Nottingham Express Transit
Nottingham Express Transit (NET) is a 32-kilometre-long (20 mi) tram system in Nottingham, England. The system opened to the public on 9 March 2004 and a second phase, that more than doubled the size of the total system, opened on 25 August 2015, having been initially planned to open two years prior.
The network is operated and maintained by Nottingham Trams Ltd on behalf of the Tramlink Nottingham consortium. It was operated by Arrow Light Rail, another consortium, from 9 March 2004 until 16 December 2011. Arrow Light Rail had been contracted to operate the system for 30 years; the addition of lines to the system led to retendering.
Planning and construction of phase oneEdit
Nottingham and the surrounding urban area is the UK's seventh largest and third fastest-growing urban area. However, traditionally Nottingham's economy was to a large extent based on manufacturing and coal mining, and in the second half of the 20th century the area was affected by the decline in these industries. Additionally, a high population density, a road system constrained by crossings of the River Trent, and a concentration of retail and entertainment outlets in the city centre led to road congestion and high bus usage. In the late 1980s, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council identified the possibility of using a modern tramway as a means of stimulating urban renewal, as well as tackling road congestion.
In 1998, the Minister of State for Transport, John Reid, confirmed the availability of £167 million funding for a new tram system, to be known as Nottingham Express Transit, to run between Nottingham and Hucknall.
In March 2000, the joint promoters, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, awarded a 30-year Private Finance Initiative concession to the Arrow Light Rail Ltd consortium, with responsibility for the design, funding, building, operation and maintenance of the line. The consortium was made up of Adtranz (later subsumed into Bombardier Transportation), who were responsible for the trams, Carillion, who were responsible for the infrastructure, Transdev and Nottingham City Transport (NCT).
Opening of phase oneEdit
Nottingham Express Transit began operation in March 2004, with a line operating north from a terminal at Station Street, just to the north of Nottingham railway station, through the city centre, branching to serve twin termini at Hucknall and Phoenix Park. Once the line was complete, operation was sub-contracted by Arrow Light Rail to the Nottingham Tram Consortium (NTC), an equal partnership between Transdev and Nottingham City Transport.
The new line proved successful, leading to an increase of public transport use for the Nottingham urban area of 8% in the five years to 2008, together with a less than 1% growth in road traffic, compared to the national average of around 4%. The line itself exceeded expectations, with 8.4 million journeys in 2004-5 and 9.7 million in 2005-6, against targets of 8 million and 9 million respectively. By 2007-8, ridership had reached 10.2 million journeys. This bolstered the case for the construction of new lines.
On 27 July 2009 the GMB trade union held a strike in protest at a proposed pay cut of 0.6% offered by Nottingham Tram Consortium. A maximum of five trams out of a normal service of 13 ran from 0600 until 1800 on the Hucknall route, with replacement buses running a shuttle from Phoenix Park.
Planning and construction of phase twoEdit
In January 2003, even before the first phase had opened, the two councils had decided to start consultation on a second phase to serve the urban areas south and west, with routes to Clifton via Wilford, and to Chilwell via Beeston.
Approval for phase two was given on 25 October 2006 with the UK Government agreeing to provide up to £437 million in Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits. The local councils will also provide up to £141 million in PFI credits. The two local councils (Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City Councils) voted on 22 February 2007 and 3 March 2007 respectively to table an application for a Transport & Works Act Order. The City and County Councils’ application for the order were available to view from 26 April 2007 to 7 June 2007 when it was submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport for consideration. A public inquiry was held in December 2007. The project was given the go-ahead by the government on 30 March 2009.
Following the local elections in 2009, Nottinghamshire County Council indicated that it was no longer willing to contribute financially to the project, so Nottingham City Council decided to cover the shortfall and be the sole promoter. Nottinghamshire County Council confirmed that it would not obstruct the project. Funding was approved by the government on 31 July 2009. Selecting and appointing the contractor was expected to take two years. Building work was expected to begin in 2011, in two phases, with trams running from 2014. The scheme survived the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review ordered by the government, and on 24 March 2011 the government confirmed that funding had been approved.
As part of this process, the concession to operate the existing system was terminated. A new concession put out to tender to design and build phase two, to operate and maintain the existing system in the meantime, and to operate and maintain the extended system once completed. Although Arrow Light Rail bid, they lost out to a new consortium known as Tramlink Nottingham Limited, made up of Meridiam (30 per cent), OFI InfraVia (20 per cent), Alstom Transport (12.5 per cent), Keolis (12.5 per cent), Vinci Investments (12.5 per cent), and the Wellglade Group (12.5 per cent). As with the previous consortium, operation was further sub-contracted to a consortium of Keolis (80%) and Wellglade (20%), with maintenance sub-contracted to Alstom Transport. As a result of Wellglade's ownership of Trent Barton, who operate bus services in the Nottingham area, the new concession was referred to, and approved by, the Office of Fair Trading. The finalised contract was signed on 15 December 2011.
Unfortunately, the severing of the link between NET and Nottingham City Transport, which affected joint ticketing arrangements, may have contributed to a fall in passenger numbers on phase one. This started in 2008 with the recession of that year, reducing the total number of journeys to a minimum 7.4 million by 2013. By 2014-15, passenger numbers had rebounded to 8.1 million.
Construction of phase two started in 2012. There were construction delays and by the end of 2014 it was at least 6 months behind schedule. There were complaints from residents affected by works and traders whose businesses have been damaged by the late running construction. Track laying was completed on 11 December 2014.
Opening of phase twoEdit
The two new bridges that form a major part of phase two were both officially named in 2014, in advance of their actual use by trams. The bridge across the Clifton Boulevard (A52) near the Queen's Medical Centre was named the Ningbo Friendship Bridge to acknowledge the links between the city of Ningbo, in China, and the University of Nottingham. The naming took place on 11 June 2014, and was undertaken by the vice-mayor of Ningbo. The bridge constructed over Nottingham railway station was officially opened on 17 October 2014 and named the Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge to acknowledge the technical support provided by Nottingham's twin city Karlsruhe. The opening event also unveiled a new tram named in honour of the late Jim Taylor who developed the initial vision for the tram system.
The first powered test run on a short section of the line took place in the early hours of Friday 22 August 2014, running from Station Street via The Meadows to Wilford, before returning to Station Street. With the completion of track laying and electrification work in early 2015, testing began in earnest.
The first section of phase two to open to the public was the new tram station above Nottingham railway station, which replaced the Station Street stop as the southern terminus of the line on 27 July 2015. The remainder of phase two finally opened at 06:00 on 25 August 2015, with the route from Toton Lane Park and Ride into Nottingham running the first public service.
During the planning and construction phases, the initial system (including both branches) was often referred to as line 1, with the line 2 name used for the new line to Clifton and line 3 for the new line to Toton. With the publication of the timetables covering through running between the initial system and phase two, this terminology was changed, with line 1 referring to the through service from Hucknall to Toton, and line 2 to the service from Phoenix Park to Clifton.
The network consists of two lines that cross the city, running together on a common section for the middle part of their journey, including the city centre section. Line 1 runs between Toton Lane tram stop and Hucknall, features a total of 33 or 34 tram stops, depending on direction, and has a journey time throughout of 62 minutes. Line 2 runs between Clifton and Phoenix Park, features 27 or 28 tram stops, depending on direction, and has a journey time throughout of 47 minutes. The system has a total of 32 km (20 mi).
Trams on each line run at frequencies that vary between 4 and 8 trams per hour, depending on the day and time of day. These services combine to provide up to 16 trams per hour on the common section.
Toton branch (line 1)Edit
The southern branch of line 1 commences at Toton Lane tram stop, a large Park & Ride site in the district of Broxtowe. The site is situated to the west of Chilwell, north of Toton and south of Stapleford, and is just 1 mile (1.6 km) along the Stapleford bypass (A52) from junction 25 of the M1 motorway. The line then proceeds via Chilwell, Beeston and the University of Nottingham. From here it uses the Ningbo Friendship Bridge to cross the Clifton Boulevard (A52) to an elevated stop at the Queen's Medical Centre, before serving the ng2 business park, the northern edge of the Meadows residential area and Nottingham railway station.
The branch is 9.8 km (6.1 mi) long, of which about half is segregated. There are 15 tram stops on the branch, and the journey between Toton Lane and Nottingham railway station takes 30 minutes.
Clifton branch (line 2)Edit
The southern branch of line 2 commences at Clifton South tram stop, a large Park & Ride site in the city of Nottingham. This is just to the south-west of the large suburb of Clifton, on the A453. It then proceeds on street through the heavily built up Clifton Estate before using part of the Great Central Railway formation through the Ruddington Lane area to the village of Wilford. It then crosses the River Trent on the Wilford Toll Bridge, which has been widened to allow pedestrians and cyclists to continue to use it, and runs through the Meadows residential area, before reaching Nottingham railway station.
The branch is 7.6 km (4.7 mi) long, of which almost two thirds is segregated. There are 12 tram stops on the branch, and the journey between Clifton South and Nottingham railway station takes 21 minutes.
Common section (lines 1 & 2)Edit
The two southern branches unite at a junction just before Nottingham railway station, which is situated on the southern edge of the city centre. The tramway crosses above the station platforms on its own dedicated bridge, the Karslruhe Friendship Bridge, that also carries a tram stop that is directly connected to the station concourse.
From Nottingham station the common section runs north through the city centre, passing the Lace Market, the Old Market Square and Nottingham Trent University to the Forest Recreation Ground. To the north is a section of about 1 km (0.62 mi), where northbound and southbound trams follow different streets, crossing at each end to run on the 'wrong side'. The two tracks rejoin at Wilkinson Street tram stop, where the depot is situated. Between the station and Wilkinson Street trams run in the street, but all other traffic is heavily restricted or, in some cases, banned altogether. There are Park & Ride sites at the Forest Recreation Ground and Wilkinson Street.
North of Wilkinson Street, the route joins a former Midland Railway alignment, which it shares with the Robin Hood railway line. The railway and tram lines run next to each other, segregated by a fence, from Basford to Highbury Vale tram stop. At Highbury Vale, the two tram lines again diverge.
Hucknall branch (line 1)Edit
Line 1 continues to run alongside the Robin Hood line north of Highbury Vale as far as its terminus. The line serves Bulwell railway station where railway interchange is provided. North of this station, the tram line becomes single track as far as its terminus at Hucknall railway station, albeit with passing loops at each of the three intermediate stops. Hucknall station also provides interchange with the Robin Hood line, as well as being a Park & Ride site.
Phoenix Park branch (line 2)Edit
Line 2 diverges from line 1 at Highbury Vale. After that stop, the line becomes single track as far as its terminus at Phoenix Park tram stop, following the alignment of a former colliery railway. Cinderhill tram stop is the only intermediate stop on this branch, and the only stop on the system where trams use the same single platform in both directions. Phoenix Park is a Park & Ride site.
The system started with fifteen Incentro AT6/5 trams, similar to those used on the Nantes tramway, built by Bombardier Transportation (formerly Adtranz) in Derby. They were named after famous local people. The Flexity Outlook Eurotram had also been considered and rejected as its large single-leaf doors did not comply with British door-alarm regulations.
On 8 March 2013, Nottingham Express Transit announced that all trams would be refurbished and receive a new livery and interior. The first tram to be refurbished was 215. Refurbishment of all trams was completed by September 2014.
In preparation for the Phase Two extensions to Beeston and Clifton, 22 new Alstom Citadis 302 trams had been ordered. The first Citadis tram (216) arrived at the depot on 10 September 2013. Along with the current Incentro fleet, they ran test operation on the new lines from Summer 2014 and also on the current network. The first Citadis trams (216-221) entered passenger service for the day on 27 July 2014, as part of a trial for the new timetable which was then introduced on 26 August 2014.
In 2019, the fleet of Incentro trams started to undergo another refurbishment. This latest work includes replacing the floors and internal fittings, as well as a new look to match that of the Citadis trams, and a mechanical overhaul, with the aim to improve their reliability. Tram 203 was the first to be outshopped and returned to service on 10 May 2019.
The trams are stored and maintained at the Wilkinson Street depot, which was expanded as part of the phase two works.
There is provision for a stop between Basford and Wilkinson Street close to the site of the British Gas works, and there is a proposal for a stop at the redeveloped Broadmarsh Shopping Centre.
Extension of route 2 to KimberleyEdit
Kimberley, Eastwood & Nuthall Tram Action Group (KENTAG) campaigns for an extension from Phoenix Park to Eastwood and Kimberley. In December 2012, Nottingham City Council agreed to seek money to conduct a feasibility study on the route. In a major setback for tram proponents, in December 2014 Broxtowe Borough Council voted to reject a proposal to help fund a feasibility study into a line to Kimberley, due to the problems and delays of Lines 2 and 3. Richard Robinson, Labour Councillor for Kimberley, said the plan was always to bring the proposals back to the table. He said: "The vote in December was a roadblock put in our way, but we will over come it". Councillors voted 19 to 13 in favour of Cllr Robinson stepping down pending the outcome of an inquiry after he admitted on Radio Nottingham to encouraging a pro-tram campaigner to flood local media with positive letters, while using aliases to make them appear local.
In 2015, Broxtowe Borough Council (jointly with British Land) commissioned a £55,000 study from Mott MacDonald to look into all transport options to reduce congestion along the A610 corridor though Broxtowe. It considered four potential tram routes to the Kimberley retail park. This estimated that the cost of the extension could reach £168 million.
Extension of route 1 to serve HS2 at Toton and DerbyEdit
News that a station for the proposed HS2 line (the East Midlands Hub) is likely to be built on the site of Toton sidings, only a short distance from the Toton Lane terminus has fuelled speculation that the line could be extended to the new station. In November 2015 there was a proposal for the tram network to be extended from Toton to Derby. Two routes were later proposed by the D2N2 local enterprise partnership for the route to Derby. The first route would be via the A52 while the second would be via Borrowash and Spondon. Land has been protected in planning application for housing developments between the Toton Lane terminus and Toton Sidings.
During the development of NET a number of possible additional routes around the city were considered. There are no detailed plans for such routes, but during the tendering process for phase two, documents contained nine possible routes:
- Hucknall to Linby.
- Phoenix Park to Kimberley and/or Watnall
- Nottingham to West Bridgford and then Gamston/Tollerton/Edwalton/Ruddington.
- Queen's Medical Centre to Arnold, via Basford.
- Nottingham to Gedling.
- Nottingham to Gamston.
- Chilwell to Ilkeston.
- Clifton to East Midlands Parkway or East Midlands Airport.
- Chilwell to Stapleford town centre and/or Sandiacre.
- On 15 May 2004, a special tram transported members of the Tramway and Light Railway Society on a tour of crossovers and less used sections of track, prior to the society's Annual General Meeting.
- On 11 June 2014, a technical tour of the Nottingham Tram system was scheduled for delegates of the 9th Annual UK Light Rail Conference meeting at Nottingham Conference Centre.
- In May 2014, during the construction of the tram extension to Beeston, work was stopped and the road temporarily resurfaced so that a bride could travel to their wedding.
- In December 2014, tram 209 Sid Standard made a special journey between The Forest and Nottingham Market Square to bring Sid Standard's granddaughter to her wedding at Nottingham Council House.
- In May 2017, a bride and her group of bridesmaids travelled from Cinderhill tram stop to Old Market Square for her wedding at the Council House.
- On 7 May 2018, a tram tour of the Wilkinson Street Depot and other rarely used pieces of track was held to raise money for the National Tramway Museum at Crich and the Forever Stars stillbirth charity.
- On 2 June 2018, a special tram transported a wedding party from Station Street tram stop to Nottingham Trent University tram stop for their wedding at Nottingham Quaker Meeting House. The group had arrived from Beeston along the Nottingham Canal to Castle Lock by boat. Tram fares were donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.
- On 6 October 2007, a 23-year-old man from Hucknall died after being hit by a tram when he stepped in front of it at Weekday Cross. His death was the first fatality since the trams were re-launched.
- On 11 November 2011, a 44-year-old man from Barnsley died following an incident close to Wilkinson Street depot.
- On 28 November 2012, a 13-year-old girl was hit by a tram on the Bayles and Wylies footpath crossing, on the border of Bestwood and Hucknall. She was rushed to hospital but later died from her injuries. The local MP remarked "I am mindful that this is not the first fatality on Nottingham's tramline and we obviously need to look at what's going wrong and how we can fix it." The crossing was subsequently closed and both it and the adjacent crossing, that took the footpath across a nearby railway line, were replaced by a footbridge.
- On 15 August 2016, late at night, a 51-year-old man was killed by a tram between David Lane and Basford. The man had got off at David Lane and was spotted walking along the tramway, but misunderstandings between control staff resulted in the tram driver not being warned of his presence.
- On 18 July 2017, a technical fault with a tram caused damage to overhead lines near Basford. The network was unable to run trams between David Lane and The Forest tram stops, causing major disruption over a three-day period.
- On 6 December 2017, a van collided with a tram on University Boulevard. Four passengers were slightly injured, and the incident led to some of the worst traffic jams in years. The tram service was disrupted for many days afterwards.
- On 17 December 2017, the raincover of an empty pushchair became trapped in a tram door whilst departing Radford Road stop. After investigating, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch issued a recommendation to all UK-based tram-operators to undertake visual checks, in addition to the automatic electronic door interlocking detection, prior to a tram moving off.
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