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Implementing public transport schemes: approaches to financing and innovative technologies: European reference databases

Sintropher is a transnational INTERREG IVB project, funded by the North-West Europe Programme, and runs from 2009-2015 involving 16 partners across 5 countries.

There is a focus on tram-train systems which allow local trams to run on to national rail networks, pioneered in Germany, firstly in Karlsruhe and developed in Kassel. The project has also looked at other innovative tram systems such as single-track tramways, as well as high-quality transport interchanges that link such systems to major national or transnational rail or air hubs.

As part of its work, Sintropher has developed two European reference databases, as a resource for transport practitioners and government agencies: innovative technologies for light rail and tram systems (also relevant to rail and bus). And innovative approaches to financing transport infrastructure schemes - an increasingly major topic in the current climate of constrained public expenditure in European countries.

Innovative technologies - reference database

Typically, light rail and tram systems use electric power drawn from overhead catenary wires. In recent years, there has been an increase in alternatives. These may offer lower costs and opportunities where conventional electrification is not feasible or too expensive - for example non-electrified routes, and towns and cities where urban quality is sensitive eg historic areas.

The reference database consists of an overall typology and 9 briefing papers. These summarise the characteristics of each system, advantages, disadvantages, city case study, assessment, future prospects, and transnational relevance. The overall typology covers ground level power systems, on-board electric power systems, on-board fuel systems, kinetic power systems, and other innovations such as tram tyre systems.

Ground level power systems

...use innovative third-rail electrical power transfer for trams - a third rail embedded in the road surface to transfer energy to on-board tram motors.

On-board electric power systems

...require energy to be stored on-board, generally using battery power or super-capacitors. Often combined with other innovations, in specialised trams.

On-board fuel systems

...cover tram technologies that primarily use fuel stored on-board for power generation.

Hydrail covers technologies that use hydrogen fuel cells for partial or full power generation:

Alternative fuels cover tram technologies that use fuels including diesel, compressed natural gas, and pressurised air:

Kinetic power systems

...use flywheels to store and deliver additional power when the vehicle is accelerating.

Tyre innovation

Rubber-tyre trams are a novel hybrid bus-tram system that run on rubber tyres, while guided by a single rail in the road surface, which also provides electric power rubber tyre trams.

Innovative financing for transport schemes - reference database

Sintropher’s results from its 7 European demonstration regions, plus discussion at its transnational conferences and workshops, indicate that new tram-based/tram-train proposals are usually technically feasible and can offer a reasonable cost-benefit assessment, but implementation is often impeded by lack of funding, due to lower public expenditure following the economic recession. Regions that are smaller in population or weaker in economic terms have even more difficulty in justifying the capital cost of investment. Innovative forms of financing for transport schemes is a topic of growing importance - much can be learned from approaches in different European countries.

The reference database consists of an overall typology and 10 briefing papers on financing approaches, which go beyond conventional national or regional transport funding via the traditional tax system. These summarise the characteristics of each financing approach, advantages, disadvantages, city case study, assessment, future prospects, and transnational relevance. The overall typology covers various forms of local or regional taxation, local or regional user-charging, and partnership financing between public and private sectors.

Property/land value capture a form of local or regional taxation, which seeks to increase in local or regional property and land values that transport scheme might generate. Some approaches:

Employer levies

...are forms of local or regional taxation collected from employers or businesses, located in the area which will benefit from the enhanced transport connections provided by the scheme. Some approaches:

Public levies

...are forms of local or regional taxation collected from people who live or work in the local or regional area served by the transport scheme. Some approaches:

Disincentive taxes (user charging)

...typically seek to raise funds from car users in the local or regional area, to re-invest into public transport schemes. Example:

Partnership financing

...involves raising private sector funding for a transport scheme to combine with (or even avoid) public sector funding. Some approaches:

More Information

Dr. Robin Hickman
Project Director Sintropher/Reader in Transport & City Planning
University College London Bartlett School of Planning