A network of trams could solve Oxford’s problem of how to develop new housing without increasing congestion on the area’s crowded roads, according to a new study. Oxford urgently needs thousands of new homes and many will need to be built beyond the city boundary, making congestion even worse unless the county adopts a ‘smarter’ approach to transport policy. Modern trams deliver a wide range of benefits and fit well within historic cities, say the report’s authors Dr Nicholas Falk and Reg Harman. A tram network could be funded by using the uplift in land values from housing development round the city’s edges.
Dr Falk and David Rudlin won the Wolfson 2014 Economics Prize for their proposals for 21st century Garden Cities. Their work shows it is feasible to double the size of Oxford city without building in the flood plain or areas of natural beauty. Since then Dr Falk has worked with transport planner Reg Harman to develop a high quality public transport strategy, drawing on the experience of Oxford’s twin city in France. Grenoble re-introduced trams in 1987, decades after closing its original system. Grenoble now rates highly as both the leading French research and high-tech manufacturing centre and as a very attractive place for residents and tourists alike. (see article on Developing Historic Cities in the May edition of Tramways and Urban Transit, provided courtesy of the Light Rail Transit Association).
Nicholas Falk and Reg Harman propose that Oxford could be served by a modern tramway system of two or three lines on the main radial routes together with upgraded local rail services. This network, which they call the Oxford Metro, would be complemented by quality bus services offering rapid transit between outlying towns. The network would link places such as Barton, Botley, Cowley, and Kidlington with the city centre and major developments such as the Northern Gateway and the new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton. A straw poll taken at the AGM of Oxford Civic Society suggested broad support, and the next stage will be to assess the costs and impacts of different options.
The Oxford Metro proposals were launched in March at UCL in London with a seminar for researchers, transport managers and business interests, as well as members of the Oxford community. The report Trams for Oxford shows that the French have successfully reintroduced trams in quite small cities, using funding from a local transport charge on employers, and a different approach to assessing the benefits. The new Nottingham Tramlink has been funded partly through a Workplace Charging Levy, and is now being extended to two more lines. Oxford could once again be leading the way, as it did with Park and Ride.
Trams for Oxford and other reports are freely available on http://www.oxfordfutures.org.uk/.