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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 19:39 GMT
Troubled tram scheme 'in ruins'
Artist's impression of Merseytram
The tram aimed to be running for the Capital of Culture celebrations
The Merseytram project is "in ruins" after Merseytravel lost its legal fight against the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

The passenger transport authority argued Mr Darling had broken the law when he withdrew 170m government funding for the project in November.

He had told local councils they needed to guarantee to cover cost overruns.

The High Court in London ruled on Wednesday that Mr Darling had acted legally.

Merseytravel had said once the decision was taken to build a tram line from Kirkby to Liverpool Mr Darling should not have discussed funding issues with any other party.

'Rusting' rail line

It said he had acted illegally in asking Knowsley and Liverpool Councils to offer unlimited guarantees to cover the full cost of the project, instead of asking Merseytravel direct.

Jim Hancock, the BBC's Political Editor in the North West, said the judge's ruling meant the Merseytram project was "in ruins".

"Around 55m has been spent on preliminary works, some of that had to be done anyway in the centre of Liverpool, but there's 1,000 tonnes of rail line on a dock in Humberside that's going to be rusting away," he said.

"As far as one can see the project is dead."

Capital of Culture

The leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Warren Bradley, said the decision was a blow for the north of the city, where the tram was intended to help regeneration.

Despite being refused permission to appeal, Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales said it intended to explore possible avenues to overturn the ruling.

The tram line was intended to open in 2008 in time for Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations.

Two further routes to Whiston Hospital and Liverpool John Lennon Airport were expected to follow.

Liverpool and Knowsley councils agreed to guarantee up to 24m to cover any overrun, but refused to offer an unlimited guarantee.

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29 Nov 05 |  Merseyside

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