Tram trains planned

12 June 2007

Network Rail is reported to be investigating plans with the Department for Transport and a major rail operating company to introduce 'tram-trains' to Britain.

The plan will involve Network Rail financing the multi-million pound acquisition of a fleet of innovative lightweight trains that operate seamlessly between traditional train lines and tram networks.

Although a route has not been decided for the trial, Network Rail is understood to be in talks with Northern Rail, which operates across Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.

The scheme is being presented as a way of streamlining the transport network around major cities - the same vehicle can take passengers across long distances between cities, but then enter urban areas and drop them off nearer their destination, just as a bus or tram would.

The lightweight vehicles, which are already used in cities such as Kassel in Germany, are designed to reduce energy consumption and therefore have a lower carbon footprint while also creating less wear and tear on the railway infrastructure.

As they can brake and accelerate far more quickly than existing trains, time wasted at stops is also significantly reduced.

The parties involved are understood to be in the process of identifying a trial route for the new scheme. Although both Manchester and Newcastle have tram networks, the consortium has not ruled out building new tramlines in an area that does not have an existing network.

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