Plans for re-opening a section of a former Preston railway line and converting it to tram track are to be given another chance.Advertisement
Trampower Limited has been applying for more than four years to get a tram system in the city off the ground – and now says it is poised on a £25 million investment.
Tram stops on Deepdale Street would be opened along with a section of the Longridge to Preston railway line in the first phase of the project.
Professor Lewis Lesley appeared at Preston City Council’s planning committee where the tram plans had been recommended for refusal.
Prof Lesley said: “We’ve been working since 2012 on this application and we’ve now got a dozen investors lined up, with a total of £25 million, but we can’t start until we get planning permission.
“Look at the front page news today, it’s all about climate change. We need to get cars off the road and use sustainable travel. This is transport like trams.
“We believe there is the capacity for 1.8 million tram journeys to be made in Preston if this line is given approval.”
Councillors on the planning committee were left in a legal pickle due to the status of the application.
Planning officers had recommended the application for Deepdale Street depot and line be refused, due to insufficient information being provided.
Councillor Tom Davies, representing Preston Rural North, was not in the mood for deferring plans.
He said: “This is 2014. We shouldn’t be worrying about great crested newts and what not. This is a way to stop the gridlock on the city roads and get this city moving again.”
Professor Lesley was questioned on the plans for fare charges on the trams.
He said: “We’ll be looking at around £1.80 for a trip on the tram. We won’t be cheaper than a bus, but it is a good mode of transport.”
The tram scheme found favour with Deepdale councillor Terry Cartwright.
He said: “There used to be trams in the 30s and 40s in the city. The area around where this would be has always had heavy industry and lots of vehicles around. I think it would be an asset to the area, particularly connecting up with the Deepdale Retail Park and Morrisons on Blackpool Road.”
Councillor Salim Desai, who represents the city centre ward, moved an early motion for approval but was shot down by the city council’s legal adviser.
David Haley, providing legal advice to the committee, said because the application was missing the full information needed councillors may be on shaky legal ground if making a decision to approve.
Councillor Elizabeth Atkins, vice-chair of the committee, made a direct appeal to Trampower.
She said: “You can hear everything we’ve said today and hear there is an appetite for this.
“We want to see you working with the city council to make this happen.”
Council officers had listed safety concerns about a tram junction on Skeffington Road and great crested newts, which are a protected species, being in the area.
Councillor David Hammond said: “I don’t get all this nit-picking. I bet in Manchester with their trams they didn’t face these kinds of objections.”
The planning committee eventually decided to defer the decision until the December committee meeting – giving Trampower more time to provide full information to support their application.
What do you think? Should trams be reintroduced to Preston? Would you use it? Let us know in the comments below