I’d like to contribute an idea to the GeniUS challenge on the transport theme: ‘How can footfall and transport be used to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the city?’
It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time, ever since I first saw the NRM road train on its way to Duncombe Place full of passengers and thought ‘Why don’t use this as a mode of transport more?’
York needs to reduce cars, pollution and congestion. I think we have an answer – and the means and the know-how to reproduce and manufacture it – right here in the city, not to mention already having a tried-and-tested working model already running that is acceptable to the public. The road train. It would most definitely be a draw for tourism, it would be environmentally friendly, it would be unique to York and be the natural mode of transport for a ‘railway city’ to adopt and be proud of.
I’ve done a little research and have spoken to Claire Evans, the Front of House Sales Manager at the NRM, who is responsible for the road train. She loves the idea. Apparently the NRM had a feasibility study commissioned some years ago about whether the museum’s existing trains (they have two) could operate a circular route in the city, connecting up other tourist attractions, but it didn’t come to anything because of funding. I think the GeniUS money could be very well invested in taking something like that forward now, not just as a tourist thing but on other selected routes around York.
One of the NRM trains runs on LPG, the other on diesel, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t look at having an electric model developed, or look at other fuels (recycling cooking oil from the city’s restaurants?). Indeed, if they were electric, we could get recharging points set up for the road trains, and might help kickstart the plug-in points for other electric vehicles in the city.
Obviously road trains don’t need rails or tracks or cables so there’s no expensive infrastructure. Moreover, and crucially, people just love trains and riding on them, and it’s something I think York would be keen to ‘own’ as part of its 21st century ‘heritage’. We could use all the expertise at the NRM, all the enthusiasts too – there are masses – to come up with a more flexible prototype (one that used smart cards on each carriage perhaps?). The trains could be built in York, using the knowledge and skills that must still be here from people who used to work in the industry. It could stimulate the economy, provide for apprenticeships, and maybe even kickstart the creation of a new manufacturing base in York if it became popular and we could ‘export’ the idea to other cities. Could it even help to get York Central off the ground?
I also think if the carriages were designed correctly, it could be a very good way of providing transport for wheelchair users and people with mobility problems and might help to address the thorny issue of disabled parking.
I’m copying Claire Evans in on this so that you can start a dialogue with her. Personally I think this is a practical initiative that could really work here and I’d love to see the York Road Train taking to the streets . It’s much more bike-friendly than the bendy buses too!
What do you think?