MPs condemn 'poor planning' for trams

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The Independent Online

The Department for Transport comes in for heavy criticism today from MPs, for its handling of modern tram systems in England.

The criticisms are contained in a report from the Public Accounts Committee, whose chairman Edward Leigh says: "Only seven light rail systems have been built in England since 1980, at a substantial cost to the taxpayer, and passengers have not benefited to the extent envisaged."

Since 1980, the Department for Transport has contributed £1.2bn to the £2.3bn that has been spent on building seven light rail systems in England. Mr Leigh questioned their value, saying: "The Department has left local authorities to make mistakes, and system planning has been poor. This situation must change. It needs to rigorously test the financial viability of proposed systems, and evaluate what has been delivered so far for the £1.2bn invested."

Last year, the only light rail system in the country that beat its customer forecasts was the Manchester Metrolink.

The Sheffield Supertram was the worst performing light rail service, with a 45 per cent shortfall in expected travellers.

Outside London, the MPs conclude, light rail and deregulated bus services have been competing for passengers with other public transport services, rather than complementing the existing facilities.

Systems in France and Germany are better connected to centres of social and economic activity, the MPs said.