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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Letter in this months Tramways and Urban Transit has a letter from a reader suggesting the this generation of light rail construction will now only continue as expansions to existing systems and no new ones will be created.

The reasoning being given are the current spending on light rail are all expansions as they can be much easiler justified than new builds.

Given the state of the nations finances and given the harder task of proving value for money when all the one off costs like depots are considered what do people reckon?

Another 30years until the next generation comes around and we see expansion into new towns and cities?
 

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Well yes and no. In the short term a huge No. The ConLib's decision to allow public transport fares to massively and cut its budget demonstrates that their green crednetials are a shame and its full throat coaking ahead for the car in neo con Britain.

However in the long term. Who knows? Imagine today is 1980, then the history of Metrolink illustrates that any new city development is looking at a decade of Whitehall indifference and rejection, then perhaps if a Portillo resides in the DfT, new network might get the go ahead around 2020. Built and completed by a eye watering 2042!

If I was chair of Merseyside PTE. I'd envisage a Liverpool tram no earlier than 2025.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I imagine us closer to 1950 rather than 1980 though.

Those cities closest to being able to justify spending large sums on such a scheme have been very burnt recently.

Both Liverpool and particularly Leeds (TBus as well it would appear) have spent £10m's on practically nothing.

It'll take a great deal of confidence and political lead to be willing to 'risk' another huge sum on something that is far from guarenteed.

The ability to raise funds locally through taxes is the only hope.
 

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Of course there is the Z factor of tram-trains. When and if the UK catches up with mainstream continental thinking and technology, then this system could easily utilize commuter lines with additional lines built into the city itself.

Any idea Kurt if the Sheffield tram-train trials have survived the Bonfire of Sanity budget cuts?

And yes local revenue raising is another method that escapes the Whitehall/Westminster stranglehold on Metropolitan Britain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
No idea about the Sheffield tram/train trial to be honest.

But even then I don't see many places which don't have a light rail network getting 'tram trains' if you mean street running away.

Again, depots, overhead power, signalling etc will all be required with no economies of scale.
 

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I suppose its the same with underground rail systems too - only the cities that have got them already (London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow) are likely to have them in the future. Such a shame.
 

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I must admit from a Blackpool perspective, I'm really excited by what is happening with the extensions in Nottingham and Birmingham and what that means we could get in Blackpool.

We want an extension from the North Pier to Blackpool North railway station (it's about three quarters of a mile), but it's something I'm passionate about and for the short distance combined with the regenerative effects I'm really hopefull that in the future we will get it if cities in the UK with tram systems can get large scale extensions approved.

So from a Blackpool perspective I'm really confident about the future and yes it could well take 15 years of lobbying and lots of meetings but i'm confinced we can make this happen.
 

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I imagine us closer to 1950 rather than 1980 though.

Those cities closest to being able to justify spending large sums on such a scheme have been very burnt recently.

Both Liverpool and particularly Leeds (TBus as well it would appear) have spent £10m's on practically nothing.

It'll take a great deal of confidence and political lead to be willing to 'risk' another huge sum on something that is far from guarenteed.

The ability to raise funds locally through taxes is the only hope.
I think the 1950 comparison is a bit overblown. In 1950 every city in the country had just finished ripping tram tracks up and consigned them to history as an idea out of its time. Now we've got several systems that have received/raised funds for large scale expansions/refurbishments. It's not an ideal situation from a tram building point of view, but it's nowhere near that bad.

I'd say that tram-trains are a possible if unlikely hope of any new systems. They're potentially cheaper than entirely new build systems and re-using existing rail infrastructure means they've got a pre-existing passenger base. They're also more regional than single city based systems, so smaller continuous urban areas like Leeds wouldn't have to build them alone but could work with their neighbouring authorities, making local tax raising more viable. In places like Leeds there's also the advantage of removing local rail services from a congested rail hub, which might make them appear more attractive to national funders. Not likely perhaps, but not without hope.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Suppose if the letter writter is correct and we don't see any new light rail (or underground as Martin points out) systems in the next 20-30 years then what is the future?

Whilst all around the rest of the world from on the continent, north America, Asia and down under there is continuing huge growth in light rail (and underground) we're not likely to see anything in comparison.

Suppose along with better funding mechanisms also the ability to deliver a project confidently and promptly at good value are also of upmost importance.

If you were a private enterprise would you confidently spend several million squid on developing a design and bid for a new light rail system in say Leeds? Given the recent history of massive losses for those who have done such work.
 

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The forty or so new tram schemes all over France have come about because of President Mitterand's decentralisation of the French state that started in the 1970s (I have read).

Cameron says decentralisation will happen here - which would need to mean local tax-raising abilities, and freedom to spend as locally decided.
 

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Suppose if the letter writter is correct and we don't see any new light rail (or underground as Martin points out) systems in the next 20-30 years then what is the future?

Whilst all around the rest of the world from on the continent, north America, Asia and down under there is continuing huge growth in light rail (and underground) we're not likely to see anything in comparison.

Suppose along with better funding mechanisms also the ability to deliver a project confidently and promptly at good value are also of upmost importance.

If you were a private enterprise would you confidently spend several million squid on developing a design and bid for a new light rail system in say Leeds? Given the recent history of massive losses for those who have done such work.
What we might get is a divergence between cities that have invested in public transport and those that haven't, in terms of development patterns, viability of future transport schemes and ultimately the political culture. London, Manchester and Nottingham have made public transport a significant local political issue; and this success could make local financing policies more popular. Cities where the schemes have failed might have greater trouble using these tools, because the public are more suspicious of their viability, and less invested in their success.

If Leeds wants someone to design it a system then I think it will find companies to bid on it, but they might charge more to do so and the council/PTE itself might have more trouble raising the money to pay for them. That doesn't mean that they couldn't happen though.

The biggest problem I think we've had building light rail systems in this country (and will continue to have going forward) is the lack of political leadership in our regional cities, which as Jon suggests is an aspect of our political system. All these systems that were proposed have been drawn up and promoted from a public transport point of view. The problem is that most people don't care about public transport. But people do care about health, civic pride, housing, their environment and most of all about their local economic prospects. Public transport has a significant impact on all these things, but because local agencies are divorced from many of these policy areas they can't embed public transport in a broader vision for the city that people can relate to. Politics is about forming a broad coalition. Until local government is empowered to tackle issues that motivate people, then it's going to prove very hard to motivate people to support increased local transport investment, even with improved financial instruments.
 

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Starter Lines

A US method of getting new transport systems, ie Light Rail / Trams / Streetcars, is the use of "Starter Lines". This method is typically for a route of up to about 3 miles in length in a well researched and identified commercial locale. Funds can be sourced from Federal (under certain conditions), local (through local taxes) or commercial.

The line, once it has proved itself, can be extended a bit at a time.
 

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erm have you seen what is happening in Edinburgh?
Ha! I raise your Edinburgh Tram, and offer my Manchester, Sheffield and Croydon tram networks! Pointing out a lonely exception to a broadly positive trend won't wash, sir!

The problems with the Edinburgh tram are entirely due to incompetence, mismanagement and petty political infighting. None of which have anything to do with the technology itself: there's nothing wrong with trams, and they'd be a good fit for Edinburgh. It only requires one person in a position of power willing to kick some arse and 99% of the problems would be solved in a matter of a few weeks at most. Problems like these can afflict any project; they're not specific to transport infrastructure.

(And before anyone points out that the SNP is a minority party, do take a good look at who set up the transport body that's supposed to oversee projects like this, but which has instead decided to stick its collective fingers into its ears and pretend it can't see anything amiss.)

The problem with Edinburgh is just the predictable fallout from poor project management, and an even more shameful administration. Nothing more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
A US method of getting new transport systems, ie Light Rail / Trams / Streetcars, is the use of "Starter Lines". This method is typically for a route of up to about 3 miles in length in a well researched and identified commercial locale. Funds can be sourced from Federal (under certain conditions), local (through local taxes) or commercial.

The line, once it has proved itself, can be extended a bit at a time.
The bloke from Stagecoachwho recently retired was talking abbout the problms of Metrolink compared to Sheff Supertram.

He bemoans the fact Manc have 5 different tram types and a whole host of different standards whereas Sheff is all built exactly the same.

If it had been possible to have built everything up to Phase3b in one go at the start then just slowly continue the network it would all be much more reliable and easier to manage.
 

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Suppose a further question is can the existing networks continue to expand going forward?

In 2020 will we still be seeing expansion in Brum, Notts, Manc etc?
In ten years I imagine we will see plans progressing in Manchester at least, because from a strategic point of view the network is imcomplete. Whether those plans will actually be going anywhere is deopendent on the politics of the day.

Remember though that this phase of construction won't even be finished until 2016, so if as seems likely the PTE are preparing some future expansion plans then the 2017-2020 time period would be the absoloute earliest they could come to fruition anyway. With funding not looking good for the next ten years I can see construction coming later than that, but it's almost a certainty that a proposal will exist and that negotiations for funding bids/deals will be in progress.
 

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The LTP contains plans for detailed planning of a Trafford line and outline planning for a Altrincham-Stockport tram-train remember as well eas the East Manchester line extension to Stockport.
 
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