Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Nottingham's tram - past, present and future

Nottingham tram is 5 years old.

In 2002, when I was busy making multiple visits to London to see The Coast of Utopia at the National Theatre, I came back from one trip eager to complete my film and get the photographs developed. (Yes, these were pre-digital days for me).

To fill the film I took a large number of shots of the redevelopment of the city centre and the significant road upheaval generated by the coming of the first new tram in decades.

Many were skeptical or disapproving of the development: unsurprisingly, many of those most antagonistic were those who lived close to the scheduled route that inevitably passed close by to some areas of housing. And undeniably the disruption of the tram line being installed was considerable - and, of course, it over-ran.

But five years on, it's hard to imagine Nottingham without it. The speed and convenience it offers from early morning til late is fabulous. Parking is free at the sites and ticket prices are simple and comparable to bus fares (whilst offering routes much quicker).

Sure, there are problems. Not least are the problems of getting this network to be joined up with other aspects of the local transport network - whilst you can get bus/tram tickets, and the current line goes directly to the train station (with an easy walk inside), the single line route fails to address the broader city-wide issues of accessing the city centre, let alone the fact that to the south of the city many residents fall into the county bus provision and so struggle to make city bus company connections.

Which brings me to the future of the tram.

Yes, these developments are expensive - both in the short term and to a certain extent in the long term. But they are important and sadly I don't agree that simply adding bus routes is the way to go (for a start, I really don't want to be adding big bus pollution to the city's roads).

Still, the nay-sayers are currently getting a lot of attention, not least because the Tories see scrapping the tram a vote winning way of lopping some money of expenditure. This will be, frankly, a disaster (and I don't say that just because the planned extension of the route will come close enough to where we live to benefit from this additional travel option: given how long these things take, I'm unlikely to see much benefit for me anyway).

The new tram routes will allow for a much more connected provision to the south of the county and city area. I can't really see what the major savings will be. But then again the Tories are keen to be seen saving money and it's a high profile Labour-supported project... I guess for them it makes 'sense' to cut the project off...

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