14 March 2006

Off the rails?

Two interesting and linked stories noticed so far this week
This is Plymouth 14 March
Proposals for a light rail system in Plymouth will not be realised within the next five years, city councillors have heard.Trams have been suggested as a possible way to tackle traffic congestion in the east of the city, which is expected to increase once a proposed 5,500-home development at Sherford has been completed.The city council says that, while Plymouth could see a light rail system in the future, maintaining a high-quality bus service would be better in the short term to ensure that the city stays on the move. City transport manager Chris Sane said: "The view that we have taken...is that, while a light rail system would remain a longer-term possible aspiration for the city, we would need to go on an incremental basis and develop high-quality bus services first."Eventually, if the bus use is there, we could look at taking things on to use some other technology, such as rail." Councillors heard that the Department for Transport had recently withdrawn funding for light rail schemes in Liverpool, South Hampshire and Leeds.Mr Sane said that, in Liverpool, £39 million had been spent over the past 15 years on a Merseytram scheme which had now been scrapped.He told councillors: "That has failed, so that is the context in which we are working."However, Tory transport spokesman Kevin Wigens said that a light rail system was the best option for linking the city centre with the proposed new development at Sherford.Cllr Wigens said that such a scheme could be operated on a route next to the A379, which runs between the city centre and the Sherford site via Laira Bridge.He said: "It is a missed opportunity. If this local authority has not got the bottle to press its case for some exciting new transport links, no one else is going to do it for us."I think it is very disappointing that Plymouth City Council is not pursuing this."Councillors heard that a report detailing future transport options for the city's eastern corridor were due to be published within 'the next couple of weeks'

The Sherford link above always seemed a non starter to me. These big tram links seem extremely expensive for what they are, and with most schemes like this always cost a lot more than initial estimates. For a lot less money you can put in a few reserved bus lanes, better bus stop infrastructure, more bus priority schemes, and maybe even a few sections of bus only tracks. The end result is just as good as trams and a lot more flexible. In fact, this is just the sort of area in which the ftr would work. If you dont know what ftr is - I can recommend the omnibus blog article from 27th February and another one 11th March which details some of the negatives that have been thrown at it. Both are good reading!

The other story from This is Plymouth 14 March
Consultants have been appointed to look at whether a rail line between Tavistock and Bere Alston should be reopened - a move which could ease traffic congestion in Plymouth. Devon County Council has given the consultancy firm Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) the task of finding out whether there would be demand for reopening the six-mile Drake Line.Bringing back train services on the line would help take traffic away from the A386 between Plymouth and Tavistock, where commuters have often complained about snarl-ups.As part of the work, the consultants will study traffic data from the A386, as well as looking at the city council's long-term plans for areas which would be near the railway, such as Ernesettle and Tamerton Foliot.PB is being paid £18,000 to carry out the study, with results expected by June 2006.
This would possibly make more sense than the Sherford link. It will make interesting reading in June. although I somehow cant see anything like this happening when this government is seemingly against local train routes anyway. Time will tell!

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