Darling's lack of grip on reality
Sir - Having read in your July issue of the construction of two new light rail systems, in Eskisehir, Turkey (p400) and Athens, Greece (p423) it came as a surprise to see in your August issue (p447) that UK Transport Secretary Alistair Darling had produced a transport white paper 'which confirmed that he has stopped light rail development in England dead in its tracks' owing to 'escalation in project costs'.
The articles in the July issue quoted a cost of US$118m (infrastructure only) for the 17·4 km system in Eskisehir and US$380m for the 26 km system in Athens. In Eskisehir the project is being financed by soft loans from European banks; in Athens funding is 50:50 by the Greek government and the European Union.
Has Mr Darling considered using suitable external sources for funding the new LRT systems in England? Presumably such sources could also be used for Crossrail and help to close the 'substantial funding gap'. The possibility of local fuel and sales tax hikes has not even been considered and yet such measures have been very successful in several US cities for raising funds for LRT.
Do the external loans to the new European systems recognise the risk of an escalation in project costs which is a likely hazard of any new rail project? If so, how is this allocated? A similar concern with cost overuns recently caused the cancellation of the proposed Vancouver - Richmond light rail system. However, it does not appear to be 'rocket science' to come up with a formula to deal with such issues. There are many insurance and reinsurance companies that would be able to handle the financial implications.
The all-or-nothing approach by Mr Darling is totally unacceptable to the good citizens of Leeds and Portsmouth. They now appear unable to enjoy the benefits of light rail in their cities for many years, unlike those of Eskisehir and Athens.
Sir - You state (RG 7.04 p390) that the new Köln-Bonn Airport station is the ninth airport station in Germany.
I do not think this is correct. Berlin Schönefeld, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt-am-Main, Friedrichshafen, Hannover, Köln-Bonn, Leipzig-Halle, München and Stuttgart have main line links already. In addition, Berlin Tempelhof and Nürnberg can be reached by underground and Bremen Airport by tram.
Friedrichshafen Stadt must have been one of the first intermodal rail/air stations in the world, as it was adjacent to the Zeppelin terminal on the Bodensee.
Sir - There are several errors in the articles about railway projects in Greece (RG 7.04 p423). I should like to take this opportunity to correct the information you published.
The Y-shaped tram network has a length of 22·3 km, not 26 km. A further 2·4 km of route provides access to the depot. There will be 49 stops, not 48, assuming all are finished this year.
The difference in width between the Rotem metro trains and the OSE Desiro trains is only 80mm. The reason why the metro trains cannot call at the railway platforms is that the metro uses high-floor vehicles and the railway low-floor Desiro trains.
Regarding the metro stations, Halandri on Line 3 opened on July 24, and Douk Plakentias station on July 28.
It is not clear whether the Line 2 metro extension will connect with the light rail network at Elliniko. If this is the case, it will be necessary to build a light rail line extension of several hundred metres in Elliniko.
Finally, following a recent visit, I suggest that the figure of 80% of electrification work being complete on the OSE trunk line between Athens and Thessaloniki is optimistic, and no electrification masts were evident in Athens when I was there. It may be correct that electrification works have started on 80% of the route.