There is can be a temptation to assume that a need for mass transit means a selection of heavy rail as
a solution. There are a number of options that can address mass transit needs, and these should be
carefully considered based on the distance travelled, the cost to build and operate and the number of
people who are likely to travel. Depending on the type of transport problem, there may be a need to
integrate with an existing network and that might drive the determination of the solution.
Some modes are better at penetrating city centres or are more easily changed, and that might also be
a consideration. The carrying capacity and frequency may also be a key consideration in relation to
the likely demand. Alternatively, reliability may be a key factor and modes that can be segregated
from car traffic may be preferable. Ability to integrate into and/or manage an operation, including
maintenance of vehicles and revenue may also be a factor.
However, that risks overlooking modes that better address the transport problem. These can include:
- Light rail
- Tram Train
- Inter modal improvement schemes
There are a number of tools that can be used to help assess the most suitable mode for the transport
It is often the case that more than one mode of transport will deliver the basic capability of capacity,
speed, etc. and this is where other factors must be brought into consideration such as the need to
integrate with existing networks, long term expansion capability, technological risk amongst others.
It is important to remember at the conclusion of this process to review and check that the preferred
mode of transport would be capable of delivering the strategic objectives of the scheme.
Network Rail working with industry partners are developing an assessment framework for helping
Promoters make these multi modal choices using a sequencing of relevant decision making.
A summary of the relevant key stages of that framework can be used here: Network Rail Tool
The Transport Mode comparison tool can help you consider potential transport modes by working on some simple criteria. This is only an indicator of course and a holistic view still needs to be taken on which mode, or modes, might need to be focused on for a specific project.