Preston Tram planning application resubmitted

Plans for the return of trams to Preston are once again on the table following the recent resubmission of a planning application for the start of the GUILD line with the hope that a final decision will be made at the start of June. As you may recall the plans for the line were rejected by councillors at the end of 2014 with concerns expressed over the effect it would have on the local road network and since then the Preston Trampower team – the developers behind the scheme – have been refining the plans.

When the plans were rejected by officers from Lancashire County Council they not only had concerns over the effect the planned line would have on the local road network – with the belief that not enough information had been provided to help them make a positive decision – but they also felt the trams would provide unacceptable noise for local residents. In respect of this second concern the Trampower Team have recently employed an independent noise consultant and they have shown that for residents adjacent to the tramway the maximum tram noise would be 52dBA for 2 seconds but that the background noise level is 63dBA – twice as loud. The consultants assertion is that most residents would not even hear the trams running. These findings have been included in the latest planning application which was submitted to the council on 4th March 2016 (application no. 06/2016/0208).

This application is just for the first stage of the planned GUILD line and would be considered as a pilot for the eventual full plan which would run between the M6 at Brookfield and the Railway Station. The line would partly be on the former Longridge Railway line with the rest using on street running including 50 metres of new line in Deepdale Street. If this plan is approved Trampower already have contractors lined up to begin site works to clear 25 years of vegetation over growth, refurbish and extend existing tracks, put up the overhead line and erect a tram depot. The initial plan would be for the rebuilt City Class pre-production tram (which has previously operated in Blackpool and Birkenhead) to run giving driver training and to acclimatise local people to tram operation.

The GUILD line would be built using a number of innovations developed by the Tramwpoer group including the use of the no dig – glue in the road LR55 rail on the street sections – this is a system which has been used for 20 years in Sheffield with no maintenance. The OHL would also be of a simplified system, developed by Trampower, and this has been used at the Carnforth Railway Centre since 2004, again with no maintenance required.

Eventually the full GUILD line would see six new City Class trams being be built. These would be 2.65m wide, weigh 22 tonnes unladen and would be 29m long, with 80 seats, 2 wheelchair spaces and standing for 120 passengers. They would be assembled in Preston from structures, components and other parts also made in Lancashire, using available coach building skills.

Local planners are due to make their decision on this plan on 3rd June 2016.

With thanks to Professor Lewis Lesley for information contained in this article.

The original City Class Tram is seen leaving the factory following rebuilding. (Photo courtesy of Trampower Group)

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26 Responses to Preston Tram planning application resubmitted

  1. Nigel Pennick says:

    Top marks for persistence – but how many projects like this have we seen over the last 30 years (people movers being notorious for projects that came to nought), and nothing happened eventually. I wonder how much money promoters have spent, to no avail, on these abortive projects?

  2. Kev says:

    They may get planning permission but with ORR ever allow their vehicles to run? Certainly the vehicle as was in Birkenhead wouldn’t pass muster internally for a few reasons and it hardly has a good safety record! I hate to say it but the boat for home produced Trams has well and truly sailed. It’s taking years to organise a mile long extension in Blackpool so this project won’t be quick IF it were to happen!

  3. Fred Fitter says:

    Anyone claiming there will be no maintenance required on the overhead line, would be burying their head in the sand.
    Even with the most simplified system, it will require inspection, various measurements taken and replacements particularly when the contact wire and other key components wear, failure to carry out these tasks before the critical point will result in failures together with the risks of de-wirements.

  4. David Blake says:

    Well, although I don’t at present have a detailed knowledge of the project itself, I have lived in Preston virtually all my life and I’m going to be positive.

    Preston was the new Golden Jubilee city of 2002 but has not addressed its traffic issues adequately. In my experience, most Preston residents do not yet think of it truly as a city and I perceive a lack of strategic vision, especially when it comes to transport. Preston does not have a good reputation for its traffic system and has also been said to have high air pollution levels. A major revamp of the city centre streets was derided last Christmas when it was found that motorists were taking 2 hours to leave car parks and I understand that extra marshals had to be brought in to direct traffic.

    My wife and I do not live too far from the proposed tram route, in a suburban area of the city. This weekend we are suffering significant cuts to our bus service, which in recent years has been mainly a 20-minute orbital service operated by local operator, Preston Bus. Parts of the route are being abandoned altogether and there will now be no services to where we live in the evening or on Sundays. The route is not now subsidised and one of the main reasons given by the operator for its abandonment is that a reliable orbital service cannot be sustained in Preston’s traffic conditions and that the Council have repeatedly ignored their representations, especially about lack of bus priority measures and the crowded parking arrangements on some of the local roads which have proved extremely difficult for the buses to negotiate.

    Additionally, the current situation of local government financial cutbacks is giving the impression that there is no longer either the vision or the finance to enable public transport to take some of the strain away from Preston’s beleaguered roads.

    If the initial vision is there, maybe the details will fall into place. From what I understand, a proposal for such a tram corridor in a small city would be nothing unusual in mainland Europe where it could be facilitated much more quickly than here, and I wonder why our British mindset, even among general tramway supporters, should seemingly be so set against it. I would certainly consider using a tram corridor not far from where I live, which would probably enable me to reach the centre of Preston within about 10 minutes of boarding, and this is surely a practical way of starting to relieve Preston’s worsening, and potentially crippling, traffic problems and the air pollution they create.

    As a citizen of Preston, I respect the Preston Trampower team for their vision in seeking to be part of the answer to an obvious problem and I think they potentially deserve the goodwill and encouragement of tramway supporters.

  5. Kev says:

    I don’t think many people have a problem with a Tramway proposal. Certainly I would use it as I avoid Preston due to the traffic issues! The issue is with the history of Trampower!

  6. Franklyn says:

    There has actually been a lot of maintenance on the track in Sheffield and it’s certainly not ‘no dig’. There were months of misery for locals before supertram came along while all sorts of buried services were moved. Then a deep concrete strip has to be laid in the road, with two grooves which the rails are later glued into. The concrete is reinforced with a rebar latice, which makes replacement of sections a very tricky business when localised fragmentation starts to take place.

    At the very beginning of supertram they used the wrong resin to ‘glue’ the rails into place on one section which didn’t set fast enough. The result was the newly laid rails spread overnight and the whole section went out of gauge.

  7. mike stone says:

    I believe there is only one short stretch in the Meadowhall area where the track concerned is used.
    ;

  8. Lewis Lesley says:

    Kev is right and wrong about Sheffield. Right that the in street grooved girder rail tram tracks have needed a lot of maintenance and the section between the Station and Spring Lane completely replaced. LR55 track can be found on the single track section at Alsing Road leading to the Meadowhall Terminal/Interchange. LR55 track replaced in March 1996 girder railed track that had failed after 6 months. SYPTE required a 6 year warranty for this installation but cancelled it after 6 months and adopted it as part of the system. All other tracks in Sheffield have corrugated and are regularly ground. LR55 has not corrugated and also reduces noise by 10dBA and vibrations by 30dB.

  9. David Lawrence says:

    Seems to have had the gestation period of an Elephant x times over this. With it backwards and forwards backwards and forwards like a never ending saga. Id not even like to guess just how many time and money tax payers money has had to be spent reviewing various proposals and documentation.

    Seemed far to obvious but surely this “scheme” unique assets needs to be tried somewhere independently perhaps that place at where the T68s, T69s reside. All seems so radical that seems best course of action. Nobody wants to see a very public incineration again after all. The subsequent RAIB report kept me awake at night so christ knows how people connected with it coped.

  10. Christopher Callan says:

    Think people can be forgiven for been somewhat sceptical. id like to see a completely new second prototype a pre production model satisfying the regulatory requirements and been able to demonstrate it can and will operate safely. Whether Network Rail or Department for Transport or whoever have a test centre have no idea but after the last one caught fire like something from horror movie you be surprised if any operational tramway would want it…. Could you imagine the damage it could do to entire light rail movement if this project started without these assurances and down the line had track laid and no trams to run on it. Fact the site so out of date does not exactly inspire confidence. Those that were excited about it seem to have gone very quiet. Transport in Preston these days seem to centre around the more pressing issues around the bus station, bus provision, roads & railway station

  11. Nigel Pennick says:

    If the proposed tramway gets the go-ahead, then there are the Midland Metro trams that could be used on it, certified for use and ready to run after maintenance. The trials and tribulations of the Trampower vehicles are well documented, and insistence on using them may well scupper the whole project.

    • Paul says:

      But the whole point of the proposed scheme was as a showcase for Trampower products (any contribution to Preston’s transport network is a secondary bonus!). You don’t do that by running someone else’s second-hand castoffs, especially ones with the poor reputation of the T69s… Hardly a good advert to admit your product is even worse than those heaps…

      • Nigel Pennick says:

        If it is intended to showcase a new tram, then it should be a demonstrator and run on test on existing systems, which Trampower did at Birkenhead and Blackpool, where it became a public relations disaster. The new, improved, version needs to be given a similar outing before anyone will believe in it. That’s the way of the world.

        • Paul D says:

          But when you have your “Demonstrator” (rebuilt but virtually new) and no one is willing to accommodate it on existing systems, you have no option but to build your own demonstration line…

          • Kev says:

            This is one of the problems with British Tramways none are compatible!! I did hear a rumour it was going back to Birkenhead but maybe that is all it was. And I suppose no way Blackpool would entertain it after last time.

          • Andrew Waddington says:

            Of course, the question there is, why will no-one play host to it? I think we all know the answer to that!

          • Kev says:

            More to the point would ORR/RAIB allow it to run?

  12. Martyn Hilbert says:

    Best of luck to Trampower……again! Having to endure the Preston traffic Monday-Friday every week, the powers that be (Preston City Council & Lancashire County Council) bury their heads in the sand when it comes to relieving traffic issues. They cannot even phase the traffic lights correctly to ease traffic flows, never mind ‘thinking out of the box’ to enable an alternate mode of transport to operate. It does make you wonder whether some of those in charge have vested interests in the current mess. (Congestion charging was mentioned some time ago). Preston must be one of the few places where abandoned railway formations approach from developing suburbs and yet they are unused. If the councils are true to their ‘green credentials’ then Trampower may be given a chance to show what they can do, but with all respect to them, they face an uphill battle with these negative-minded people.

  13. Kev says:

    Even IF this is passed, is the funding in place? And how long do you think it will take until construction can begin? It takes years to do anything in this country. As I have said before look how long its taking to put 1 mile onto an existing Tramway in Blackpool. New Tramway? I’m going for 10 years plus.

  14. Edwin Newton says:

    As someone who was employed in construction and maintenance of rail transport many years ago,I have despaired at the loss of building trains,trams,and buses within the UK.Preston was always known as an industrial town,much like Crewe,in the manufacturer of rail transport.It seems that every item I have just mentioned is imported into the UK from Europe.Just think of the loss of thousands of jobs gone in this country because of it.The whole idea to build tramcars once again is to me a great idea therefore employing local residents within Preston.Don’t be so gloomy and despondent folks.This is your country so have faith in our skilled workforce.I cringe when I hear the new trams rattling along the promenade here in Blackpool and as I actually live on the prom,I can assure readers that the bogies require much attention.So much for expensive European
    imports forced upon the UK.Good luck I say to the future on this idea.If it goes ahead then possible employment too for the school leavers in the future wanting to work in local engineering around Preston.

  15. Kev says:

    Before you blame the bogies look at the track – its very badly corrugated. Blackpool never grind these days and it needs doing.
    No one is against building in this country – its a great ambition. What we are concerned with is Trampower and the fact that some of the team (who may or may not still be involved) would not listen or take advice last time the vehicle ran on test. A vehicle needs to be built and proven before you build a Tramway for it!

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Interesting point…. can we get Cardiff 131 back again please?? Probably a daft suggestion, but it would be pretty cool to have it again in the Blackpool tramway’s 131st year! In all seriousness though, this is a potential issue that probably ought to be addressed sooner rather than later.

      • Nigel Pennick says:

        They don’t use a grinder tram in Sheffield, but a road-based vehicle. Blackpool could lease it or have one of their own.

  16. John says:

    Only if I can drive it!!

  17. Sam Flynn says:

    IF it happens, and it’s a big if, I feel having it not compatible with Blackpool would be a huge waste. They’re too close for it not to be.

  18. Kev says:

    NO systems are compatible in Britain! But it would mean manufacturing the vehicles to the same spec – would Trampower do this?