TO GET THE NEWS IN DEPTH - READ "TRAMWAYS & URBAN TRANSIT" EVERY MONTH

URBAN TRANSIT NEWS

Latest news is always at the top of this page - select from index or scroll down page for earlier items

News Index July 1998

Click on item or scroll down this page

To go to more recent news page - click here

To go to most recent news page - click here

To go to continuation news page (June 1998) - click here

To go to continuation news page (older news) - click here

To return to the LRTA homepage - click here

This website carries just a tiny fraction of the total number of news stories which appear every month in Tramways & Urban Transit which has many pages of light rail, tramway and urban transit news from around the world - the best worldwide coverage of any publication!
To get your own copy - join the LRTA - click here for details


"Bite sized chunks" to cost 150m: The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority meeting in Birmingham, England this week received a report from its executive arm, Centro, recommending development work go ahead on 2 of 3 "bite sized chunk" extensions to Midland Metro Line 1 (which is due to open in October this year).
  • The Birmingham City Centre tramway from Snow Hill, Birmingham, on-street through the city centre, via Corporation Street, New Street Station, Victoria Square and Broad Street to Five Ways, Birmingham.This will involve removing all bus services from Corporation Street (the present main bus mall). The estimated cost for this approx. 4 kms route is 46.2m at 1996 prices.The tramway could open by end of 2002.
  • Wednesbury to Merry Hill/Bierley Hill - this branch of approx 9 kms length will use shared running with freight traffic on the presently disused South Staffordshire heavy rail corridor and will serve the Waterfront and Merry Hill Centre developments. Total cost is estimated at 105.4m at 1996 prices. The Merry Hill developer Chelsfield has promised 10m cash and professional services and structures worth another 15m towards the cost.
  • Wolverhampton Town Centre Loop - this extension is estimated to cost 17.32m at 1996 prices and there are doubts as to whether the patronage will justify it so no further development is to take place until actual patronage figures for Line 1 of Midland Metro are available.
The report says that the extensions will have to be progressed as PFI (Private Finance Initiative) projects and that Price Waterhouse have indicated the need for improvement in the financial position of the extensions in order to maximise the prospect of funding. A project plan included with the report shows April 2001 as the target date for award of contracts.

LRTA Secretary General Bob Tarr commented: The 21 kms Midland Metro Line 1 will have cost approximately 150m when completed later this year (including 15 vehicles), an average cost of around 7m per kilometre. The Merry Hill extension looks as if it will cost much more even though it will share heavy rail track for part of the way. By contrast, the Birmingham city centre tramway looks to be quite low cost considering it will all be on street and will require a new structure to take the line from its initial formation down on to street level.

Although light rail can move many more people per hour than can a motorway costing similar ball park costs, it is not surprising that the sheer "lump-sum" size of the bill for major light rail projects frightens central government. Of course, these cost do include the vehicles needed as well (how much would a motorway cost if you had to add in the cost of the vehicles which would use it?) and, where street-running, large sums to move statutory undertakers services to avoid disruption when the tramway is in operation. How much cheaper could they be? Unfortunately it looks as if the answer is "not a lot" - most of those who have promised much cheaper prices either don't seem to be able to deliver or are actually offering a much inferior product - or both! No, despite what understandably look like big bills, there really is no cheap way to get quality mass transit.

If all goes well trams could be running again on Birmingham's streets by 2003 or 2004, but as it seldom does 2005 or 2006 might be a safer bet. What prospect either of these projects have of getting any Government funding at all, or of going ahead without Birmingham and Dudley introducing congestion charging is anybody's guess at the moment.
Wednesday 29 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


DETR 'Integrated Transport' logo Few advocates for Light Rail?: The LRTA has now received a document entitled "The Government's Consultation On Developing an Integrated Transport Policy: A Report" which summarises the views expressed by the 7,300 responses to the consultation invitation last autumn. The document says that the complete analysis of the whole consultation exercise has been used to inform the development of the integrated transport policy.

Under the heading 'More Integrated Public Transport', at para. 26, Light Rail is mentioned:-

"Light rail schemes did not attract much attention, although some saw it as an effective alternative to new roads or as a possible use for disused railway lines"

Comment by Bob Tarr, LRTA Secretary General: It is extremely disappointing that the Government seems to have weighted views by their number rather than, perhaps, the validity or relevance of those views. Although the Association encouraged its members to make individual responses, it is clear that the vast bulk of views submitted were from those interested in roads/cars, other modes of transport (including cycling and walking and buses), and environmentalists. It is salutary perhaps for those of us who believe we know what urban transit needs to be like in the 21st century to reflect on the fact that we are clearly in a very tiny minority - if we are to bring about the changes we believe in we have to get our message to the wider world not just tell it to each other.
Thursday 23 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


DETR 'Integrated Transport' logo White Paper prescribes bleak few years for UK light rail: Now the full text of the UK Government's White Paper on Integrated Transport Policy is available, it is obvious that light rail or tramways are not perceived by Government as a keystone in its integrated transport policy. An initial inspection might lead one to think there was no mention at all of light rail, but there is - in chapter 3, "More Choice" at paragraphs 3.36 to 3.38 which are reproduced in full here (including "box" giving interesting facts about Metrolink):-

"BETTER LOCAL RAILWAYS

3.36 In drawing up local transport plans, local authorities will take account of the potential contribution of rail (both conventional and light rail) to their strategies for reducing car use. The potential is likely to vary significantly between different types of authority and whether they serve urban or rural areas.

3.37 Light rail, and similar rapid transit systems, can have a role to play in delivering integrated transport in urban areas - particularly if planned as part of an overall strategy. The capital costs of light rail systems are, however, high - particularly in comparison to bus priority measures and more modest guided bus schemes which may offer a more cost-effective alternative.

Greater Manchester Metrolink

  • runs mainly along an old heavy rail corridor replacing two heavy rail services (Altrincham to Manchester Piccadilly and Bury to Manchester Victoria) providing a rail link into and through the city centre;

  • at a cost of 150 million (around one third of which would have been required to keep existing rail lines open), it carries 14 million passengers a year;

  • passenger numbers are up on the old heavy rail and there is clear evidence of some switch from car use;

  • Metrolink, owned by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive was built under a Design Build Operate Maintain contract. Altram (Manchester) Ltd, a private sector consortium operates the system and will operate the extension to Salford Quays and Eccles due to open by the end of 2000.

3.38 In due course, we shall expect local authorities wishing to develop light rail systems, to use revenues from new congestion charging schemes or parking levies as a source of funding for such systems (see Chapter 4). In the meantime we believe that resources available for funding local authority capital expenditure on transport can, in general, be used more productively supporting packages of more modest measures which spread benefits more widely. Funding for new major light rail schemes will therefore not be a priority and schemes will be supported only if they represent good value for money and form an integral and necessary part of a strategy in a local transport plan - demonstrating clearly that the objectives of the plan cannot be met in alternative ways. We would also expect local authorities to develop public-private partnerships to take forward such schemes wherever it is sensible to do so."

LRTA Secretary General Bob Tarr commented: The new sources of revenue from congestion charges and work-place parking should eventually provide local authorities with an important and potentially large revenue stream to invest in new public transport infrastructure such as light rail systems. However, this will take 5 - 7 years from now before it even commences. Para 3.38 certainly seems to seek to lower expectations in the meantime, though it does not rule out Government support to schemes which represent good value for money and form an integral and necessary part of a strategy in a local transport plan - demonstrating clearly that the objectives of the plan cannot be met in alternative ways.

Arguably much of this justification has been necessary under present justification/appraisal requirements, but, inevitably, this does probably represent an additional hurdle which has to be surmounted (on top of social cost-benefit appraisal and PFI appraisal and Section 56 grant "have all alternatives been considered and found to be worse value-for-money" appraisal). Spare a thought for those poor folk who have to prepare such submissions for DETR/Treasury appraisal and keep them away from any unfenced vertical drops for at least a few days whilst they recover their composure!

To see the full text of the White Paper visit the DETR website - http://www.detr.gov.uk/itwp/index.htm (1.33Mb zipped document)
Wednesday 22 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


DETR 'Integrated Transport' logo UK Integrated Transport White Paper published at last: UK Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, presented his Integrated Transport White Paper to the House of Commons this afternoon. Mr Prescott said that the title of the White Paper - "A new deal for transport - better for everyone" was what it was about, "it would widen choice and provide a real alternative" (to car use). He said there was a wide consensus for radical change and that no change was not a option. He said the core of the proposals was integration - between modes and with environmental policies. It was about seamless journeys.

The main proposals are:-

  • A national transport information system is to be set up by the year 2000 - information will be available for all modes by phone, teletext and internet.
  • Integration with land-use planning - new planning guidance will be issued
  • Target to double cycling within 6 years
  • Better public transport is to be the cornerstone of the Government's integrated transport policy - better bus and rail
  • Buses must have priority on the road - priority measures to be extended with stiffer penalties and stronger enforcement. Just 2 more passengers on every bus would produce 400m more revenue for bus companies
  • 150m is to be spent on improving rural transport
  • Exclusive "quality contracts" are to be introduced on some bus routes
  • The Government wished to challenge the bus industry and manufacturers to produce a bus fit for the 21st century
  • The Government would introduce a National Concessionary Fares scheme for pensioners guaranteeing at least half fare travel
  • There would be a new tougher system of regulation of the rail companies
  • OPRAF & BR would be absorbed into the new Strategic Rail Authority - the SRA would improve standards for passengers
  • Railtrack will be carefully monitored to ensure it achieves its capital investment targets
  • A Rail Fund will be set up with 100m of Government money to lever in investment to the rail network
  • Highways Agency to become network operator - will be empowered to levy user charges and to reinvest them - HA will have special responsibility to reduce delays
  • Safe and secure routes would be developed by which car use can be reduced for taking children to school
  • The Health & Safety Executive have been charged with undertaking a thorough review of the arrangements for transport safety for all modes
  • 700m will be spent on 150 local transport strategies - local authorities will be empowered to impose congestion and work-place parking charges and hypothecation will allowed by the Chancellor so the proceeds can be reinvested in transport improvements
  • An independent Commission for Integrated Transport would be set up which will encourage debate

Mr Prescott said that the proposals represented the biggest ever investment in public transport (1.7bn announced last week + 7bn public private partnership on the London Underground + the Channel Tunnel Rail Link deal announced recently).The key to the new approach is partnership. There would be a doubling in investment in public transport over the next 7 years.

LRTA Secretary General Bob Tarr commented: The long-awaited White Paper seems to contain few surprises though a number of "daughter" documents are yet to be released and these may have some interesting detailed measures in them. The intention of empowering local authorities to impose various charges on car users and to allow them to use the resulting revenue streams for re-investment in improving public transport are, long term, probably the most significant measures. Although these powers may take several years to come on stream, eventually they could yield very large amounts of money for investment in better public transport (provided Government does not cap or limit charges).

The requirement on the Health & Safety Executive to review safety requirements of all modes of transport could also have dramatic implications long term - especially if road transport was brought up to the same safety levels as rail transport.

There was much speculation that John Prescott's White Paper would be emasculated because of Downing Street fears that car owners would be put off voting Labour by any anti-motorist measures. On the face of it, this seems not to be true and John Prescott may well have delivered a skilful radical yet acceptable package of policy changes which really will represent a new direction for transport in the UK - away from near total car dependence with all its consequences and towards a more civilised system for the new Millennium. Good on you, John!
Monday 20 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


DETR 'Integrated Transport' logo John Prescott outlines the content of his Integrated Transport White Paper: Speaking on the BBC TV programme "Breakfast with Frost" this morning, UK Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions,John Prescott, gave the clearest picture yet of what will be in his White Paper on Integrated Transport Policy which he is to present to Parliament tomorrow.

He said "it will be a radical change and I intend to deliver it". He also said, "it is not about sticks, but about working with people for consensus". He said that there was widespread agreement that it wasn't an option for things just to go on as they are with congestion and pollution the way it is. "One third of people don't have access to a car", "The Continent has more cars per head than us but we use our cars more than they do", "The real growth is in 2, 3 or more car families - I want them to say, 'why do I need it if public transport is more reliable'".

Commenting on leaks/speculation in all UK Sunday newspapers, Mr Prescott confirmed some of the things in the White Paper -

  • The School Run - 1 in 5 of peak time journeys was now parents taking their children to school. Getting them there safe and secure was the thing. But did parents realise that pollution sitting in a car was 3 times what it is outside the car? Ways had to be found to get children to school safely without so many car trips.
  • Buses - "I have got to improve the public transport" - Buses are only 25% utilised. Just 2 or 3 more people on each bus would bring in 400m to the bus industry. This injection of cash would allow services to be improved. To take the bus people need certainty about reliability and the time the journey will take. This just needs changes in the priority of road space.
  • Taxing car parking spaces - "a new income stream that I have long advocated".
  • Hypothecation of revenues from car parking spaces and congestion charges - "We have got a Chancellor of the Exchequer who has agreed that revenues can be hypothecated" - can be used directly for investment in public transport (1bn per annum has been estimated to be the likely total within a few years).
  • Investment in Underground - "we are getting 7bn to invest in the Underground from mortgaging its assets"
  • Roads - "The priorities on roads are road maintenance not new motorways. There was going to be a 30% growth in road vehicles in 10 years".

Once the White Paper is published, the LRTA will be studying it in detail and its views will be published on this website as soon as possible - visit again to learn them.
Sunday 19 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


1.7bn for 150 local integrated transport schemes - 11.3m each: Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the UK Exchequer, in his Comprehensive Spending Review, yesterday set out the Government's plans for public spending for the next 3 years. 2bn is to be spent on extra transport investment, but this is to be offset by 1bn savings expected to come through public/private partnerships.

The Chancellor said:"From a 25 percent decline in transport investment in the last Parliament, there will be a 25 percent increase in the next 3 years - for investment in public transport and meeting our environmental objectives".

The full details of the transport programme will not be known until Tuesday next week when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is expected to publish his White Paper.

It is widely expected that the White Paper will focus on improvements to bus travel and cycling and pedestrian facilities.

The Treasury's News Release says there will be "a new integrated transport strategy, with 1.7 billion (webmaster's note: the Treasury News Release actually said 81.7 billion, but unfortunately it was a typographical error!) of extra resources to finance over 150 new integrated transport schemes in towns and cities and improvements to the condition of key national roads to ease congestion and reduce delays"

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott yesterday announced a new direction for his Department's programmes, involving a multi-billion pound boost for transport, regeneration and reversing the backlog in modernising and improving council housing repairs. Welcoming the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review for DETR, he said the additional money would improve the quality of life of everyone in the UK.

Mr Prescott said: "The new direction and extra investment of 6 billion for my key priorities of transport, regeneration and housing will make a real difference improvement to the lives of everyone in the UK. It will improve the homes we live in and the quality of the local environment as well as the wider world around us. It will also improve how we travel for work and leisure by tackling congestion and making it possible for people to choose top quality public transport. These new plans will be a powerful weapon to help alleviate poverty, improve access to jobs and to markets, safeguard the environment, and strengthen families and communities". The main transport changes are - "We are planning to increase the level of investment undertaken by the private sector, for example through the new Public Private Partnership for the London Underground. At the same time, we are increasing resources to allow local authorities to bring in integrated transport strategies aimed at reducing dependence on the car. We will deliver improvements in the quality of public transport, and we will make better use of the existing road network, especially by making responsible provision for maintenance.Over the next three years, spending the new plans for DETR include:

  • Establishing 150 local integrated transport strategies, which will reduce congestion, improve safety and the environment and increase accessibility to transport in all parts of the country. There will be 1.1 billion more for local transport, public transport and integrated transport initiatives;
  • Ending the decline in the condition of our motorways and trunk roads, and beginning to restore previous cuts in the maintenance and strengthening of local authority principal roads and bridges. 700 million more will be spent on well targeted maintenance."

The Spending Plans - millions
Programme 1998-1999 budget 1999-2000 plans 2000-2001 plans 2001-2002 plans
Transport 2685 2880 3231 3673
CTRL, London Transport & rail franchise payments 1994 1670 1238 1367

LRTA Comment: It is not yet clear whether the Government plans any major investment in urban transit outside London for schemes such as Nottingham Express Transit or the Leeds Supertram. However an extra 700m is to go towards reducing the estimated 5bn backlog in road maintenance to put things in context. The Treasury News Release talks about 81.7bn on 150 integrated transport schemes - Could this be a leak of the White Paper's price tag? It is much more like the amount of money which does need to be spent if British towns and cities are to actually achieve anything vaguely resembling integrated transport systems capable of attracting car users out of their cars. Unfortunately it was a typographical error and it should have read 1.7bn. Unfortunately 1.7bn divided by 150 only equals 11.33 million each on average. It is very difficult to see what sort of integrated transport system can be created in any city or large town for 11.33m. Will the White Paper bring us all down to earth very quickly?
Wednesday 15 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


Tram centenary celebrated at Fleetwood, England: A cavalcade of 14 historic trams, including Car no. 2 which ran on 14 July 1898 when the tramway from Blackpool to Fleetwood first opened, marked the 100th birthday of the Fleetwood line. Civic dignatories, representatives of the Tramway Museum Society and the Light Rail Transit Association and the local societies (Fylde Tramway Society, the Friends of 40 and the Fleetwood Tram Sunday Committee) and of all the new-generation British tramway operators and a large number of enthusiasts and supporters of the tramway travelled this morning on a wet and blustery and very un-summery day from Blackpool to Fleetwood to mark the occasion. All along the route, despite the weather, were well-wishers and tramway enthusiasts and many thousands of photos must have been taken and many miles of video-tape must have been consumed.

Afterwards at the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood, Tony Depledge, Managing Director of Blackpool Transport Services and President of the LRTA, hosted a celebratory lunch. He paid tribute to all those organisations and individuals who had helped keep the tramway alive and supported and developed it. He said "We are now expecting the White Paper (on Integrated Transport) on 21 July and we look forward to to working with the Government on the important tasks of re-establishing public transport as the mode of first choice, particularly for urban and local journeys".

The line to Fleetwood was preceded by the Blackpool tramway, which was opened in 1885.
Sunday 12 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


Peoplemover planned for Coventry, England: A 94,000 detailed study of 3 potentially suitable peoplemover systems to serve Coventry City Centre and link its bus and rail stations has been approved. The study is to be funded jointly by Coventry City Council and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority.

The 3 systems which a preliminary Mode Comparison Study have found to be appropriate for further study are: (a) Low/zero emission unguided bus (b) Rail-guided PeopleMover (Parry type) and (c) Guided Light Transit (GLT - Bombardier type).

Coventry's Integrated Transport Scheme bid as part of the West Midlands Balanced Package Bid incorporates a bid for initial development funding in 1999/2000 followed by additional development and implementation funding in following years.

After completion of the detailed evaluation work, and subject to the identification of a feasible and economically viable system, a public consultation exercise is proposed to ascertain public response.
Thursday 9 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


City Corporation plan road-use plan favouring "high value-of-time businessmen": The London Evening Standard reports that London City Corporation, which controls just the one square mile financial services heart of London, has authorised a 30,000 study into proposals by its City Engineer to introduce a ban on traffic other than that essential for the smooth and efficient running of business in the City. The report says "Unless through-traffic is actively prevented from inhibiting access and local movement, the vitality and efficiency of the City as a place to do business, is at risk".

Options to be considered include "area licensing" requiring windscreen permits and a 3 charge to drive through the City. Existing security cameras could be adapted to use a sophisticated numberplate recognition and referencing system.

Vehicles that may be classed as acceptable for unfettered entry include buses, black cabs, emergency service vehicles, cars with defined off-road parking, chauffeur driven cars, couriers, pre-registered cars with occupants on business.

Neighbouring London Borough Councils are said to be worried about the effect on traffic in their areas - the City Corporation is said to believe that they must take their own measures to reduce traffic.
Thursday 9 July 1998

To return to News Index - click here


To be well informed about light rail & urban transit developments you need to read Tramways & Urban Transit every month - the world's leading light rail, tramways and urban transit journal


To return to the top of this news page - click here

To go to more recent news page - click here

To go to the most recent news page - click here

To go to continuation news page (June 1998) - click here

To go to continuation news page (older news) - click here

To return to the LRTA homepage - click here