Ultra Light Rail operator Pre Metro Operations has contributed it’s ideas, proposals and successful experience to a Government consultation on Light Rail, which has asked the industry and interested parties about the future direction of the increasingly popular transport mode.
Whilst many will view Light Rail as tramway systems, such as West Midlands Metro, Pre Metro Operations is keen to stress the importance of “Ultra Light Rail”, and it’s potential to be expanded across several areas of the UK. Our successful “Stourbridge Shuttle” operation, currently operated in partnership with West Midlands Railway, using ultra light railcars has been operating for 10 years in the Black Country, with a rolling reliability average of around 99.7% – making it one of the most reliable public transport operations of the last decade. It has twice been awarded “Highly Commended / Runner Up” at the Global Light Rail Awards in recent years. In 2018, we carried our five-millionth passenger. We have also progressed our support as a company in the community, with one of our staff setting up “Friends of Stourbridge Stations”, as well as supporting the celebrations of 140 years of operation on the Stourbridge branch line. Our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook have established a loyal following, with updates of local travel details on both local rail and bus, which our passengers find useful.
Recent research from independent transport watchdog Transport Focus records user satisfaction at around 91% for Light Rail passengers, and the Department for Transport is interested in how the mode will progress in the coming years.
As part of the contribution, Pre Metro highlighted the environmental success of it’s Stourbridge operation, with research showing that Light Rail, alongside our own Ultra Light Rail service, provide the best mode of transport regarding low emissions, compared to other modes, per passenger kilometre. Pre Metro also pointed out it’s belief that there is scope to develop light and ultra light rail operations, which cost far less to construct than traditional heavy rail.
Other aspects of the development of Light Rail include the positive effects on the job market. Permanent rail-based public transport gives a long-term assuredness, which gives confidence to business to invest in an area and provides guarantees to the jobs market that relies on effective public transport. Likewise, new housing developments can be provided with a real alternative to car ownership, improving the air quality and adding to improving the urban fabric.
Light Rail is proving increasingly popular across Europe. Systems are operating in over 200 Cities, with more than 15,600km of track – and over 3000km more at the planning or construction phase. Pre Metro sees opportunities for more Ultra Light Rail operations, to benefit local communities, which may find that traditional light rail tram systems are too expensive. New innovations in light rail track, which mean minimal construction and relocation of utilities, and the lack of requirement for overhead wires, are two developments which make ultra light rail an attractive and much cheaper option in some locations.
Congestion and pollution continue to rise up the agenda, when it comes to concerns about transport. Pre Metro suggests a partnership approach, working with partner organisations in transport and others to provide an effective, reliable and attractive mobility solution, which is a real alternative to car ownership and use. Upcoming innovations in the world of “Mobility As A Service” (MaaS) are instrumental in gaining people’s confidence to see public transport as a viable alternative to car use. A “one stop shop”, dubbed the “Netflix” of public transport, MaaS can bring all modes of transport, including rail, light rail, bus, bike, taxi and car hire together, simply. It is this convenience and simplicity of use, coupled with reliable, environmentally-friendly services that Pre Metro sees as the future of transport.
PMOL view Ultra Light Rail as a potentially exciting addition to the mobility options available to the travelling public. Operating the Stourbridge branch line for the last 10 years has provided us with a wealth of experience to have confidence that this mode can be adapted elsewhere. We recognise the attractiveness of light rail, and the satisfaction levels it produces amongst users. We also recognise that building new lines is often seen as initially expensive, and often prohibitive to promoters. We believe that that Ultra Light Rail is a mode that is cost-effective, flexible and attractive to users, as well as being environmentally-friendly and increasingly adaptive in many areas, where implementation of infrastructure needs to be less intrusive than more traditional light rail systems. PMOL is capable and ready to play its part in a more sustainable future for us all.
You can read our submission to the Department for Transport here: https://premetro.co.uk/dft-call-for-evidence-light-rail-pmol-submission