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MPs claim Whitehall tram bias

Whitehall appears biased against modern tram schemes, a report from MPs has claimed.

Progress on implementing tram and light rail systems has been “slow and fitful”, the report from the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group added.

Despite improvements of late, the Department for Transport (DfT) still lacked an overall light-rail strategy, the report said.

Also, the DfT did not treat light rail proposals in the same way as other modes and the department had a tendency to “micro-manage from the centre”, the group concluded.

The report concluded that to bring back trams to more city streets there needed to be a clearer lead from Government, less bias against trams in the appraisal processes, and for ways to be found of further cutting the costs of new schemes.

MP Paul Rowen (Lib Dem: Rochdale) who chaired the group’s inquiry into the future of light rail, said: “Where the UK has invested in modern tram systems we have seen motorists switching to the tram and impressive growth in passenger numbers.

“However, overall, the progress on implementing modern trams has been slow and fitful - certainly when compared with our near-neighbours in Europe, where entire systems are being built in the time it takes us to get through the mountains of paperwork that characterise the approach in the UK.”

He went on: “We wanted to see how we could put the future of modern trams in the UK onto a sounder footing. Our report suggests that leadership and co-ordination is key in order to arrive at a framework for the development and implementation of light rail schemes that is cheaper, quicker and more appropriate.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Trams and their infrastructure are expensive. Would someone please explain why they are preferable to modern trolley buses.

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  • Any 'bias' against trams is probably burnt finger syndrome. Too many new English tram schemes have failed to attract enough passengers to justify the investments involved. For example Sheffield has only succeeded in achieving about half its projected ridership. Generally Britain's towns and cities have much lower population densities than those European towns and cities where new tram schemes have been successfully introduced - higher densities equate to more passengers. In Britain trolleybus schemes can be better value than trams. In Europe trams and trolleybuses often coexist, each mode employed where best suited.

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