Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation (RT 28)

  We heartily welcome your coming investigation into Light Rapid Transit Systems. We should appreciate making a contribution to an Evidence session.

  We feel that what we bring to the debate is a severely practical approach. We combine professional knowledge with a down-to-earth approach which, if adopted, would do much to improve the country's problems with pollution, congestion, mental and physical health; this approach would, in the long term, also be the most economical solution.

  Technical experts abound, and most of them could put in a light rail system if asked. But the point is getting there, inducing the political will which will only be forthcoming if the advantages are made glaringly apparent and the people who wield the political power are obliged to accept the logic of the argument.

  We should like to contribute to that argument.

  We believe that light rail is the supreme way of travelling is towns; no other form of transport even rivals it; those of us familiar with Europe can testify that trams are quiet, self policing, totally acceptable environmentally, and bring an atmosphere of tranquility to the hurly-burly of traffic.

  All impartial observers must agree to this. Nevertheless, the DETR has opted for "smart buses" which aren't really smart at all. Why? "They cost less" say the DETR. But only in the short term; in the long term (20 years) trams cost less. We can demonstrate this. No doubt John Prescott's "experts have "proved" that buses are the way ahead. They are wrong.

  We have studied public transport systems in different countries; we have consulted technical experts—the people who run the system—in Paris (RATP, SNCF), Berlin, Rouen, Strasbourg, Geneva, Zurich. One colleague lives in Croydon and has followed the coming tram from its inception. Another in Manchester.

  We have consulted Scott McIntosh, London Transport trams planner; together we tried to persuade Haringey Council to revive the tram that went from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. To no avail, alas.

  We have also consulted him on trams through Islington, W.1, Paddington, Victoria. But, although keen, he too is a victim of lack of political will and of what are essentially road lobby solutions, which will simply make things worse.

  We followed the struggles of the Mayor of Strasbourg, Catherine Trautmann, who finally succeeded in getting her light rail system through. In the event, after it was installed it was so appreciated that her majority at the next election increased.

  We would ask George Stern, MA, BSc, MSc, Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a Trustee of this Foundation, to present our financial arguments.

  George Stern is a mathematician, statistician and barrister. He has appeared at many inquiries and dealt with numbers, notably at the four Archway motorway inquiries, at the High Court in Edinburgh, at the Romney Marsh by-pass inquiries, etc. His are the figures in Haringey Council's Blueprint for Transport which were subjected to two academic investigations and proved. He would deal effectively with the financial case and with any questions arising.

  He has also lectured on light rail systems—"A Tram along Upper Street"—and would expand on this. We felt Upper Street, Islington, was the archetypal example of a city tram.

Nina Tuckman, Trustee.

October 1999

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