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Light rail news roundup Wednesday September 30, 2020

The complexities of calculating the likely costs of new light rail systems has been put in the spotlight by Matthew Taylor of the UKTram Centre of Excellence in the latest edition of a leading sector publication.

In a feature article for the Tramways and Urban Transit, he says that easily available sources of information on the subject, and online data often used to calculate ‘cost by mile’ figures, can result in widely different estimates that even have the potential to put future projects at risk.

A qualified Quantity Surveyor, Matthew spends much of his time advising promoters and sponsors on the likely costs, risks and opportunities associated with light and very light rail projects.

In the extensive feature he proposes an approach that factors in five key cost drivers and urges scheme promoters to engage with the UKTram Centre of Excellence, which can offer advice on all matters related to light rail that’s based upon years of real-world experience.

You can read the full feature here.

Meanwhile the sector’s response to the coronavirus pandemic remained the headline topic of conversation at the latest ‘sounding board’ meeting of UKTram’s Light Rail Operators Committee.

All reported a similar pattern of growth in ridership in recent weeks following the return to school and more people going back to work, although they expect this to slow following updated Government advice to work from home where possible.

Some networks are also starting to see reduced capacity issues as the students return to campus. In response NET is working with the universities on peak travel times while WMM is starting afternoon peak services earlier to provide more space.

Some operators also expressed concerns over staff availability as more people are asked to self-isolate following the launch of the test and trace app.

On a positive note, all reported continued high levels of compliance with the rules on face coverings.

In other light rail news:

West Midlands Metro

The network has become the latest to invest in new tram cleansing technology in a bid to further increase its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A stringent and enhanced daily cleaning programme was launched across the whole Metro fleet immediately after the pandemic first hit the country earlier this year. Now, the network has introduced an extra process designed to provide thorough, longer-lasting protection against bacteria and viruses.

The technology behind the new process uses an anti-static application, which treats all surfaces with a fine mist of a water-based disinfectant, delivering continued protection against 99.9% of bacteria for up to 30 days, and you can read the full story here.

Manchester Metrolink

A major increase in capacity in Manchester city centre is needed to keep up with demand, particularly on the Metrolink network, according to media reports.

The Manchester Evening news has carried a story saying transport officials are looking at ‘the feasibility’ of a city centre metro tunnel.

Proposals include a tunnel which would allow bigger trams to operate and shorter-distance suburban rail lines from Greater Manchester into the city centre that could be converted into metro/ tram-train operation.

It’s understood the aim is not for travellers to use a tunnel to get around the city centre, but to increase capacity for services arriving from potential new Metrolink destinations around the region.

Luas Dublin

A proposal to have an underground ‘loop’ at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin to link the MetroLink rail project to the Luas is an option being considered as part of a review of national transport strategy, the Irish Times reports.

Minister of State Pippa Hackett is reported as saying there’s a need to ‘review and refresh’ the strategy, to ensure it is kept up to date and informed by the latest developments.

By law the strategy must be reviewed every six years and the National Transport Authority will launch a public consultation next year.

Tyne & Wear Metro

Metro passengers can now use a smartphone app to see how busy it is during the coronavirus crisis.

Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, has added the new feature to its travel app to aid customers who need to make a journey, easing some of the stress around maintaining social distancing.

It allows users to identify quieter times on the Metro, allowing them to make informed decisions about when to travel – and see what other customers have reported.

The current advice to passengers is to avoid busier times and to only make journeys which are essential, and you can read the full story here (

Extension Projects

A major milestone for the Birmingham Westside Metro extension was achieved on 20 September 2020.

Tracks laid last year in Centenary Square were successfully welded to brand-new rail installed in Broad Street.

The activity is part of phase two of the light rail construction project underway in the city centre. Now more than 950 metres of double track have been installed in various locations between Broad Street and Five Ways heading towards Edgbaston Village, with only 120m of track yet to be put in place on Broad Street between Gas and Berkley Street junctions.

Last week another step towards completion was achieved, with concrete poured in to encase the track in its final position.

You can read the full story here.


Blackpool Heritage Tours had said a huge thank you to everyone who supported its 135th Anniversary Event last weekend.

A pared-down event due to Covid-19 restrictions meant that no depot tours could take place, however the ‘tram procession’ held on Sunday morning made for some magnificent photographs!

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