Lancashire leaders cast doubt on future of ambitious Preston tram plan

Lancashire leaders cast doubt on future of ambitious Preston tram plan  : Preston’s tram dream is in the balance after Lancashire’s most senior highways leader wrote off the plans.

County Coun Tim Ashton, cabinet member for highways at Lancashire County Council, has said there is no “robust business plan” behind the proposals put forward by Trampower to run the five-mile network from Junction 31a of the M6 at Fulwood into the city centre.

The leaders of the other main parties bidding to win control of County Hall at May’s elections have also voiced their fears.

But, the man behind plans insists delays in plans for sections of the network are behind the problem.

Trampower director Professor Lewis Lesley insists the project has backers willing to pump in millions of pounds of cash and contractors ready to move when it gets the green light.

He said: “Preston is being offered a tramway without a single penny being spent on it, what does it have to lose?

“The county council is not there to consider business plans, it is there to make best use of public roads, and protect the health of the people living in the area.

“If it continues to block the project, they are interfering with private enterprise and economic development.”

Today, County Coun Ashton hit back insisting the authority had responded to all applications submitted.

He said Trampower should concentrate on developing a ‘demonstrator line’ on a one-mile stretch near the West View Leisure Centre in Ribbleton which it got the go-ahead for in October 2010.

The highways chief said: “I would like to see a robust business case and if and when one is produced I will look at it, but until I see one I cannot see this happening.

“The county council has responded to all the questions we have been asked, I would suggest Trampower gets on with developing its demonstrator line and we can all see it in action.”

Labour group leader Jennifer Mein said she would be willing to look again at the plans if her party wins power at May’s county council elections.

She said: “Ensuring there is more environmentally-friendly transport to places like Preston will be a priority if Labour forms the next administration, and I think the principle of the tram is one I would love to see.

“But, obviously there is a very big question mark over it.”

Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, described the plans as “a bit of a pig in a poke.”

He added: “I would like to see trams back in Preston, but I will need a lot more convincing with a business case and a look at one of the trams.”

A county council spokesman confirmed it had raised objections which would connect to the second application the demonstrator line to Deepdale Road due to a “a number of technical issues.”

He said there were now talks ongoing between Trampower, the city council and the county council to resolve the issues which also impact a third plan to link Deepdale Road to the city centre, up Church Street and Fishergate.

The spokesman added: “Until these issues are successfully addressed by Trampower, we are not in a position to respond to the third application as a lot of the same technical issues would apply.”

The third application would run through conservation zones around Winckley Square and the Flag Market to run to the city’s train station.


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