Plans for Preston tram remain on track despite funding blow

An artist's impression of how the tram would look running down Fishergate

Preston’s tram plan looks back on track after the group leading the project missed out on government cash for a second time.

Trampower, the company proposing the city’s first light rail system, told the Lancashire Evening Post it intended to pursue the full scheme with a demo line planned behind the West View Leisure Centre, in Ribbleton, making way.

Earlier this week, the project’s £9m Regional Growth Fund bid was overlooked.

A spokesman told the LEP: “Following a meeting with Preston Council, it was determined that plans for the Demonstrator Line would be dropped in order to move ahead with the full Tramway system, in phases.

“Our strategy was never dependent on the Regional Growth Fund and we are confident this will progress supported by private funding, which has been rendered easier to attract as a result of the Government’s “green light” to Light Rail in its recent White Paper.”

The company said it intended to tap into private investors for cash but they may need to find in excess of £86m to fund the first route, the Guild Line, before operations can begin.

Last month, a government review, designed to make light rail more “affordable”, revealed building costs, on average, hit £20.3m per mile.

Commenting on the report, local transport minister Norman Baker, said: “Light rail is good for passengers, good for local economics, good for the local environment and it’s a mode of public transport that passengers really enjoy using.

“That is why I’m committed to doing everything we can to bring costs down to make it a viable option for more communities.”

So Preston could join neighbouring Blackpool and its latest tram overhaul, and Manchester, with its ‘Big Bang’ light rail expansion.

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