Travelling Light

The conversion of heavy rail branch lines into light rail routes is increasingly being seen as an effective way of delivering additional frequency to increase patronage while reducing costs. This article discusses the benefits of these conversions and highlights one particular case in the UK. The Department for Transport (DfT) and Hertfordshire County Council have launched a major consultation exercise into the future shape of the so-called Abbey Line. The six-mile branch line is currently operated by London Midland and carries just under half a million passengers each year. It’s a 16-minute end-to-end journey, which includes five stops. The trains normally run every 45 minutes, but more frequent trains could help provide an alternative to the congested parallel road corridor. However, to run more services, the line needs a passing loop and improved signaling. Although previous studies showed that there was insufficient value for money, running lightweight rail vehicles could be the way forward. Regulations governing light rail infrastructure and services are not as stringent as for heavy rail and, as a result, improvements can be much cheaper. According to the consultation document, the light rail trams would use the same track and overhead power lines as the existing service. New vehicles will be procured and some modifications to the infrastructure and power supply may be required. The stewardship of the line would also transfer to Hertfordshire County Council, with the DfT giving money that would otherwise have been paid to London Midland. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, the DfT is hoping to finalize a specification for the new service and issue a tender document in early spring 2010. Officials have stated that the light rail service could be up and running as early as late next year.

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  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01153312
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 30 2010 12:20PM