A fleet of tram-like buses could be deployed to Leicester’s streets in a bid to develop a new mass public transport system for the city.
Officials have unveiled their vision to make the articulated electric vehicles the mainstay of the city’s bus system in the coming years as they look to cut traffic congestion and air pollution.
The proposed tram buses are seen as an alternative to the long-touted idea of establishing a fixed tram network in the city because it would be cheaper to set up and more flexible to operate.
Leicester City Council says the move is part of its efforts to work with bus companies to phase out polluting diesel vehicles by implementing a new ‘Greenline’ public transport system.
The first stage of this began earlier this year with the electrification of buses ferrying passengers in and out of the city from its park and ride terminals at Enderby, Meynells Gorse and Birstall.
The concept hinges on controversial proposals to follow in the footsteps of Nottingham and introduce a workplace parking levy – a tax on parking employers’ parking spaces in the city – which could provide millions of pounds a year to subsidise Greenlines.
It would also depend on the council securing Government support and funding for the strategy to shift the emphasis on people moving around the city from the car to the bus.
The proposed tram buses will be similar to the Gliders that already run in Belfast.
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Deputy city mayor and council transport and environment spokesman councillor Adam Clarke said: “The tram buses have a number of advantages that make them attractive.
“They can carry more people than conventional buses, they are a soother and more comfortable ride and they would be zero emission.
“I understand that people like the idea of a tram but we know it would be hugely expensive and disruptive to install and then when it is running it would only serve the corridors where tracks have been laid.
“Tram buses offer all the advantages of trams to passengers and also more flexibility.”
The city council has started a public consultation on the workplace parking levy proposal, which runs until September, as well as on its 15 year Local Transport Plan strategy.
Coun Clarke said the levy could potentially commence in 2023 with the electric tram bus network following within a year or two.
How the mass transit system could work
The council’s transport plan indicates a proposed orbital bus route around the city’s outer ring road serving Beaumont Leys, where a new park and ride terminal ist to be built, Birstall, Hamilton, Evington, Wigston, Eyres Monsell, The Meridian Business Park, Braunstone and Glenfield.
As previously reported by LeicestershireLive, a free city centre orbital shuttle service is planned from the London Road railway station, through Belvoir Street, to the Highcross shopping centre, the St Margaret’s and Haymarket and bus stations before running back up Charles Street to the bus station.
Another park and ride terminal is also proposed to the south of the city at the racecourse in Oadby.
This would be connected to the city centre by a new trambus service down the A6 to the railway station and then continuing on to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, De Montfort University campus and ending at St Nicholas’ Circle.