BRITISH Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott confirmed on March 28 that light rail schemes in Leeds, South Hampshire and Bristol had passed a government ’value-for-money’ appraisal. This will enable the promoters to invite bids for a concessionaire to finance, build and operate the lines at a profit. A final go-ahead will not be issued until a contractor has been selected, and a funding package put together which includes the minimum public sector contribution to be covered by the social benefits.

West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive already has powers to build a 28 km network in Leeds costing £487m, and expects to have selected a preferred contractor by mid-2002. This would see the first 12 km route running south to Tingley and Stourton open by 2006 (map). Branches running northwest to Bodington P&R via the University and Headingly, and northeast to Seacroft and York Road would follow.

Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council are joint promoters of the 14 km line from Fareham to Gosport and Portsmouth, costed at £190m (RG 12.00 p818). A public inquiry was held almost two years ago, and approval of a Transport & Works Order is awaited. Construction would start in 2003, for completion in 2006.

Bristol has also been encouraged to apply for a T&W Order, for a £194m line running north to Filton Abbey or the Cribbs Causeway shopping complex. However, DETR says further work is needed ’on some aspects of its detailed plans’. n