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Light Rail for better public transport

National Audit Office report

Today the NAO published its report entitled 'Improving public transport in England through light rail' which states that light rail systems have improved the quality and choice of public transport. Despite this the report has engendered headlines in the media such as:

The report is in fact a constructive document which considers the reasons why light rail in England has not achieved the same level of success as in France and Germany and comes up with a number of recommendations to redress the situation.

What is clear from the report is that the failings are due to the planning and operating framework which trams have to operate within rather than failings of light rail itself. Among the problems noted are:

The report also makes a number of recommendations including:

The only real failing of this report, at first reading, would be that it makes it rather to easy for headlines as those above to be concocted and for an impression to be given which is at odds with the reality of the report itself.

Presenting the report the head of the National Audit Office, Sir John Bourn said "Light rail systems have improved the quality and choice of public transport, by offering fast, reliable and frequent services. Systems need to be better integrated with other modes of transport, however, to attract more passengers and help to reduce urban congestion. And if more systems are to secure private sector investment, construction costs must be brought down and operations placed on a sound financial footing." a comment with which it would be hard to disagree.

The report can be seen and downloaded from the NAO website.

23 April 2004

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