A few weeks ago we reported on the apparent abandonment of the plans to return trams to Preston but it now appears that rumours of their demise were false and in fact there has been significant recent progress with more to come. A recent progress report on the Trampower Preston plans has been posted to the Preston Station Past and Present website (http://www.prestonstation.org.uk/trampower_nov2013.html) and we are grateful for permission to repeat the latest here.
Trampower have recently prepared a progress report for the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to keep members informed of the latest. The LEP is chaired by Edwin Booth from Booths Supermarket who along with BAe have been very supportive of the plans to build the Guild Line to Redscar.
Late October saw a small but significant start made on the construction of the demonstration line section of the Guild Line. The main reason for this work – described as a “Spade in the Ground” exercise – was to secure the Planning Approval for providing a demonstration service on a 1200m section of existing rail track in Deepdale. Plans are also being made for the erection of poles for the overhead on another section of existing rail track adjacent to the Coal Yard site. It is hoped that a construction partner will soon be appointed for the project with negotiations currently ongoing with a local company.
As part of the tramway a depot is due to be built on the Coal Yard site and planning approval is close to being granted for this, following more information being given to Preston City Council. The planners on the council are also currently looking at the applications for route sections of the line from the Coal Yard to Preston Railway Station and from West View Leisure Centre to the M6 motorway at Redscar.
One of the key – and probably controversial – ingredients of the plans is the Trampower “City Class” tram which has previously been seen in Birkenhead and Blackpool, before it infamously caught fire at the latter location. This tram has been fully rebuilt and has been out of the public eye for quite some time but plans are now in hand for it to return to operation. According to the progress report Wirral Borough Council have invited Trampower Ltd to return to the Birkenhead Heritage Tramway for 3-4 months of demonstration running. It is hoped that full agreement will be reached shortly and that the tram will head to the Wirral as early as this month before heading back to Preston in early 2014, once the demonstration line and depot have been constructed. Negotiations have also been undertaken with a company already operating a Network Rail service in the West Midlands to be the operating partner for the demonstration line in Preston and a preliminary agreement has been signed to this effect.
The subject of funding, so often the achilles heel of tram projects, is also not being ignored and Trampower Ltd have been in negotiations with a number of possible private sources which could provide funding for the project.
Whether the project does ever get off the ground remains to be seen but it turns out the previous rumours of its demise were nothing more sinister than someone forgetting to renew the website hosting package!
Thanks to Preston Station Past & Present (http://www.prestonstation.org.uk/) for the information contained within this article.