Press release

Green light for trams

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rail review report 'Green Light for Light Rail' published.

placeholder

Light rail has a future in this country if capital costs can be reduced Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said today (20 September 2011) as he published a review looking at how trams can be more cost effective in the future.

Despite tram passenger numbers being at record levels, high building costs have meant that even where passenger forecasts may justify its consideration, light rail has often not been seen as an affordable option for local transport authorities.

Recommendations from the review for local authorities and industry include:

  • to implement a new project design of light rail systems which is uniform across the industry
  • to look at lower cost schemes overseas to see whether they could be adopted in this country
  • to set up a ‘centre of procurement excellence’ to advise on the best procurement options

Norman Baker said:

Light rail is good for passengers, good for local economics, good for the local environment and it’s a mode of public transport that passengers really enjoy using - that is why I’m committed to doing everything we can to bring costs down to make it a viable option for more communities.

In the past light rail systems have been seen as expensive and an unaffordable option for local authorities to pursue - I initiated this review so we can get to the nub of the problem.

I now urge all parts of the light rail sector to work together on implementing these recommendations and I look forward to working with them towards these exciting opportunities.

Findings show that light rail has the potential to provide high capacity transport into and around major conurbations which reduces congestion, supports growth and improves regeneration opportunities. The department will therefore hold a summit of the light rail sector to agree a sector-led implementation plan for getting light rail on the right track.

The report found that one of the main reasons for high construction costs is the need to divert and locate utilities which lie under the road where the tram is to be built e.g. water and gas main pipes. The Department for Transport will now launch a consultation to seek views on how this system can be simplified and ultimately how costs can be reduced costs.

Notes to editors

The light rail review report ‘Green Light for Light Rail’ published today (20 September 2011) is available.

The terms of reference for this review were:

  • what are the key cost drivers for light rail?
  • what steps could be taken to help make this mode more cost effective in the future?

In the latest light rail and tram statistics published in August 2011, passenger journeys in England for light rail and tram systems have shown to have increased by 5.5 per cent between 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011 with 196.5 million passenger journeys in 2010 to 2011. This represents the highest number of passenger journeys to date.

There are 8 tramway/light rail systems currently in operation in England. These are in Croydon, London’s Docklands, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Tyne and Wear, Nottingham and Blackpool.

There are currently a number of extensions to the Manchester Metrolink system under construction, funded with Central Government support and which will see Metrolink extended to Oldham and Rochdale, as well as Ashton-Under-Lyne and East Didsbury. Further extensions to the system are under active consideration by Transport for Greater Manchester, the local transport authority, using local sources of funding. In addition, the upgrade to the Blackpool and Fleetwood tramway is well underway and is nearing completion, as well as work commencing on the modernisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Further extensions to existing networks are also close to final approval. These include extensions to the Midland Metro Line One into Birmingham city centre and to the Nottingham Express Transit system. In addition a new tram system in Edinburgh is being developed.

Today’s (20 September 2011) report builds on action already taken since May 2010 in support of light rail, including:

  • removing the requirement for light rail schemes to have a higher proportion of local contributions compared to other modes
  • providing funding support to a number of light rail schemes
  • supporting a tram train pilot in South Yorkshire and working with Hertfordshire County Council/Network Rail on the possibility of converting the St Albans Abbey Line to light rail

The review has considered evidence from the various inquiries that have taken place previously. This includes findings from the reports published by the National Audit Office, the Transport Select Committee and the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group. Further evidence was also provided by other organisations such as UKTram and scheme promoters, as well as research on costs of major infrastructure projects undertaken overseas for which the department is very grateful.

No consultancy costs were incurred in producing this report or the work that was undertaken.

Press enquiries: 020 7944 3108
Out of hours: 020 7944 4292
Public enquiries: 0300 330 3000

Published 20 September 2011