CONSTRUCTION of a fifth British light rail network is to get under way this year. Nottingham Express Transit will get revenue support worth £167m under the government's local authority Private Finance Initiative scheme.

Announcing the award on December 3, Transport Minister Dr John Reid said that as this will take up 'a large part' of the Department of Transport, Environment & the Regions' allocation for local PFIs, the government will not be able to fund other light rail schemes 'for the foreseeable future'. But in the longer term 'local authorities will be able to fund further transport projects by raising new money from congestion and parking charges.'

The 13 km network will link Nottingham station with Hucknall, north of the city; a branch will run to a park-and-ride facility at Cinderhill near the M1 motorway. There will be interchange at Hucknall and Bulwell with Central Trains' Nottingham - Mansfield route, which the light rail line will parallel for 8 km. Services are due to start in 2002.

NET will be built and operated by Arrow Light Rail, a consortium led by Adtranz Total Rail Systems and including Tarmac Construction, French tram operator Transdev and Nottingham City Transport. Adtranz will be responsible for the supply of 15 Eurotrams to be built at Derby, plus signalling, electrification and equipping the maintenance depot.