Friday, 26 August 2011
Trams Move More People!
In my mind, I tend to associate trams with more foreign climes. It seems entirely natural to ride around City Centres such as Brussels, Amsterdam and Zagreb on a tram, and people accept them as part of the natural landscape.
In England, didn't we do away with most of our trams years ago, only to leave them in the corners of of memories as shimmering black & white cine film footage?
We sometimes forget that, whilst we can't compete with some of our near Euro neighbours for the numbers of tram networks, we do actually have a few of our own - and they're flourishing.
We have the world-famous Blackpool system, with it's fabulous 1930s Balloon cars, the excellent Croydon system, the Docklands Light Railway, Manchester Metrolink, the soon to be extended Midland Metro, the NET in Nottingham (Nottingham Express Transit), Sheffield Supertram (which I "mystery shopped" a few years ago for an awards ceremony - and I found to be excellent) and the quirky but brilliant Tyne & Wear Metro ("quirky" as I find it quite small, being 6' 7" myself!)
Why am I celebrating our tram systems?
The Department for Transport has released some figures announcing that patronage is doing very nicely! Passenger journeys have increased by 5.5% in the last year across the systems.
In 2010/1 there were 196.5m passenger journeys - the highest number to date. Vehicle miles increased by 1.8% to nearly 14m miles.
It seems we English love our trams! And why not? I even still get a tad excited when I'm on my local Midland Metro goes onto the street-running section in Wolverhampton! Quite why, I'm not sure!
We often baulk at the cost of creating new tram systems, and it's true they don't come cheap. But they are a real statement of quality public transport, whichever City in England or across Europe they are in. It's a pity there is such a row in Edinburgh over the saga in building that City's new tram service.
Birmingham's Midland Metro will soon emerge from the corner of Snow Hill where it currently terminates and onto the City streets to link into the "new" New Street rail station. To have it visible to so many is exactly what it needs, even if there are concerns about where all the buses in Corporation Street are going to go. Trams are statements of vibrant Cities and Birmingham needs them. All we need now (as if it sounds that simple!) are more lines. The Midland Metro - over 11 years since it opened, mostly on an old disused rail line - remains a single service. It needs to be part of a network across the wider Centro / West Midlands area. Let's hope Government proposals for a change in the way such large projects can be funded proves to be the tipping point into having more of them.
In the meantime, let's celebrate England's trams moving more people!