Cities see a cheap solution to traffic ills

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

A NEW generation of tram networks is being built across Britain as they are seen increasingly being as a relatively cheap solution to traffic problems, writes Christian Wolmar.

The first of them new tram networks opened in Manchester in 1991 and has exceeded all predictions on estimated use. The line is essentially a route between two rail BR stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, linking former railway BR lines out to Bury and Altrincham, which means that for all its entire route outside the city centre is it runs on dedicated tracks.

The Sheffield system, which celebrated its first half-year of running yesterdaywed, is more like a conventional tram network. Currently only 11km out of 29km, A line from the city centre to the new Meadowhall shopping centre is open, the first 11km of a 29km scheme, and it is difficult to assess its popularity, especially as the disruption caused by the construction caused created a howl of protests throughout the city. However,

Chris Longley, the commercial manager of Supertram, refused to release issue figures on passenger figures numbers but said: 'We're very happy with the number of people using it and their favourable reaction to the service.'

In addition to Manchester and Sheffield, Four other systems in Croydon, West Midlands, Nottingham and Leeds have been given Parliamentary approval and are awaiting funding.

The Department of Transport has a budget which only allows the construction of only one system at any one time, allocating up to 100m annually. With Sheffield's system not due to be completed until next autumn, there is no money available for other schemes until 1996, when the next one to be built will be either Croydon or West Midlands.