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Eight light rail schemes that could enter DfT competition

East croydon tramlink 2009 3x2

Backers of light rail schemes across the country were given a boost last week, when the government called on rail providers to table their proposals under a new Department for Transport (DfT) competition

In the announcement, transport minister Jesse Norman launched the “call for evidence”, to increase the number of light rail and rapid transit schemes in UK towns and cities.

There are currently eight light rail and tram systems operating in the UK, including the Tyne & Wear Metro, Blackpool Tramway, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram, Nottingham Express Transit, West Midlands Metro, Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink.

And there are a number of different schemes at differing stages of development which could submit their ideas under this process.

Cambridge Autonomous Metro

Plans for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) appear to be gathering pace with £1M set aside for its development in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s (CPCA) 2019/20 budget. The plan is listed as one of eight major transport priorities in the region.

In October last year, Cambridge mayor James Palmer announced that the CPCA board had agreed to a series of findings from a review which would see it transform from an original guided busway scheme into the first phase of a wider Cambridgeshire Metro system.

Proposed routes would see a ‘trackless’ rubber-tyred, electric powered vehicle travel through the city centre in a tunnelled section.

Cambridge metro map

Cambridge metro map

Consultant Arup is working on reviewing the route and “identifying the best solution for the transport corridor and how best to accelerate its delivery”.

A strategic outline business case for the CAM Metro, has been prepared by consultant Steer, and was due to be presented to the Combined Authority Board earlier this year with the outcome yet to be formally announced.

Manchester Metro Extensions

Transport for Greater Manchester describes the Metrolink tram system as “one of Greater Manchester’s major rapid transit success stories”, and is looking to extend it as part of its 2040 transport strategy.

Currently on the agenda it said it was currently developing a business case for extending the Manchester Airport line - the Metrolink “Western Loop” - using a £2.1M grant from central government.

At a future date, it said the line could link up with High Speed 2 and offer improved links to University Hospital South Manchester (UHSM). Engineering, architectural and environmental work, and scheme modelling have all been commissioned for the proposed scheme.

New tram-train routes from Manchester to Marple, Glossop, Wigan via Atherton and from Stockport to Manchester Airport have also been identified.

Croydon Tram extension

In November last year, Transport for London (TfL) announced three route options to extend the current Croydon tram network out to Sutton in south London. The new service would link Sutton to the existing network at either Wimbledon, South Wimbledon or Colliers Wood.

A consultation on the extension ran until 6 January this year, but is also being weighed up against putting a new bus rapid transit which would run on roads segregated from traffic where possible, but not on rails, and would carry fewer people in each vehicle.

Spelthorne light rail to Heathrow

In August last year, Spelthorne Council submitted a DLR-style scheme to the Department for Transport’s call for ideas for privately financed railway schemes. The £375M light rail scheme to Heathrow from Staines-Upon-Thames is in direct competition with the heavy Heathrow Southern rail bid and the now rejected bid by the Windsor Link Railway.

Leeds mass rapid transit scheme

On 9 November last year, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Council expressed its ambition to “be at the forefront of 21st century innovative technologies”. It unveiled its updated plans to bring a new mass rapid transit system to the city which it said would learn from the “best elements of systems elsewhere in the UK and beyond, and innovate through new autonomous / propulsion technologies”.

Three new lines running from the city centre out to Thorpe Park in the east, Castleford / Five Towns in the south and Dewsbury via Pudsey and Bradford Interchange were put forward as potential new lines which would capitalise on the High Speed 2 phase 2 rail line.

The plans for the new lines are due to be discussed at a sub-committee hearing this week.

Wyca 2033 emerging city region transit network with hs2

WYCA 2033 emerging city region transit network with HS2

Edinburgh tram extension

Earlier this week, Edinburgh councillors began the month-long process of examining the final business case for extending Edinburgh’s tram line to Newhaven, before announcing their final decision in March.

The 4km extension is predicted to cost £196M. The district of Newhaven lies to the north of the city centre and has a population of 5,000.

The council has predicted that the extension will lead to an additional 16M people using the tram line each year, double the patronage forecast for the existing Airport to York Place line.

Glasgow Passenger Pods

In January this year, plans to revive a previously canned rail link between Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow Airport were squashed again with the news that it could be replaced by a high speed passenger pod system.

Plans for the rail link were first proposed in the early 2000s but were shelved after budget cuts in 2009. Plans were then resubmitted in 2016 but struggled to gain traction.

Liverpool Airport connection

The most conceptual of potential new light rail proposals is a connection from Liverpool Airport to the city centre.

Liverpool Airport chief executive John Irving has said a new direct connection would be “transformational”. The new link is apparently on the radar for Merseyrail, but it said a new connection would not be simple or cheap to build. 

A previous scheme dubbed Merseytram was first proposed in 2001 and then finally canned in 2013 due to “funding problems”. The scheme was to be a loop around Liverpool city centre with three radial routes including the line to the airport.

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