It also considers the role that bus rapid transit (BRT) and guided bus systems can play in meeting transport needs and examines the potential of personal rapid transit (PRT) currently used in locations such as Heathrow terminal 5 to increase access to the rail network.
Paul Plummer, Network Rail’s group strategy director said: “To maintain the mandate to further invest in our railway, the industry has to demonstrate a clear commitment to greater efficiency and cost effectiveness. This means being open to alternative solutions and we hope that this new study will prompt fresh thinking and debate about the best way to deliver an improved rail network that meets the needs of all stakeholders.”
Paul Davies, IET head of policy, said: “The Institution of Engineering and Technology welcomes Network Rail’s work to define how alternative technologies can better serve urban and local transport in the UK. This is a field in which the UK is seeing considerable engineering innovation: for example in the development of people movers, guided busways and ‘tram trains’ and new generation trolley buses. Application of engineering skills and technologies is leading to more efficient and passenger-friendly public transport.”
Recent developments have assisted the study from the viewpoint of generating practical experience in a UK environment, for example:
* Successful completion of the Paisley Canal electrification scheme, in which the use of extended neutral sections beneath bridges has substantially reduced cost and complexity.
* Successful introduction of Class 139 vehicles on the Stourbridge Town branch.
* Government authority to proceed with the Rotherham-Sheffield tram train pilot, development of which is now under way.
As for community rail partnerships, the study states the positive impact of current partnerships and that the rail industry and funders would like more of them – but they cannot be imposed.