Demo line puts Preston tram plans on track

Design for City Class tram

Preston Trampower has won planning approval to build a demonstrator line as part of its plans to bring passenger tram services back to the city after an absence of 85 years.

The company has gained planning consent for a 200-metre long section of line using part of the old Longridge railway between Skeffington Road and West View Leisure Centre in Ribbleton.

The demonstrator line will include new track, overhead lines and a new station platform, as well as new lighting and an adjacent cycleway and footpath.

Preston Trampower hopes to begin work on the project early next year with the potential to start offering demonstration rides to stakeholders and other interested parties later in 2021.

It would be the first time passenger trams have run in Preston since the mid-1930s.

It’s part of a wider plans to introduce a 5km-long Guild Line running from the M6 motorway at junction 31A, down the line of the old Longridge railway, through Ribbleton and Deepdale into the heart of the city centre’s university quarter.

Preston Trampower has lined up Eric Wright Civil Engineering to undertake the work to complete the demonstration section of the line.

Lincoln Shields, a director of Preston Trampower, said: “Our plans to bring clean and sustainable tram services back to Preston have been a long time in the making and we are really gathering momentum now.

“Preston is one of England’s fastest growing cities and a modern tram system would deliver huge benefits for the city, unlocking economic growth and offering safe, clean and reliable transport.

“We’re thrilled to have secured planning consent for our demonstration line which will help people to see first hand how it can enhance and regenerate the city.”

Shields added: “Our determination to make the Guild Line and other future routes a reality remains undiminished. This is a project that makes absolute sense for a forward-thinking, ambitious and growing city like Preston.”

A planning application for the wider £25m Guild Line project is expected to be submitted in 2021.

The project will be privately funded. Cheshire-based Snowball Alternative Finance has been appointed to seek ‘green’ investment funding from its network of high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs.

The Guild Line service would have 12 stops on key sites in the city including Deepdale Retail Park, West View Leisure Centre, and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Around 18,000 Preston residents live within half a kilometre of a tram stop on the proposed route. Trams would run at six-minute intervals for most of the day with an estimated 1.8 million tram trips made annually.

The line would utilise existing railway infrastructure for most of its length, switching to an LR55 track system where it meets the road network.

3D visual of Guild Line tramstop

The LR55 track system ‘glues’ into the road surface and doesn’t require large-scale excavation work.

The company first gained planning permission for a demonstrator line as far back as 2010, and again in 2016, but issues around land ownership meant the plans have had to be revised.

PWA Planning has advised Preston Trampower on the planning application.

The company’s professional team also includes Smithers Purslow and Reid Jones Partnership architects and civil and structural engineers, and O’Neill and Partner as chartered surveyors and construction cost consultants.

Tram operations in Preston came to halt in December 1935, when the final tram journey between Fulwood and Preston took place.

Prior to the Second World War, Preston was the tramcar building capital of Britain with manufacturers like Dick, Kerr & Co and English Electric making cars for tramways around the world.

Proposed Guild Line route