Imagine what it might be like during the Olympics if someone reports a stray whiff of vapour somewhere.
Tempting as it is to comment on the Megabus coach trapped by armed police on the M6—the precision of a prompt police response that became anything but Rapide (sic) in the end—there are more important things to consider. At least we all now know how an electronic cigarette works. But will this mean passengers using them atop a double decker and, if so, what will be the response from others when they see a whiff of “smoke”? It’s interesting to speculate that had there been smoking ban on buses, no one would’ve batted an eyelid. I remember the time when the upper deck was thick with tobacco fug...
Back to the important news. We heard yesterday that the DfT has approved England’s first proper buses in 40 years. Leeds’ “new generation transport” trolleybuses look somewhat like the generation transport of old… and I speak as someone who remembers the trolleys of Bournemouth.
The Bournemouth trolley era finished in 1969. It was killed off by the unwillingness of manufacturers to build new, a lack of spares and inflexible, expensive & expired catenary. Only Bradford’s lasted longer and it finished in 1972, 40 years ago. Now, neighbouring Leeds is set to see them again. Leeds and Bradford were the first two English trolley systems.
The 21st century trolley is somewhat different, of course. If coupled with battery power or a diesel hybrid, it can theoretically go off wire and this gives it the flexibility that the original trolleys lacked. Couple (pun intended) this to the ability to whizz silently up hills (here, I’m thinking Richmond Hill, in particular), and you may have a winning formula.
But, overhead wires don’t always allow you to dodge congestion. This was another reason why Bournemouth threw in the towel, that and roadworks. And, let’s face it, wires don’t look nice. It’s perhaps as well, then, that 3½ miles of the 8¾-mile system are on reserved track. But, couldn’t ordinary diesel hybrids be just as beneficial? I’m thinking Eclipse.
The truth is that mere buses don’t have the same influence as light rapid transit systems (and here I include trolleys). By adding overhead wires, you seem to add an ingredient that charms motorists in a way that a simple bus can never do. Smoke & mirrors it may be but motorists won’t leave their car so easily. And the cynic might wonder whether a simple bus corridor offers Metro PTE no control, whereas the trolleybus system does.
Non-polluting buses (at least at locally on the street) are great but the way to reduce the congestion and pollution, for which the car is by far the largest cause, isn’t just in providing decent solutions like trolleys, though this is a wonderful step forward and a good opportunity. Might I venture to suggest that you could achieve more by restricting the car altogether… by offering dedicated roadspace to all buses.
Buses these days are rather like cigarettes. They’re viewed as unpopular and polluting. Users are even seen as lepers. But perhaps that’s where electricity current comes in. Just like an electric cigarette, really.