17.8.04

LRT questions answered...
Tram projects derailed by the Government?
Until now new tramway and light rail projects in Britain have be publicly promoted and procured. Like the Millenium Dome many of these projects have over run budgets, over estimated patronage and required annual subsity, as well as 100% tax payers grants.

NAO KO
The National Audit Office (NAO) spent a year reviewing these projects to see if tax payers money was well spent. Backed up by facts and figures the NAO concluded in its report in April that such projects are not value for money. To justify the claimed benifits of reducing air pollution and traffic conjestion needs clearer objectives, a better understanding of the technology and closer cost control.

White Paper- black news?
The government published in July a White Paper on transport and Alistair Darling, the secretary of state for transport quoted the NAO to justify pulling the plug on light rail projects queuing for tax payers handouts. The projects rejected were Manchester Metrolink Phase 3 GBP1 bn, Leeds Supertram GBP0.5 bn, South Hants LRT GBP 270 million, Blackpool extension GBP 250 million. Mr Darling made it clear that he was not going to put any more Central Government Grants into expensive municipal "Vanity" tram projects, which do not deliver the claimed objectives and fail to carry predicted patronage and so need annual subsidies.

Mr Bus?
In comparion to bus services, where commercial operators carry 95% of passengers without subsidy, the government has concluded that the existing approach to light rail is not viable or sustainable.

Lottery Priye Every Week?
Meanwhile in the Militant Republic of Merseytravel money is spent like there is no tomorrow promoting the Merseytram project. Having wasted GBP13 million on a misguided trolleybus system, Merseytravel has now spent GBP 12 million on its line one project, where the law bid is GBP 290 million, for a project claimed at the public inquiry to cost only GBP 224 million. Merseytravel claims the Government will donate GBP 170 million, inspite of Alistair Darlings Damning speech to Parliament. This deluded view were correct there is a local funding gap of GBP 120 million, to carry 5 million passengers yearly 60% asspacted from existing bus services.

Spend Spend Spend
Such is the drive of Merseytravel that they have started spening money on promoting a second line, when they already knew they were well down the list against other cities. Never mind Merseytravel has just oushed a bill though Parliment to increase Mersey road tunnel tolls to soak Wirral commuters who spurn Merseytravels real rail services (inspite of GBP4 per ticket subsidy) for the higher quality of their own car. How long can Merseytravel milk tunnel communters before there is a revolt? Why should Wirral residents pay a toll tax for a tramline in Liverpool?

Merseytravel Capital of Culture
But hang on, isn't Liverpool the European Capital of culture in 2008? Doesn't it need a tramway to be a European City? No doubt all those extra tourists flying into Liverpool John Lennon Airport in 2008 will be put on coaches, taken 15 miles around liverpool to Kirkby to catch the Merseytram into the ciy centre, taking a total of 2 hours for a 30 minute taxi trip? Why build a tram line to Kirkby rather than the Airport? Merseytravel taxes residents in five districts: Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral. A tramway to the Airport would be wholly in Liverpool and give no benifits to other disticts which would have to pay. WHere as Kirkby is in Knowsley- so two districts cash in on the other three?

Free Tram
Does Merseytravel live in the 21st Century? At the same time as it was pouring GBP13 m into consultants pockets over its aborded guided trollybus project, a consortium of private companies was promoting a commercial tramway to Liverpool Airport. In 1999 this was rejected. Merseytravel lodged 26 objections to this tramway which would have been built without any tax payers grants or susidies and would have been open in 2002.

Subsidy Subsidence
Instead clutching to Socialist Principals of Integrated transport, which means that Merseytravel would like to control everything, the commercial bus services which carry 90% of Merseysides patronage without subsidy, do not have any bus lanes in the city centre, unlike any other UK city. But then these bus companies are private and not controlled by Merseytravel.

Railroaded
In comparison to Merseyrail, Merseytravels real rail system which costs taxpayers GBP80 million yearly to carry 2% of all local trips, taxis carry 3% without subsidy. Taxi trips are growing, Merseyrail has fallen from 45 m to 33m Journies per year, during a time when the network nearly doubled. Now that Merseytravel is the franshising Authourity, no doubt they will be decreeing when train staff have their meal breaks and what is on the menu.

SMART=TRAMS
Merseytravel's attempt to operare a SMART bus service collapsed. This is now run be a commercail company Arriva. A new GBP18 m interchange station at Allerton AKA South Liverpool Parkway will generate 800 trips per day and will no doubt in due course join the other abandoned interchange stations. These were built at high cost to taxpayers but in the wrong place.

What Next?
You asked about the Merseytram project, the whole world knows that the Government has pulled the plug on publicaly funded tramways. Except that is in the People's Republic of Merseytravel were money is no object if it flatters the ego's of councillor Marx and General Scales?

Donnations Please
If this tram line is just the ticket, spare a thought or a few million euros for the hard pressed Merseytravel, having to scape every last penny to pay its Cheif Executive who is also the Director General a paltry GBP96,00 per year and a chauffeur driven limousine. No doubt the 950 staff of Merseytravel start each day wondering how their 330 hard pressed comrades in Birmingham manage a larger city, more rail lines, more passengers and a larger system. Perhaps inbetween completing safety sases to use paper chips they might also ponder the fainess of their dafe jobs funded by the poor people of Merseyside with an average income less than 75% of EU. Perhaps the GBP200 it cost each person to subsidies Merseytravel might be better buying people taxis.

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