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On the campaign trail

News

Local government in Manchester has lobbied relentlessly to save the Metrolink project, engaging the public, local businesses and local media.

Since the immediate universal condemnation of Darling's decision, the pace has not slowed.

All across Greater Manchester 7m high banners sit on prominent public buildings and slogans decorate trams. Fringe meetings on the scheme were held at all the political party conferences.

Petitions and messages of support totalling 41,500 submissions have poured into the transport executive offices and were taken to Downing Street by a delegation representing the public, businesses and the local media.

Manchester MPs also went to London and met prime minister Tony Blair and Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, leading to the creation of a working group to review the scheme.

Supporters hope the scheme will get the go ahead in the next few weeks.

Although campaigns have been waged to revise the suspended light rail schemes in Leeds and Portsmouth, neither of these projects have benefited from the same level of public support as Manchester.

'We are looking at a brand new system so people haven't seen or sampled the benefits.

The campaign in Manchester just goes to show how popular light rail is once it is up and running, ' said a spokesman for the South Hampshire project.

The Leeds team had been working on a revised submission since January after costs rose from £355M to over £500M. A new plan will be submitted to the Department for Transport at the end of the month.

In Portsmouth a revised plan will not be submitted until March 2005.

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