Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

City tram scheme back on agenda


Councillors in Swansea are looking at various proposals for a new transport system with ideas ranging from trams to a monorail.

Long-held plans for a multi-million pound tram system in and around Swansea are back on the agenda.

City councillors have discussed the feasibility of a tram network in the city .

Campaigner Rob Speht said there was growing public support for the scheme which could see Swansea linked to Llanelli and Port Talbot by tram.

Swansea was the home of the world's first passenger train, which opened more than 200 years ago.

Mr Speht, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Landore, is chairman of the environment, regeneration and culture overview board which discussed reintroducing trams to Swansea.

He has been campaigning on the issue for several years.

Well of support

"Over the past year or so around 1,000 people have signed petitions to persuade Swansea council to look at bringing trains back.

"This is growing at a rate of about 10 to 20 signatures per day at the moment through the online petition on the website.

"In Swansea there is a deep well of sentiment for trams, as the very first tram in the world - Mumbles Railway - was built here more than 200 years ago," he said.

The Mumbles Railway opened in 1807 to connect the east and west of Swansea, but was dismantled in 1960.

Mr Speht said Swansea could now be inspired by the experience of other cities, such as Nottingham and Manchester, and further afield in Germany.

Mumbles railway
The Mumbles railway opened more than 200 years ago

"Swansea's city centre economy is stifled by the fact that you can't get people in and out fast enough," argued the councillor.

"If you look at the city, it was designed really before cars came into being.

"If you think about growth and economic development, if you want a vibrant city centre, then it is naturally limited by cars."

Mr Speht said Monday's discussion was the first step at re-examining the feasibility of a tram system for Swansea.

"This work will consume us for a year or two. It is only 12 or 24 months from now that we will know whether it is worth proceeding with or not."

The councillor said he favoured private methods of funding much of the project, if it was to go ahead, at an estimated cost of 400m.

Mr Speht said he believed the city council would need to find around 50m of the cash, over several years.

He also said the timescale for a tram project would out last the current economic crisis, allowing banks and private finance to invest in the scheme.

"The timescale of projects like these are five to eight years. But first there are a lot of boxes that need ticking - public consultation, financing, planning," he said.

"It is not until around five years down the line that the banks need to come onboard.

"There's certainly political support to examine this issue, and I think generally the public are behind it."

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