LIVERPOOL'S TRANSPORT bosses were seeking urgent talks with deputy prime minister John Prescott this week, in a bid to resurrect the city's troubled light rail scheme.
Transport secretary Alistair Darling dealt the project a serious blow on Monday when he capped the government's contribution to the scheme at £170M in line with a commitment made in 2002.
ocal passenger transport executive Merseytravel said the project needed a £204M government contribution.
But Darling claimed Merseytram costs have spiralled in the last three years, requiring a government contribution of £238M.
Merseytravel said it wanted clarification of the figure quoted by Darling, claiming it represents a worst-case scenario.
Sources close to Merseytravel privately expressed optimism about the project. But Merseytravel chairman Mark Dowd was more pessimistic.
'Merseytram is not dead but will require a comeback akin to that of Liverpool in the European Cup, ' he said.
'It is impossible to deliver Merseytram Line One for £170M'.
He said steel prices had increased by 40% and construction costs by 20% since 2002.
'We are asking for nothing more than the original £170M, index-linked to inflation - which would amount to £204M - and not a penny more, ' he added.
A Merseytram spokesman said Darling's announcement was 'a bolt from the blue', but that private sector partners remained committed to the project, a view backed by scheme designer Parsons Brinckerhoff and builder Grant Rail.
Problems have dogged the scheme. Clashes between Merseytravel and Liverpool City Council over last-minute route changes led to one of two originally shortlisted consortia dropping out (NCE 7 October 2004). The contract was re-tendered earlier this year.