Orbital and Radial Travel Around Major Conurbations: a Comparative Survey

Orbital and Radial Travel Around Major Conurbations: a Comparative Survey


E O'Loughlin, Transport for London, UK


This paper examines the rationale of promoting services travelling around cities against those which penetrate the cities ? and analyses how service specification can be devolved. It focuses on London but comparisons will be drawn with other cities.


This paper will primarily examine the context of London?s orbital routes, in terms of their history, patronage over the years, decline and in many instances, subsequent rebirth and regeneration. It will also address wider economic and social benefits that the improvement of orbital travel is intended to deliver.

There will be analysis of the proposals by Transport for London for a large-scale rebuilding of the North London Line and associated routes, those routes over which that Mayoral body had been given concession (operator) specification rights. There will also be an analysis of some of the constraints that exist on orbital routes, particularly their use by other, non-passenger traffic. The paper will identify the measures to be taken by different parties, including Transport for London, Network Rail (the infrastructure owner), the Olympics Delivery Agency and freight operators. This will include funding streams for the work, especially in the context of identifying lasting legacy benefit from Olympic-related investment.

Comparisons will be drawn with some smaller cities in Britain, such as Birmingham and Manchester, although detailed analysis will be conducted the way in which Parisian railways (RER and SNCF) have developed. In particular, two Parisian orbital railways, the Grande Ceinture and the Petite Ceinture, have been in part unused, and for the most part, under-utilised, for some time. Various studies have been undertaken into the potential for reopening, either as heavy rail, light rail, or tram, and the paper will outline the author?s research into the rationale for and the issues involved in such development work. Some exchange of research has already taken place between TfL and IAURIF (an organisation responsible for urban and spatial development in the Ile de France region of France, not dissimilar to the broader remit of the London Mayor and his agencies). It is proposed to share further research on the experience of IAURIF concerning good provision of transport and wider socio-economic development. The method of approaching the issues concerned in Paris and in London will be compared in an attempt to establish the optimum means of pursuing orbital rail development.

Also included in this paper will be references to the multi-modal nature of urban transport, given that other modes of transport may be equally or better suited than rail to deliver an efficient service to passengers. This will focus especially on the devolution of responsibility from a national to a local or urban authority, and the issues that this can create with regard, in particular, to other users of the line in question. An important part of the analysis will be on the relative benefits of a national or local authority controlling the train service specification, fares and other issues in the context of a broad transport policy framework. This will be related to defining the most efficient means of delivery of the scheme in question.


Association for European Transport