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Don’t revinvent mass transit wheel, WYCA told

Public Transport

20 March 2020

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has summarised key findings from its market testing exercise for a new mass transit system in the conurbation. 

About 120 organisations responded to last year’s call, including vehicle manufacturers, operators, and consultancies. 

“Respondees advised to avoid the temptation to innovate for innovations sake – ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’,” WYCA policy manager Tom Gifford told the CA’s transport committee last week. “It was suggested to look to purchase an existing bus or light rail chassis, which can be ‘customised’ to meet local needs (for example the design of the front end, colours, seat layout).” 

On propulsion: “In the short- to medium-term, respondees suggest battery technologies are likely to be the most viable option, and it is increasingly realistic to plan for end-to-end systems that do not require overhead wires for many routes.” Nevertheless, overhead wires still provide “an effective, proven technology and contributors suggest that it may have other advantages such as reducing carbon and reducing cost”. 

“Responses suggested that hydrogen is at the early stages of being utilised in mass transit systems and it is a possible solution, if: it is readily available as a by-product of industry; the hydrogen does not need transporting to the mass transit vehicle depot; and if costs of producing/using hydrogen can be addressed. 

“Unless there is a really significant change in central government policy, the challenges associated with hydrogen will continue to present a significant barrier to it becoming a realistic solution over the next decade.” 

On autonomous operations, rail-based systems already exist, such as the Docklands Light Railway. 

“Respondees suggest that transit systems that require some interface with cars

pedestrians are very likely to move towards greater autonomy (through provision of driver aids) but the vehicle will continue to require a driver over the next decade due to standards, safety and certification challenges. Legislation could change, but there remain challenges over acceptability.

“Several technology and manufacturer contributors suggested that with 5G technology there is the opportunity over the next decade for the mass transit vehicle to be driven/controlled by a driver located in a control centre, rather than in the vehicle cab. This would potentially save on numbers of drivers but there remain significant safety certification challenges.” 

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