Slim chance of any tram system for Liverpool, reveals Metro Mayor

The proposed Merseytram scheme

Any bid to introduce a light rail system in Liverpool would take at least a decade to deliver.

That is the stark warning from Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram.

Liverpool has a woeful record in its bids to reintroduce trams to its streets, since they were scrapped in 1957.

Since then there have been three costly attempts to create light rail systems in and around the city, including a much vaunted route to Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The last attempt, early in the noughties, ended in abject failure, with £821,000 of new rails sitting on a dockside in Hull for years before eventually being sold off at a third of the original cost, or scrapped.

The Government provided backing for the Merseytram scheme in 2002, before it was shelved five years later after repeated delays and rising costs, with the final bill to the public purse reaching £70m.

Mayor Rotheram, who has overseen the acquisition of a new £500m train fleet, was speaking at The Northern Transport Summit 2023 at Liverpool’s Maritime Museum last week and was quizzed on rubber particulates pollution levels from bus tyres, even eco-friendly hydrogen buses, with light rail suggested as a better alternative to buses.

He responded: “The reasons we haven’t got a light rail system is because we were the first to have the opportunity for a tram under the Labour Government.

“They gave us £170m to build it, and it’s because we didn’t have a political structure of different local authorities all working together.

“We have now got that, that’s what the combined authority is for, so it’s not about vested interests, it’s about a collaboration between different organisations and different agencies and different local authorities.

“If we have it today we could deliver it, but we couldn’t deliver it at the time.

“The rails were bought, as you probably know, and had to be scrapped, so that shows you there has been enormous progress.

“The very fact that we’re buying our own trains shows you that you can do these things because that’s £500m of brand new rolling stock and we are doing that.

“But you can’t wave a magic wand and all of a sudden buses will be gone and there won’t be any pollution.

“We need to move towards more sustainable environmental solutions to the transport issues that we have already got.

“But even now, if we had a beneficial government that said, ‘you know what, you can have a tram system’, where and when, because some of those routes that previously were identified have now been built over.

“So we would have to start again, and that is going to take at least a decade.”