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Atkins study finds Bath tram system 'feasible'

midlands tram

A tram or ultra-light rail system could be introduced in Bath, according to an Atkins feasibility study.

The report, produced for Bath and North East Somerset Council, says there is demand for public transport solutions for the city and recommends that four corridors could support a tram system.

A West of England Joint Transport Study said there is an “ambition” for a light rail or metro system in areas with the potential for high passenger numbers.

The Atkins study said ultra-light rail could also be an option for the city, although there are relatively few examples of ultra-light rail systems in the UK. Warwick Manufacturing Group, part of the University of Warwick, recently won a contract to develop a Very Light Rail system for Coventry.

A cable car system to alleviate Bath’s congestion had previously been suggested. House builder Curo said it wanted to develop the system to relieve congested roads leading to its new housing development. Opponents said it would be a blot on the landscape and the idea has now been dropped.

The advantage of very light rail is that it requires smaller and lighter vehicles than traditional trams, so there is a lower initial infrastructure cost, less track wear, lower speeds and lower running costs.

Council leader Tim Warren said: “I want to stress this is a preliminary study. It is an initial look to see what demand there is for a light rail system and what routes could be feasible in the city.

“We all know the need to tackle congestion and improve transport is a major issue in Bath and we have to consider every option which could form part of a wider transport strategy for future generations.”

Campaigners from the Bath Tram Re-introduction Group said a tram system would reduce congestion, pollution and noise, and allow easier and faster travel around the city. The group favours a very light rail system.

Bath, which had a tram system until 1939, has a cycle network which could be developed to ensure the safety of cyclists as road space is reallocated, the study notes. But environmental issues could be restrictive. 

Green belt surrounds the built-up area of the city, and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers the south, east and north of Bath, and flood zones run along the River Avon and through the city centre.

The study will be presented to the council’s community, transport and environment scrutiny panel today.

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