Extract from Mailman transportation issues, trams, buses etc.

As more than one commentator has noted, we cannot convert our present motor vehicle fleet to non fossil liquid or gas fuels, because there is not enough bio-mass/arable land available, and internal combustion engines are very energy inefficient. Buses use a trivial amount of fuel compared to trucks and cars. Converting buses to run on electricity is already practical and with renewable generation, sustainable. Sadly people with cars are not willing to ride on buses. (In towns) Most  journeys are short, 75% less than 5miles long, 50% less than 3miles, so short car trips could be walked or cycled, given safe and attractive routes, as in many continental cities. The Galway tram scheme (www.GLUAS.ie) has embedded renewable power generation, so the (City Class) trams will be sustainable, and as the most energy frugal in its class (1kWh/km operated) very efficient.

From Professor Lewis Lesley

Hi all
Thanks for your contributions.
I have been asked to write a report about what Herefordshire (and presumably elsewhere…) could learn from global best practice in terms of ecological sustainability in general and Co2 emission reduction in particular.
My brief is extremely wide; transport, buildings, business, agriculture etc.
I was asked to do this because I already write, give talks and teach an evening class on this subject matter. But I’m not a technologist/engineer.
I’m writing the transport section now. Next week I’ll be into buildings. Just very general ideas, not detailed feasibility studies.

Electric trams/light rail will feature as one of my proposals. I’ve cited Croydon Tramlink as an eg of success. Are there better ones, especially in smallish cities of around 50-60,000.? I notice Galway is considering the City Class Trams.
I am looking for a zero carbon bus system that is up and running, ideally using hydrogen/methane/ammonia etc… I had thought of Cambridge’s hydrogen/pv system that was announced in 2001. Am I right to think that this scheme was never built?
Oslo has what I’ve heard is an excellent system of 200 (some reports say 400?) bio-methane buses, where the methane is produced at the city sewage works by anaerobic digestion.
If anyone wants to make suggestions of cities with bus fleets up and running on non-fossil-fuels then please let me know, and say why they represent global best practice.

There are many reasons for wanting less cars in our cities irrespective of their emissions. However good public transport is it will never be that effective in rural areas, and there will of course be some residual demand for cars however good the walking/cycling and public transport provision in cities. Quite what these cars will be fuelled with in 10 or 20 years time is obviously hotly contested. I understand lots of technologies are workable, just which will prove saleable and sustainable is the question.

Best wishes
Richard P


  1. Reply

    It is perfectly possible and economical to convert surface public transport in urban areas from diesel buses to biomethane powered light, low-cost trams. There is more than enough organic waste to provide all the fuel that would be required. Most of this waste is now going into landfill. If it is anaerobically digested then not only will it produce enough fuel to supply all the urban public transport vehicles but it will also ensure that all the nutrients in the waste are returned to the soil to maintain fertility so we may continue to eat home grown food. Untreated waste will produce methane, which is 25 times more damaging as a Greenhouse gas than CO2. Whilst the necessary AD processing facilities are being built (see http://www.AgGrowGas.co.uk) CNG can be used, as it is interchangeable with biomethane made from recycled waste – both fuels are just methane. We could have been working on this for many years, using money progressively diverted from the £400 million annual subsidy for diesel buses provided under the so-called Bus Services Operators Grant which is in direct conflict with declared government policy. Unfortunately DfT, DECC, DBIS etc appear not to be interested.

  2. Reply

    Important issues not covered here are movement of goods, which must be transferred to rail, tram and river systems.

    The UK can produce enough Bio-gas from waste to power all public transport and goods delivery vehicles.

    This is the quickest means to reduce emissions because it will be decades before UK Grid electricity comes from renewable source’s.

    Tram systems can be used at off peak and at night to both move goods around town and collect waste to use as fuel.

    No one in our cities needs to own a car. Car sharing by the hour should form part of every towns public transport system. The utilisation of each car can be doubled if not more.

    However the biggest problem facing the UK is the way its’ transport system is managed, get that right and the country can start to catch up with the rest of the World.

  3. Reply

    AI very wide rangng brief, too wide perhap to make any sense of. So focussing purely on trams.

    The technology exists now for urban light rail technologies which are wire free and fossil fuel free, home grown talent like sustraco get a rough time.
    The technologies for laying these tracks often in green field locations or on existing roads is available at a farction of the costs of coventional, again home grown
    People like trams and hate busses, you cannot move people form cars to alternatives unless useable alternatives exist.
    Negative measures, taxation, congestion cahrging, road access limiting are destructive disincentives which exacerbate the situation unless viable options are offered.
    Casting around for case studies is fine but the new, by definition, has yet to be done, we can do this and set the precedent
    Each location has unique opportunities to do with their local infrastructure and geopgraphy

    But the biggest limiting factor is allowing such consideration in the first place. Many on this forum rail against trams(pun intended) for historical reasons rather than focussing of the reasons for doing so and bashing down the barriers and considering how new technologie allow things not possible before.

    As for costs, the Edinburgh debacle!. They could not/would not consider alternatives. The incumbent technology, powerful corporations, had a vested interest in selling their solution. Alternatives were possible but could never get the oxygen of exposure. History has yet to conlcude on the matter.

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