The head of public transport in the West Midlands has urged the Government to invest £100 million a year in a tram-train network.
Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, the integrated transport authority for the region, called on the Department for Transport to set aside the funding for tram-trains from savings identified in the McNulty Report into improving efficiency in Britain’s rail industry.
A tram-train is a light-rail system where trams are able to run on an urban network and on mainline railways shared with conventional trains.
Mr Inskip is also chairman of UK Tram, the lobby group for Britain’s tram industry.
“In the Centro region alone we have three possible applications – Wednesbury- Stourbridge, Walsall-Wolverhampton and Walsall-Wednesbury,” he said.
“Tram-train is a brilliant concept ripe for development – it combines the tram’s flexibility and accessibility with a train’s greater speed, and bridges the distance between main railway stations and a city centre.”
Work has begun on a national tram-train pilot scheme between Sheffield and Rotherham which is due to begin operating in 2015.
“By starting work now in other parts of the country the successful outcomes of the national trial can be immediately captured without prolonged interruptions for lengthy project development stages,” Mr Inskip said.
“In this way we can get on with delivering the Department for Transport’s agenda of delivering a better value for money railway and a greener more sustainable economy.”
Mr Inskip said tram-trains were efficient because operating costs were generally cheaper than those of conventional heavy rail services.
They offered opportunities for better connectivity because they were able to utilise spare rail capacity on existing corridors and former rail routes, and also reduced pressure on the local rail network.
“Tram-train is a fundamentally proven concept and early introduction is required - the benefits are too great for the opportunity to realise them to be missed,” Mr Inskip said.
“It is integral to creating the necessary capacity needed for the future development of both light and heavy rail in our cities, bridging the gap between local, urban rail services and light rail systems and optimising heavy and light rail systems’ assets.
“It will also deliver real benefits to passengers - increased frequencies, faster journey times and improved city centre penetration.”