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Light Rail for better public transport

Second light rail report

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published its report into 'Improving public transport in England through light rail' which has similar conclusions to the Transport Committee report about the need for integration, over lengthy delays and other reasons for excessive costs. The main recommendations were:

  1. The Department (for transport) should develop a strategy for the development of light rail as part of an integrated transport network.
  2. The Department should have acted more quickly when problems with the design and delivery of systems started to appear and costs started to escalate.
  3. The process to plan and approve schemes is too lengthy and time consuming.
  4. To improve the realisation of expected benefits, the Department should require promoters to state clearly how they propose to integrate light rail with other modes of transport,
  5. The Department has failed to evaluate fully the £1.2 billion of public money invested in light rail systems in England.
  6. The Department should consider whether their estimated evaluation costs of £10 - 15 million are unnecessarily high.
  7. The lack of standardisation in the design of vehicles and systems has driven up costs.
  8. Diverting utilities such as water and gas mains, and installing new infrastructure, also drives up costs. The Department has not questioned whether such work is always necessary or who should do it.
  9. Innovative ultra light rail technologies have been excluded from departmental funding because they cost less than the £5 million qualifying threshold for a scheme to receive financial support.
  10. The Department has shown limited interest in the financial viability of light rail systems even though the residual risk of such schemes if an operation fails is likely to fall on taxpayers.

With the publication of these two reports it is to be hoped that at last some progress can be made to removing the obstacles that prevent light rail achieving its full potential.

The full report can be found on the website at (updated link)

6 April 2005

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