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All tram schemes axed after cost overruns

TRAM SCHEMES have been slashed from government transport planning following transport secretary Alistair Darling's loss of patience with cost overruns on projects undertaken to date.

Planned schemes in Leeds and Portsmouth and an extension to the Manchester Metro will not now be built.

They were scheduled to open in 2007.

Darling told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the projected cost to central government of extending the Manchester Metro soared from £282M in 2000 to £520M in 2002.

The cost to the public in Leeds has risen from £355M to £500M and in Portsmouth from £170M to £270M.

'No government could accept these schemes as they are on the basis of these cost escalations. We cannot therefore approve them, ' said Darling.

His decision follows a damning report from the government's public spending watchdog earlier this year on the six light rail schemes built in the UK since the 1980s, which concluded that the schemes were 'too expensive and under-used'.

'New schemes are expensive to implement and costs are rising. Proposed new schemes are on average £3M/km more expensive to build than those that have already been built, ' said the National Audit Office in its report Improving public transport in England through light rail (NCE 29 April).

Twelve light rail lines were under development across the country. The original 10 year plan for transport envisaged 25 such schemes nationwide by 2010.

City and regional authorities reacted angrily to Darling's announcement, and said they would fight to have the schemes taken forward.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities said the decision was 'appalling' and a major blow to the whole metropolitan area.

'It fundamentally fails to recognise the inherent success of Metrolink to date and its contribution to continued regeneration of the area.'

Hampshire County Council leader Ken Thornber and West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority chairman Mick Lyons both vowed to carry on pushing for the Portsmouth and Leeds schemes.

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