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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
300,000 streetcar hits the road
ftr Concept streetcar
It is hoped the Concept could be at stops for just 20 seconds a time
Commuters in Swansea have had a glimpse of the future as a new "streetcar" made its first appearance on a Welsh road.

Heads turned as the 300,000 "ftr Concept," a cross between a tram and bus, was taken for a spin with council and Welsh assembly leaders on board.

Public transport group First and manufacturer The Wright Group hope the 110-passenger vehicle will become a familiar sight in the city by 2007.

First hopes some roads can be adapted to speed up journeys.

It's got the wow factor and the design
Justin Davies, First Cymru
The company has already drawn plans for nine running from Morriston Hospital in the north of Swansea, past the new sports stadium, through the city centre and on to Mumbles.

There have been suggestions about introducing a tram system in Swansea for several years to improve public transport and last year the council set up a working group.

But First Cymru managing director Justin Davies said the streetcar could be introduced at a fraction of the price and was a far more realistic proposal.

Inside the ftr Concept streetcar
Politicians jumped aboard the Concept for its Swansea trial
Stops would be placed roughly every 500m - less frequently than buses - and passengers would pre-pay before boarding, with the aim that it is stationary for only 20 seconds each time.

Sitting at the rear of the quiet, air-conditioned rear carriage, he said: "It's got the wow factor and the design."

The firm estimated highway adaptations would cost 8m, with the council seeking assembly funding. Mr Davies said with these changes passengers could be carried as quickly as if they were in cars.

'Best and biggest'

"If you wanted to do the same route with a tram you would be talking at least about 24m or 25m," said Mr Davies.

"This is realistic. At the moment all buses terminate in the city centre.

"It would link the two hospitals together, the university and the train station.

"It's the best thing and the biggest thing we could do for public transport in Swansea."

The vehicle was unveiled in London in February by UK Transport Secretary Alistair Darling and is set to be operation in York early next year.

Among those on board on its first visit to Wales was Welsh Economic Development Minister and Swansea West AM Andrew Davies, and city council leader Chris Holley.

Council cabinet member for environment John Haque said: "This new concept in public transport will be very welcome.

"We are committed to improving public transport and the streetcar will fit in very well with our long-term plans for a fully integrated transport system in the city."

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