Preston Trampower scheme not all finished after all!

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.

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21 Responses to Preston Trampower scheme not all finished after all!

  1. Alan Kirkman says:

    I do hope this is wishful thinking. Birkenhead has enough problems with the paying off of the staff and transitioning into a new regime without having to get bogged down with HMRI etc with a threat of Lewis Lesley arriving. We don’t need a prohibition notice serving on the Birkenhead Tramway. After the comments in the RAIB report on the incidents in Blackpool no minor preserved tramway has the expertise to be able to assess the fitness to run of such a singular vehicle to the standards required.

    • Chris says:

      Have to agree with Alan. Not something id like to see operating on a heritage tramway. Far to many risk. Was so close to been a horrific moment at Blackpool. Very lucky that nobody was hurt. Could have been all so different…

  2. Nigel Pennick says:

    Back to Birkenhead again! How long ago was the first time, and not an inch of track laid at Preston yet. What has this all cost the promoters of Trampower? Meanwhile tram systems in the UK have expanded with state-of-the-art vehicles without Trampower.

    • Bob Hayes says:

      Passengers who put up with the serial failures and disruptions of Manchester’s very costly Metrolink might be forgiven for thinking they too are witnessing one big tramway experiment!

      Trampower is starved of funding not so much for technical reasons but because it is an alternative to the big-bucks mega-projects loved by attention-seeking politicians, which provide very handsome contracts for the big engineering, civil engineering and transportation conglomerates.

  3. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    For God’s sake give them a chance. Do we really want to put up with foreign trams etc for ever?

    • Deckerman says:

      I totally agree with Ralph.

      We in this country are constantly bleating that we don’t or can’t build this in the UK anymore or don’t own or make that in the UK anymore and yet here is a non public funded outfit that, against all the odds and all the big boys, is simply trying to show that a British built tram IS still possible. I saw it when displayed at Fleetwood Ferry once and was amazed at it’s ingenuity, making use of standard readily available parts and technology but in a modern format. And yes, it’s had it’s problems, but isn’t that what a “prototype is for?

      Plus, I am led to believe that the fire it suffered wasn’t all that it first appears too, but that, as they say, is another matter.

      So, yes, why not just give Prof Lewis Lesley and his team a chance for God’s sake. He hasn’t, to my knowledge, asked for a penny of public money to keep this going, which is more than any of the other builders can say and to be honest with you, yet another very whizzy but totally boring and exclusively “Flexity” based fleet of trams for God knows where, just is not going to do it for me.

  4. Pete C says:

    Commonsense comments by Ralph and Deckerman that I agree with 200%. Let’s give Trampower a fair chance to see what can be done.

  5. Colin Smith says:

    The comments by Ralph, Deckerman and Pete C make a lot of sense. I well remember in the early 1990′s, as the order was being placed for the first of the second generation trams, the T68s for Manchester Metrolink, we were promised that any further orders could be placed with British manufacturers. It was asserted then that the industry in Britain was about to be re-awakened. Yet twenty one years later and none of the trams in use, or stored ready for future use, in Britain has been built here. Give the guys behind the “Trampower” scheme a fair chance to prove their ideas.

  6. TM says:

    HMRI / ORR do not approve new vehicle or tramway builds this is now done by “self certification”.

    • David Taylor says:

      HMRI do not authorize running but inspect and recommend changes.
      They do however have powers under the health and safety act to close and prosecute..

  7. Ken Walker says:

    The only criticism I could see in the RAIB report was that the wiring wasn’t up to an acceptable standard for a passenger carrying vehicle. But at the time of the fire the tram hadn’t, and wasn’t planned to be carrying passengers, and it had been authorised to operate as a test tram as built. The implication in the report is that 611 would have had to be brought up to standard before being allowed to carry passengers. So bearing in mind that there is always a certain amount of risk with a test vehicle (otherwise they wouldn’t need to go through a period of testing?) I don’t understand these criticisms of the project. As has been said above, give them a chance!

    • Deckerman says:

      Thank you Ken.

      The other matter is that, I have to clearly state that, “as far as I am led to believe”, the fire possibly wasn’t actually caused from the wiring and probably had a bit more to do with certain ” foreign combustible ” matter that I am reliably advised had been placed beneath the resistances at either end of the car. This apparently came to light whilst “TramPower” was being rebuilt after this material was discovered at the undamaged end. I think we can all agree, we have seen fires on Blackpool cars before, but this one went up like a Roman Candle. I’d suggest that that simply isn’t normal for an “unassisted” tramcar fire.

      This fire also apparently coincided with being in the last week of testing just before the car would have achieved the required amount of successful running test hours in service ( which had previously included some very harsh loading’s at Woodside and very punishing testing without a single incident, before moving to Blackpool ) and to then be passed fit by the RAIB.

      Irrespective of any of this though, all power, or perhaps “TramPower” to Lewis and his team. I hope you get the deal for Preston and many others, and show the “Goliath’s” that the “David’s”, and totally British ones at that, can perhaps sometimes triumph ultimately.

      Also lastly, a minor point perhaps, but had “TramPower” not suffered that set back and been chosen over a certain other foreign based builder, with TP costing around a tenth of “other” cars, we might not then have had to worry so much about cutting the costs that ultimately saw the new heritage depot at Starr Gate cut from the budget. I personally think we lost a lot more than the front end of a tram when that fire occurred. Just a thought.

  8. John says:

    The main issue with Trampower is finding an ICP (Independent Competent person) to sign the vehicle off. This is done subject to the builder/operator satisfying the current requirements for said vehicle to operate. NO Heritage Tramway has the capacity to commission a new modern tram to ORR required standards. BT were criticised for this in the previous RAIB report.
    The project is marred by its past – the vehicle didn’t work properly, it self combusted, frequently derailed and did, in fact, carry passengers ILLEGALLY.
    For Trampower to work and be given credence it needs its own test track and the right people to do the job.

  9. Alan Kirkman says:

    Gentlemen read both RAIB reports the derailment and the fire but most importantly read the criticisms of Blackpool for not being able to asses the tram it being out of their knowledge base. A similar position applies to anywhere else in the Heritage tramway world. Today trams are not approved by HMRI nor are they self assessed they have to be signed off by a Independent Competent Person under the Railway and other Guided Systems ROGS regulations. Of course one could be found to assist Wirral Council at a price but I am aware of their views of the Trampower car. We do need some proper production in the UK but a Nutty Proffessor is not the way forward.

    • TM says:

      It is a little unfair to attribute the derailment at Starr Gate to Trampower; there was little or no fault on the vehicle in that incident. It was more down to BTS’ lack of knowledge for new vehicle acceptance and other technical issues.

      • Alan Kirkman says:

        It is true that the track was worn but it was the way the independent single wheel sets on their stub axles remained vertical to the Vehicle section rather than to the track which enabled the overriding to occur. It is very significant that Blackpool Council with technical assistance from BTS staff chose the Flexity 2 with proper axles and a slight degree of bogie rotation. I was able to see on Saturday that the tarmac patch where Trampower dug into the setts is still there on the apex of the curve at Birkenhead!

  10. GLYN R HILL says:

    I have been filming were the Preston Tram wil run, for a start at Deepdale you just about see the old track, very large trees growing in the four foot, it will take months to clear all the Rubbish away from the Track,and look at the artist impresion of the new Fishergate, it has been desinged with Trams NOT in minded, i wish them all the luck in opening the Tramway, i am 70 years old i my see trams in Preston when i am about 80 years old?

  11. David Taylor says:

    Perhaps the editor should ask Wirral council and B.R. about the claims that Trampower are putting out as Many people have told me he has no chance of getting back to Birkenhead especially as Both shed are almost full and we are expecting another tram to come out of storage. Even without this extra tram the 3 unit tram would not fit in.

    I believe the tram has been put out of Preston and is at present in St Helens But you will have to check that.

    I would recommend any further claims by this group be checked before putting out to the public.