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Excerpts from 'The Future of Transport' White Paper relating to light rail

All these excerpts come from the Rail: transforming our railways chapter rather than combined with buses in an Urban transport chapter:

4.20 While light rail use has increased significantly over the last few years, the picture for individual schemes is mixed. Some have been very successful in attracting passengers. The Docklands Light Railway now carries 46 million passengers a year, and is showing double-digit patronage growth. Manchester Metrolink has attracted so many passengers that it often operates at, and sometimes above, capacity. However, other schemes have not been so successful. The number of passengers on Sheffield Supertram, Croydon Tramlink and Midland Metro remains significantly below the levels forecast. We need to use this experience to improve the assessment and evaluation of schemes in the future.

4.28 We need to learn from our experience so that light rail solutions are pursued where they are most appropriate, to deliver local authorities’ wider transport strategies. Local authorities need to look at what works best in their particular circumstances. Light rail can work best for routes with the highest traffic and passenger flows. Bus options are likely to offer the most cost-effective solutions on most corridors.

4.29 Proposals for new light rail schemes require rigorous assessment. Authorities need to reassure themselves of the realism of forecasts of passenger numbers, and ensure that they are taking appropriate measures to attract people to use the new services. For example, schemes can be enhanced by better integration with other forms of transport – through integrated ticketing and bus Quality Contracts, and provision of park and ride facilities and complementary parking policies. The involvement of local transport planners and practitioners in the heavy rail system will also facilitate better integration and sensible decisions on the balance of funding between different forms of transport.

4.30 We are also working with promoters to explore ways to make light rail solutions more affordable. A number of promoters are developing alternative procurement approaches, with a sharing of the revenue risks and in some cases separation of infrastructure procurement from operations. And there may be scope for cost efficiencies through making more use of common design approaches and more tailored safety standards for light rail schemes.

4.32 It will provide a stable foundation for a reliable, safe and efficient rail industry fit for the next 30 years. Supported by light rail, where it offers best value, underground and metro services, our rail networks will continue to play a central role in meeting travellers’ and businesses’ needs.

21 July 2004


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