It has often been said that Cambridge is too small for an underground or a Light Rail public transport system, and that it would be unaffordable. But is this claim actually true? On what evidence are these unsubstantiated claims based? Are there examples of Light Rail systems serving cities comparable in size to Cambridge, and how successful are they? Cambridge Connect has been looking into these questions, and is posting case studies of Light Rail systems operating in comparable cities on these pages. You may be surprised to discover from the case studies below that there are examples of Light Rail systems operating very successfully in cities of comparable size throughout Europe, bringing very positive benefits.
Lausanne Case Study – contributed by Kevin Rathbone (edited by Colin Harris)
One example of a city with Light Rail and an underground system is Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne has a population and land area similar to Cambridge; other comparable aspects include two universities, a teaching hospital, high-tech industry and a wide commuting basin. A key difference, however, is that Lausanne has excellent public transport on a very successful underground metro, with annual ridership of ~41m.
The Lausanne Light Rail system (pdf, opens in new window) currently comprises two lines. The network extends ~14 km, of which about half is underground. The 7.8 km, mainly overground, M1 line with 15 stations opened in 1991. The 5.9 km long fully automated, driverless, M2 line opened in 2008 and is mainly underground. It has 14 stations, and the M2 line alone has an annual ridership of ~28m. Patronage of the metro has far exceeded expectations, and as a result of this success the public have voted to build a third line, which is to be opened in 2018.
The metro has transformed public transport in Lausanne, with both bus and tram usage increasing by 10–15% since 2010. The proportion of commuters using public transport in Lausanne is around 40%; compare this to 8% using public transport in Cambridge on slow and unreliable buses.
Grenoble Case Study – contributed by Mal Schofield
A profile of the light rail network in Grenoble (pdf, opens in new tab), which has five lines, has been compiled by Mal Schofield. Grenoble has a regional population comparable to the Cambridge region and the length of the light rail network in the city (~35 km) is similar to that being suggested for all of the Options offered for consideration by Cambridge Connect.
Other Case Studies needed…
A number of other cities have been identified as interesting models, and we hope to include profiles as soon as practicable:
- Nottingham – NET
We welcome your thoughts on other Light Rail systems that might provide useful comparisons.