Could trams solve Bath's traffic chaos?

The MP for Bath says the city needs to act now to deal with congestion.

Wera Hobhouse joined transport experts and politicians at a conference on Saturday 23 November to discuss trams as a solution to the area's chronic problems.

At present road users are breathing in high levels of dangerous gases and toxic dust. Children are particularly affected because of their height and cyclists because they breathe in hard when they are cycling. In some parts of Bath, levels of nitrogen dioxide are five times the legal limit.

Wera Hobhouse points out that 87% of traffic in Bath is local traffic and is urging residents to do their part to tackle the problem.

Congestion itself is predicted to rise by 40% over the next 10 or 15 years so doing nothing is absolutely not an option. And we cannot look at it as someone else's problem - it's our problem.

Wera Hobhouse MP, Lib Dem, Bath
Credit: ITV West Country

Bath and North East Somerset Council has until the end of 2018 to come up with a plan to reduce the problem. It wants to charge polluting vehicles to enter its Clean Air Zone. Some drivers could pay £9 a day, while lorries and buses could have to come up with £100 a day.

Local people have been giving their response to the proposal in their thousands. Senior councillors are due to discuss the idea - and the feedback - at their cabinet meeting on 18 December.

Campaigners argue that trams are more efficient, more reliable and, perhaps best of all, do not pollute. Credit: ITV News

Campaigners from Bath Trams Group argue that pollution will only get worse unless an alternative to cars is found.

They suggest a steel-wheeled tram network connecting Bath and Bristol both along the A4 and within Bath is the only solution to its congestion problems.

The argument for steel-wheeled trams

  • More comfortable

  • More efficient

  • More reliable

  • More capacity

  • Lower running costs

  • No pollution

  • No carbon footprint

  • Do not produce toxic rubber dust

At present there is huge commercial pressure on the city due to the difficulties car drivers have in accessing the city centre but the group argu trams could change that.

All the proposed routes in Bath have been carefully surveyed and are quite wide enough for trams. All the city’s hills suggested for the routes were used previously by trams in the early 20th century.

Dave Andrews, Chairman of Bath Trams

Campaigners suggest that extending trams outside Bath - to Radstock in Somerset, Westbury in Wiltshire and Bristol - is a viable option.

Tim Warren, the Deputy Leader of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), and Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, was one of the speakers at the conference.

The West of England Combined Authority is looking at a variety of options for a mass-rapid transport system connecting Bath with the rest of the region. Under the Conservatives, B&NES was looking at ambitious ways of addressing congestion within the city, considering every option on the table, listening to groups including Bath Trams and taking into account a study into trams by Atkins.

Tim Warren, Deputy Leader, WECA
  • Details about the Atkins study and other tram facts and figures, can be found on the Bath Trams website,

The Light Rail Transit Association, which sponsored the conference, has been fighting for better public transport in towns and cities across the world for more than 80 years.

  • Find out the latest from the LRTA's campaign group, TramForward