Radical vision would bring trams back to York – for the good of our health

A tram in Sheffield. Photograph: pxhere

York should bring back trams to help cut congestion and improve air quality.

That’s the radical transport vision of the York Green Party. And now is the right time to do it, says leader Andy D’Agorne.


“While the council has mostly focused on promoting electric vehicles – and following Green pressure is now committed to having all electric Park&Ride buses – we feel that we need to reduce traffic and congestion, not just rely on cleaner vehicles,” he told YorkMix.

“Modern electric trams are more efficient and permanent than bus routes as a long-term investment, with the mostly dedicated routes enabling them to avoid traffic congestion.”

Follow Sheffield

Sheffield brought trams back in the 1990s. Photograph: Sheffield tram on Wikipedia
The Sheffield tram network was installed in the 1990s and has recently been extended with a ‘tram train’ system running as far as Rotherham on train lines.

York could follow suit, said Cllr D’Agorne:

  • One option for York would be to follow this model, in part using the existing railway lines serving Strensall and Haxby to the city centre in a similar way.

    There might also be potential for new spur line potentially serving the community stadium at Monks Cross, a halt at York Hospital and a new line out to the university campus and on to the proposed major settlement at Elvington.

Not cheap

Another city with a tram system is Edinburgh. Photograph: Travel Update
He admits it wouldn’t be cheap. But as things stand, the Local Plan for the expansion of York has no public transport strategy “and envisages ever increasing use of private cars by residents of the 15,000 new homes to be built by 2031.

“Even Highways England has said that the congestion impact for the A64 of the York Central site alone is unacceptable.”


Funding would have to come from a bid to government through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which funds other transport projects in York, Cllr D’Agorne said.

Already £34m is being spent increasing the capacity of roundabouts on the ring road and a similar amount is available for the York Central access road, removing Queen Street bridge and improving the station frontage.

Better for our health

Traffic is a major polluter in York
York has been named one of the most polluted cities in the country and according to the recent IPCC climate change report, we have 12 years to change to a low carbon economy.

Much of the poor air quality is caused by diesel fumes from vehicles, putting residents’ health at risk and damaging the environment.

Cllr D’Agorne said:

  • While electric buses are a step forward, trams don’t need charging facilities and are more energy efficient, with larger capacity for peak time travel.

    The experience of Vauban near Freiburg in Germany was that a settlement of 5,000 households now has over 70% of households car free because of the confidence on a good tram link to the city.

    Although the tram wasn’t completed in time for the first residents, car ownership went down once it was in place.

York trams – a brief history

1800s Horse-drawn trams were popular in York by the end of the 19th century

1909  The electrification of the trams began

1910  An electric tram service was opened from Fulford to the city centre

1913  Lines were opened from the railway station to South Bank

1916  Trams run along Hull Road and Haxby Road

1914  York corporation authorised to introduce both motor-buses and trolley-buses (buses powered by electricity from overhead cables)

1934  A joint committee of the corporation and main bus operator the West Yorkshire Road Car Company was established to operate services

1935  Services are provided by motor-buses alone: the trolley-buses were withdrawn in January and the trams in November that year

Source: History Of York website
Photograph: Explore York Libraries & Archives