The DECISION by the UK government on July 20 to abort three light rail projects at the final bidding stage in Manchester, Leeds and South Hampshire (RG 8.04 p447) has sparked a furious reaction.

Chris Mulligan, Director General of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, spoke of ’enormous resentment’ over the cancellation of the 56 km ’big bang’ Metrolink expansion to which £200m had already been committed. A further £100m within the funding package was needed for essential track renewals and new trams to ease congestion on the existing line to Bury, and the cost of retaining diesel suburban services on the line through Oldham which would have been replaced by trams is put at £100m over the next 10 years.

Hampshire County Council Leader Ken Thornber said ’we remain fully committed to South Hants Rapid Transit [and] we will explore every option - to do nothing is not an option.’ SHRT costs had increased from £171m to £270m for the 14 km line because of ’higher insurance premiums after 9/11’, high construction inflation, more utility diversions, and a demand from the Royal Navy to deepen the tunnel under the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour in case they ordered new, bigger ships.

The Light Rapid Transit Forum, which speaks for light rail professionals, identified as key problems the very high cost of work associated with the national rail network, the high financing premium demanded for passing patronage and ridership risk to the private sector, and ’the lack of an accepted method for evaluating those schemes which are driven mainly by regeneration and environmental concerns.’ n