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MPs fear funding problems will undermine tram-trains

MPs fear that the Sheffield tram-train pilot could end up being an isolated scheme rather than a template for others to follow.

They believe funding problems would undermine other projects.

“I fear the dead hand of the Treasury could block a major roll-out of these schemes,” said All Party Parliamentary light rail group secretary Jim Hawkins.

Earlier this month, tram operators told NCE that they believed the pilot would trigger regional follow-up schemes (NCE 8 March).

Hawkins warned that enthusiasm for widespread use of the technology should be tempered by previous attempts to construct light rail in major UK cities.

He cited similar proposals to construct up to 12 major light rail schemes, including Portsmouth’s South Hampshire Rapid Transit, Leeds’ Supertram, Liverpool’s Merseytram and extensions to the Manchester Metro, in the early 2000s.

The then transport secretary Alistair Darling cancelled the schemes in 2005 after public spending watchdog the National Audit Office slammed them for being “too expensive and under-used”

Hawkins said major local transit projects were likely to be in the form of guided busways because they are cheaper.

“But the problem with these [bus rapid transit] systems is that you don’t get the modal shift in the same way as a tram system,” added Hawkins.

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