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McNulty and McNumpty

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In a press release dated 29 June 2012 UK Tram and Centro chief Geoff Inskip stated that there are three possible routes for tram trains in the West Midlands county:

* Wednesbury — Stourbridge,

* Walsall — Wolverhampton, and

* Walsall — Wednesbury.

Public transport chief Geoff Inskip has urged the government to invest millions of pounds into tram-trains.

He called on the Department for Transport to set aside £100 million a year from the savings identified in the McNulty Report into improving efficiency in Britain’s rail industry to develop tram-train networks across the country.

Tram-train is a light-rail public transport system where trams are able to run on an urban network and on mainline railways shared with conventional trains.

Mr Inskip is chief executive of Centro, the integrated transport authority for the West Midlands.

He is also chairman of UK Tram, the forum representing Britain’s tram industry and recently outlined the case for tram-trains to the All-Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group.

He said: “Tram-train is a brilliant concept ripe for development – it combines the tram’s flexibility and accessibility with a train’s greater speed, and bridges the distance between main railway stations and a city centre.

“It is why I say the Government should set aside £100m per annum from those savings they will be making from McNulty and ring fence that money for tram-train.

“In this way we can get on with delivering the Department for Transport’s agenda of delivering a better value for money railway and a greener more sustainable economy.”

Work has begun on a national tram-train pilot scheme between Sheffield and Rotherham which is due to begin operating in 2015.

Mr Inskip said it was essential that transport authorities developed similar projects elsewhere around the country.

“In the Centro region alone we have three possible applications – Wednesbury — Stourbridge, Walsall — Wolverhampton and Walsall — Wednesbury,” he said.

“By starting work now in other parts of the country the successful outcomes of the national trial can be immediately captured without prolonged interruptions for lengthy project development stages.”

Mr Inskip said tram-trains were efficient because operating costs were generally cheaper than those of conventional heavy rail services.

They offered opportunities for better connectivity because they were able to utilise spare rail capacity on existing corridors and former rail routes, and also reduced pressure on the local rail network.

“Tram-train is a fundamentally proven concept and early introduction is required – the benefits are too great for the opportunity to realise them to be missed,” Mr Inskip said.

“It is integral to creating the necessary capacity needed for the future development of both light and heavy rail in our cities, bridging the gap between local, urban rail services and light rail systems and optimising heavy and light rail systems’ assets.

“It will also deliver real benefits to passengers – increased frequencies, faster journey times and improved city centre penetration.”

It’s no surprise to find that the press release was not accompanied by any details or numbers to support the three proposed tram-train services. McNulty has suggested making savings by de-staffing stations and reducing the number of trains running. But Centro has opposed de-staffing of stations, and wants to increase the number of trains running.

So the Centro and McNulty positions are not compatible with one another. At present, and in the foreseeable future, there is no value for money or economic case for running rail or tram services between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Walsall and Wolverhampton

The rail service between these towns (11 km apart) ended a few years ago because only 60,000 journeys were made in a year, and the subsidy needed was £700,000. In other words, every return trip required a subsidy of £22. (These services were not even paying the full cost of the infrastructure, since the route is used by freight and diverted passenger trains.) The return bus fare is about £4, which is dear enough.

South Staffordshire Line

I’m not sure what the idea would be behind running tram-trains between Walsall and Wednesbury, and Wednesbury and Stourbridge. Restoring the South Staffordshire line makes sense as part of a national railfreight strategy, but there is no financial or transport case for tram-train on it.

Written by beleben

June 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm

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