01 August 2009

Full 'steam' ahead

Nottingham has got everything it wished for, following news yesterday that it has been giving formal approval by the DfT for its planned tram extensions to Chilwell/Beeston and Clifton, being funded through a radical Workplace Parking Levy (WPL).

The local authority plans to raise its contribution towards the Nottingham Express Transit (NET) extension through raising money from the WPL - and we were one of the first to bring details of this, back in May last year.

Essentially, around 500 employers within the city limits have been identified as providing over 10 parking spaces for their employees. These spaces will mean they will fall foul of the new WPL - a fee payable for offering such a concession. Around £5.6 million was initially forecast as raised revenue potential, though transport minister Sadiq Khan, who announced details of Nottingham's windfall yesterday, said the WPL wouldn't commence until 2012, due to the difficult trading conditions.

Employers offering fewer than 10 parking spaces or providing essential services will not have to pay the WPL. The employers can either take this levy on-the-chin or pass the cost onto their employees, who in turn will be forced, financially, into considering other modes of transport to work. It is this scenario that's angered locals. Nottingham City Council are virtually counting on the cost being passed on, otherwise while they'll still receive their revenue as a result of the scheme, the affected companies' workers won't be forced into changing their commuting habits.

The NET extension itself has also angered locals. We reported how city council planners had been marking up for the extended lines before the DfT had given the scheme the go-ahead!

Now, subject to a "successful procurement process", the extensions have been granted. With the government having been somewhat cautious of light rail projects over the past decade - Leeds got told to go back to the drawing board and they're considering the re-introduction of trolleybuses, rather apt considering they celebrate their centenary this year - so giving the backing to not one but two line extensions on the back of what was agreed in Manchester recently, gives a fair amount of heart to those championing such schemes.

The tram extensions are likely to commence construction in 2011 and be completed by 2014. (GL)