Rail ex­perts on op­po­site sides of the tram tracks

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sumner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 [email protected]­plc.com

A na­tional trans­port ex­pert’s claims that trams will not re­turn to Bath’s streets in his life­time have been crit­i­cised as “lack­ing vi­sion”. Net­work Rail chair­man Sir Pe­ter Hendy, right, who has lived in the city for nearly 30 years, said if it can­not pri­ori­tise buses there is lit­tle hope of a tram net­work be­ing built. But Jim Harkins, who sits on the All Party Par­lia­men­tary Light Rail Group, said pub­lic trans­port choices can make or break a com­mu­nity and trams are the best chance to im­prove air qual­ity. He claimed the first new tram line could be built in Bath for £23.6 mil­lion and the net­work could ex­pand in­cre­men­tally. Light Rail (UK) manag­ing di­rec­tor Mr Harkins, be­low, said: “I have en­coun­tered [Sir Pe­ter’s com­ments] many times since I was first in­volved in Manch­ester Metrolink in 1985. “Away back then, learned peo­ple were put­ting up the same heavy-rail type of think­ing and ar­gu­ments but for­tu­nately we had peo­ple of vi­sion in trans­port, states­men in pol­i­tics and mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion in lo­cal gov­ern­ment. “As a re­sult, Metrolink [in Manch­ester] has gone from suc­cess to suc­cess, last year car­ry­ing 41 mil­lion pas­sen­gers with a modal switch out of cars and buses of ap­prox­i­mately 27 per cent for 120 trams. “Manch­ester has flour­ished to the point of be­ing able to chal­lenge the South eco­nom­i­cally. “Liver­pool, on the other hand, even with EU fund­ing, went down the bus route and is now dy­ing, ev­i­denced by the high num­ber of empty shops and re­duced re­tail foot­fall. “Sir Pe­ter’s com­ments lack the for­ward vi­sion which, as we are of a sim­i­lar age, I can un­der­stand his lack of con­cern for those who will fol­low.” Mr Harkins said Sir Pe­ter also failed to ad­dress the “Oslo ef­fect” the fine par­ti­cle pol­lu­tion from road, tyre and brake dust “which is over­tak­ing tailpipe emis­sions as the mass killer”. “The par­ti­cles are ar­guably the worst en­vi­ron­men­tal men­ace fac­ing Bath and North East Som­er­set, chil­dren and se­nior cit­i­zens in par­tic­u­lar,” he added. In con­trast to rub­ber-wheeled ve­hi­cles, trams are emis­sion-free and can run on hy­dro­gen fuel cells without the need for over­head ca­bles. Mr Harkins said a tram net­work cov­er­ing a 1.5-mile loop with four street­cars could be built in Bath for £23.6 mil­lion, and var­i­ous fund­ing streams are avail­able. For com­par­i­son, the net­work of cam­eras to mon­i­tor the city’s pro­posed clean air zone is ex­pected to cost £12 mil­lion. Mr Harkins added: “The de­vel­op­ment of this mod­est first tram line will form the ba­sis of ex­ten­sions and new lines to the rest of Bath and dis­trict in­cre­men­tally line by line.” Speak­ing at a con­fer­ence on the fu­ture of trans­port in Bath ear­lier this month, Sir Pe­ter said: “I’m fond of trams, but if this city is un­able to give buses enough road space to give them pri­or­ity, it has no hope of dig­ging the streets up and ex­clud­ing cars from parts of the city. “The idea that it can be done without pub­lic fund­ing, I’m afraid, is non­sense. “As long as it has cur­rency it gives lo­cal politi­cians the choice not to tackle the prob­lems of to­day. Even if you had the money, I’m 65 - I doubt I would be alive by time it was made.” But Mr Harkins said: “We have the money - a states­man’s view over sev­eral gen­er­a­tion fund­ing is needed and we will go a very long way to clean­ing up and re­gen­er­at­ing our cities.”

Metrolink [in Manch­ester] has gone from suc­cess to suc­cess, last year car­ry­ing 41 mil­lion pas­sen­gers.

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