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Liverpool and South Hants rejected

Following on from the rejection of the Leeds tram scheme the government has now announced that it will not fund either Liverpool or South Hants. In the case of Liverpool this comes after the Government requested assurances that the councils would unconditionally underwrite a GPB 24m contingency fund, to which they were unable to agree. The Government had offered a sum of GBP170m as an absolute limit. Acting council leader Paul Clein said "This is a real blow to Liverpool and Merseyside's attempts to have a more efficient and environmentally-friendly public transport system and the responsibility for that lies squarely with the government. "Merseytram has run into the buffers because of the intransigence of the government.".

The South Hampshire scheme was first approved in 2001 with GBP170m of public money earmarked for it. But the need to dig a deeper tunnel in the harbour to accommodate larger warships brought a substantial increase in cost as did higher insurance premiums and inflation. Despite work to reduce the cost funding has again been turned down despite Hampshire County Council chiefs saying the tram scheme was essential because of the government's "massive housebuilding ambitions for the South East". Councillor Ken Thornber, county council leader, is reported as saying : "I'm devastated to hear this news, and appalled that we have had to wait so long for this short-sighted decision and the long wait from government to make up its mind.".

Despite this the Secretary for State Alistair Darling still says "Whilst the government supports tram schemes in the right places, it does not do so at any cost." which rings hollow considering that much of the cost increase stems from the Government itself and when the government still approves road schemes with similar or greater increases.

29 November 2005

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