Nottingham Tram forces review at Trentbarton

Trentbarton is to review its services in the area served by Nottingham's tram line, which opened six months ago. The company reports reduced passenger numbers on three of its Hucknall area services, with a 15 per cent drop on the route closest to the tram line. On two other services the reduction in passenger numbers is 12 per cent and 2 per cent - the latter figure is for the Rainbow 3 service which operates every 10 minutes between Hucknall and Nottingham and which had been enjoying strong passenger growth before the tram service started.

Trentbarton says that independent research conducted in Hucknall in July showed that up to two thirds of local residents who were now regular tram customers had previously used the bus. Their likelihood of returning to the bus was not high - 78 per cent said that they intended to stay with the tram.

The research also showed that convenience was the key. People chose the tram if it stopped close to their home or had a convenient city centre stop. Price, frequency, journey time and quality of service seemed to have little bearing on their decision.

Around half of Trentbarton customers said that they had tried the tram for its novelty value but had returned to the bus because it was handier - emphasising the importance of a convenient bus stop.

Says Trentbarton commercial director Ian Morgan: "The tram is a formidable competitor. It represents a massive investment in public money and, unlike our buses, enjoys priority on its route.

"The forecasts for the tram made it clear from the outset that some 60 per cent of its custom was expected to be taken from local bus services - and so it is not surprising that this seems to be exactly what has happened."

Morgan says the company will now look at the routes which have been hit by competition from the tram. "We have lost customers and we now know how many and why. We have to either replace the lost custom with new business, or reduce our costs, or perhaps a mixture of both. We will take time to reach a considered view, but the commercial sensitivity of the situation means that we cannot say too much more at this stage."