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The Vote: Trams...right lines or wrong lines?

Are they pointing the wrong way? Do we need them anyway? Or is this all just about politics?

Published on July 21st 2009.

The Vote: Trams...right lines or wrong lines?
Yes: - 32%
No: - 68%

LIVERPOOL can say goodbye to a tram system for the foreseeable future if the Tories win power in the next general election.

Not only can the country not afford to bankroll the £316m plan, but it's pointing the wrong way, anyway.

So says Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Merseyside Chris Grayling who was in Liverpool this week.

Talking to the city's Chamber of Commerce forum, he said the Conservatives were a supporter, “in principle”. But the proposed route of Line One, from Liverpool to Kirkby, was all wrong and the big mistake “was not to learn the lesson of Manchester”, whose trams generally pass through more affluent suburbs.

“You need an anchor route and Line One to Kirkby was not likely to be as commercially successful as a city centre route going south through the suburbs – it was looked at the wrong way round,” says he.

During the last bidding process by Merseytravel (plans were shelved by ministers in 2005 after the initial £225m cost rose by another £91m) argument raged, with Liverpool city councillors saying a direct link to John Lennon Airport was what was needed.

But Merseytravel has stood by the Kirkby route, saying it would open up employment opportunities for an extra 15,000 people in a deprived area. Their argument has been strengthened by the

Everton FC and Tesco plans which, if they were to get the go-ahead to build in Kirkby, would make Line One even more viable.

It has powers until February 2010 to make it happen – subject to 75 percent funding from the Government.

In reaction to Mr Grayling's comments, Merseytravel said: "We have taken Chris Grayling around the network and shown him the benefits Merseytram Line One would bring, particularly to a number of Pathway areas, communities along that route and to the city. It would create jobs and link so many people to many others. We believe it is the right first line, will benefit many and it makes economic sense.”

But aside from all of this, when asked if a Conservative government would back Merseytram, Mr Grayling said: “We funded London’s Docklands light railway, Manchester and Croydon, but I would be cautious because of the finances over the next three or four years. I can’t say we will support it in the early days of a Conservative Government.”

What do you think? Is this all about politics? The Tories have never historically been known for their vast investment or empathy with the north west. Then again, is this is simply a case of harsh economic reality?

And should trams be going through to the airport instead? After all, it's not exactly a breeze to get to. So many questions. Vote, vote on the homepage.

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37 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JoanJuly 14th 2009.

Perhaps Mr Grayling should have looked at Nottingham's brilliant tram system too - it passes through all kinds of areas but includes the formerly underdeveloped areas of Radford, Forest Fields and Basford, bringing a much needed boost to the local businesses and communities.The tram to Kirkby seems too good an opportunity to miss - I think we've missed a trick all this time.Perhaps he only cares about the affluent?It makes sense to have a tram to the airport too, but at the minute this is very well served by buses, so let's give the route to Kirkby a shot in the arm!

Wry & AirJuly 14th 2009.

Who in their right mind with a plane to catch would get on a tram to the airport?Quite apart from the utter unreliability of air services from Speke Airport (the routes change seemingly every couple of months) not justifying the enormous, long-term investment, putting a tram on the airport route would only be supported by those who want another cheap amenity for the convenience of the wealthy, mincing estuarine incomers that have taken over what they call "the Aigburth corridor". Give it to Kirkby. They'll appreciate it more and they're less likely to desert the area when Liverpool is no longer fashionable again.

Coronation ScotJuly 14th 2009.

It would be daft to run the new trams through Aigburth which already has frequent buses and rail services. It would be cheaper, easier and make more sense to build a short railway line to a new, dedicated station at the airport linking it to Lime Street Station and the Merseyrail network via Allerton Station (or “South Parkway” as they insist on calling it). Whether they run actual trams or ‘light rail’ trains on it makes little difference, it would still serve more people for a fraction of the cost and put the airport on rail service routes.

jimboJuly 14th 2009.

Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham have them and Edinburgh is getting them as we type.They are good and would do Liverpool a world of good.Wry & Air not sure what your going on about. "Who would catch a tram to the airport?" A lot of people, they get on trains to Manchester airport so why would people not use a tram to go to Liverpool airport.They a better and cleaner than buses. Plus it would create jobs in Liverpool.

warriorJuly 14th 2009.

Yes it is the harsh Political reality. From a Revenue point trams are expensive to run,and would be another problem to add to our Council Tax bills. If you look at tram systems in Europe one of the reasons that they are very successful is the level of Public Subsidy given by varuous governments in Europe. The level of subsidy given to run public transport is 3 x what we get here. In the coming years Subsidy for Public Transport in the UK is going to be a lot less than it is now and this will go on for many years to come. If this happens any gap would be passed on in higher fares or increase in Councul Tax/Business Rate. Even if you consider the Current situation the running of the buses is an absolute chambles, they are expensive ,dirty spwing black smoke everywhere. So far as the Kirkby route is concerned it would make a major loss. We are forgetting that we also have a Merseyrail link from Liverpool to Krikby why do we need another Transport System runnung parallel. If it was to happen the route should be from City Centre to the Airport,and many years ago Labour Merseytravel through out a proposal from Peel Holdings ,who own the Airport who offered to pay half of the cost between City Centre and the Airport.This now a lost option.

R. A. MateJuly 14th 2009.

What have you got against Kirkby then, Jimbo? I bet you're a "wealthy, mincing estuarine incomer" who lives in Lark Lane.

Nuts in MayJuly 14th 2009.

Public transport doesn’t make a profit full stop. The reason we are simultaneously paying astronomical fares and record subsidies is because the services are in private hands and the shareholders are raking in all our money. A tram through Aigburth would be just as much a loss-maker as one to Kirkby, but the Kirkby route would at least generate external benefits such as strengthening the local economy and stimulating employment. The Aigburth route would just lead to a flood of compensation claims from a lot of whinging southern Keith Pratt types living off Lark Lane who caught their expensive bicycle wheels in the tram lines.

scouse ladJuly 14th 2009.

Instead of paying for this tram system'which is an expensive novilty,we should plough the money into the existing MerseyRail System,making a link through to Preston,this would give direct access to Liverpool and Speke Airport,it could also supply a Rail link using the old Tuebrook freight line to link North Liverpool with South Liverpool, and I agree what warrior has said about it being now a lost option

Wry & AirJuly 14th 2009.

Jimbo, trains are generally reliable because they run on their own tracks. Trams have to share the road and all its junctions with buses, lorries, idiots driving cars, cyclists, pedestrians, prams, wheelchair-users, etc. Any number of things could hold up a tram. Trains are better, but most people with luggage are going to use taxis in practice.

Coronation ScotJuly 14th 2009.

Well said, Scouse Lad!

EC JettJuly 14th 2009.

Wry & Air. You are talking a lot of codswollop about the trams being inefficient. In Manchester they run superbly, cleanly and efficiently on their own tracks and exclusive routes and bring the centre alive, connecting the whole massive conurbation. I would certainly take a tram to the airport because at the moment I either have to seek out an unreliable 80 bus which does get caught in the traffic madness (unlike a tram) or take a train to south parkway after hiking from Lime Street to Central and then face being at the mercy of another bus or a taxi to the airport. What's wrong with good, commercial efficiency?

jimboJuly 14th 2009.

trains are reliable? not really they are ok... again Wry and Air look at other examples like sheffield and Manchester. The Trams don't share the road they go on it but they have there on lane. Look at manchester's for an example you don't see cars driving inbetween trams. Nothing against Kirby : ) and no i don't live on Lark Lane.It is expensive to get up and running and the route isn't right. But i do think they are good. Do like what scouse lad said.

RummyJuly 14th 2009.

It actually takes longer to get to JLA for me (I live in Ainrtee) than it does for the plane to take off and land me in Paris.

Nozz TalgiaJuly 14th 2009.

When you look at the costs involved in creating a viable tramway system, you could see from very early on it was gonna be a non-runner. However, with the arguments for and against a new tram system, redevelopment of existing rail infrostructure (I don't see this being any cheaper or better either) why not carry out a feasibility study on a dedicated route trolley bus system. People tend to laugh at the prospect of circa 1920 deckers thundering along the street at speeds of up to 15 mph, but the technology has moved on a bit since the last couple of wars. In Leeds for eg, guided bus routes down the larger through routes mean for a cheaper and successful service. On a guided route, larger, greener vehicles could be accommodated thus giving more availability to the public, scope for more services throughout Merseyside and for once, giving the city a first in communications and travel. Daft? Maybe, but workable and cheaper? Possibly..

queeny eyeJuly 14th 2009.

Manchester's getting trolley buses, apparently. And water taxis.

scouse_mouse_2000ukJuly 14th 2009.

I can't make the vote. I don't go to Kirkby, so I can't vote that way. I already live in Speke, but still won't vote for the airport. The tram system should cover the whole of Liverpool, then it would get my vote. I say yes to the trams, it is a brill idea.

Wry & AirJuly 14th 2009.

I never said trams were inefficient, just likely to be less punctual than trains that run on their own private tracks at higher speeds and virtually no obstacles in their path. As for what you call "commercial efficiency" it does not work with public transport otherwise a private sector company would have built a tramway year ago. Anyway, what is efficient about re-duplicating a service - on a route already served by trains and cheap-to-run buses - with expensive-to-run trams? Don't misunderstand me, I like the idea of trams and I'd use them if they went where I wanted to go, but I'd still take a taxi to the airport (or more likely drive to Manchester where they have proper airlines flying to worthwhile places).Trams are best for commuting and short shopping trips.

DigJuly 14th 2009.

Kirkby and Speke both have regular and efficient transport links to the city centre. If we are going to create new links to the city why don't we create them where the regeneration and links are needed most. From the City Centre to Huyton stopping at Everton, Kensington, Old Swan, Tuebrook, West Derby, Croxteth and Huyton.

Lord StreetJuly 14th 2009.

Good idea, Dig!

London RoadJuly 14th 2009.

Speke airport does not have a decent fast link to anywhere direct. It is easier to drive to Manchester, or take a direct train there actually, than to negotiate the trip across the city to JLA. KLM recently set up a link to Amsterdam, as a hub airport to the rest of the world. Good idea, except I'd still go from Manchester as it's simply more straightforward to get to. And don't get me on the subject of parking options at JLA.

R. O'FlotJuly 14th 2009.

The so-called John Lennon Airport terminal is a depressing dive with a few crap shops and lots of scruffy, shaven-headed men drinking lager. Manchester's airport is a good deal more comfortable and attractive.

DigJuly 14th 2009.

Did I detect a hint of sarcasm there Geoff? Sorry, Lord Street. Can't tell with you! Also you can get a train from the city centre to Hunts Cross/ South Parkway then hop on a bus direct to JLA. Seems direct and quick enough to me.

Lord StreetJuly 14th 2009.

Not at all - er Phil. Before the suburban expansion between the wars Liverpool didn't use many buses because established railways and tramways served nearly every part of the city.Unfortunately the tram lines were shortsightedly torn up or buried in the pro-bus frenzy of the postwar years. Kenny, the Swan etc. gets choked with traffic during rush hours. A tramway would give a boost to these depressed areas, raise forlorn property values and help commuters to and from work faster. I quite agree with you.

Mrs HewittJuly 14th 2009.

Where is your humanity? We should be trying to find homes for these poor tramps not packing them off to Kirkby. I always leave some biscuits on the wall.

The Ghost of Ted HewittJuly 14th 2009.

Ee, is that you, Concepta?

Leonard SwindleyJuly 14th 2009.

Mind your backs

Mr. PopadopoulosJuly 14th 2009.

'Ey, Sweendlee! Less of the saucy talk! Back to work before I crack whip yes?

Phil AKA DigJuly 14th 2009.

Thank you. You can understand my doubting of your sincerity. You don't usually agree with me. In fact I'm going out tonight to celebrate you agreeing with me.

Lord StreetJuly 14th 2009.

Apart from Huyton and the rubbish Broadgreen under the M62, there are no railway stations in the areas you named.Good idea!

TourmanJuly 14th 2009.

The reason that the Tram was going to Kirkby was that the Tram Sheds were going to be built there. Some where to put them at night. The land round the airport is too exspensive.

aintree ironJuly 14th 2009.

Get on your bikes, you lazy buggers, and unclog the roads! There's plenty of empty buses and trains too.Incidentally it was "Harry" and not "Ted Hewitt".

DigJuly 14th 2009.

One of the problems is, Aintree Iron, is that cyclists don't just use the roads. They use any surface and break most rules of the road to get where they're going as quickly as possible. Cyclists are a danger to themselves, traffic and pedestrians. Why should I spend hundreds of pounds to learn how to drive & use the roads safely, properly and lawfully when any numpty can pick up a bike and get on the roads without a single lesson on how to use & navigate around Britains busy roads? If I wasn't an experienced driver I certainly wouldn't feel safe on the roads on a bike, yet lots of people think spending £199 in Halfords qualifies them as a legitimate road user.

O. O. GaugeJuly 14th 2009.

What would Grayling, a Tory, know about either Liverpool or public transport. He thinks a tram to Speke would be "commercially successful" - that shows he knows nothing about public transport. It doesn't make profits and has to be state-subsidised to keep the fares acceptably low.

bagheeraJuly 14th 2009.

There's nothing wrong with JLA, stop knocking it!I've just returned from a business trip to Dublin (55 mins flight) and spent 75 minutes on an 86a getting to town centre.Mancs just sit there and laugh, because every time we get a tram scheme knocked back, Hey Presto! They get more Government funds shovelled into THEIR tram system.....the sooner we have a tram system (first priority JLA, not Kirkby!!) the better!

BigglesJuly 14th 2009.

That's a rubbish flight to Dublin you had, it's only 45 minutes from Paris to Manchester!

Tommy Tomorrow and the Halcyon DaysJuly 14th 2009.

We wouldn't need the airport if the money went towards a high-speed direct rail link to the Eurostar.

Roy ParkesJuly 14th 2009.

I don't understand what I am supposed to be voting for. The answers to the headline question are 'right' or 'wrong', not 'yes' or 'no'.There follow 3 questions - which am I supposed to be answering? Please field-test these questions in the office before publicising them.

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