Could tramway solve Preston's traffic chaos?

Ambitious plans to install a tram system through Preston could ease the city's congestion chaos, its designers have claimed.

Wednesday, 25th October 2017, 7:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:29 am
Prof Lewis Lesley of the Preston Tramway project running a bendy-bus down the tram-route to recreate traffic conditions

The brains behind the Preston Guild Tramway proposals say major progress is being made with works on a pilot line due to start by the end of the year.

And they say a full tramway - with 12 stops across the city - could be in service for 2019, drawing hundreds of cars off already congested routes.

Director of Preston Trampower, Prof Lewis Lesley, and colleagues have been on site this week making traffic calculations at key junctions before final plans are submitted to city authorities.

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He said: “It will have a major impact (on congestion). We expect it to take about 25 per cent of the cars off that corridor.

“We have undertaken household surveys across the city and around 80 per cent said they welcome the idea and around the same amount would say they would use it at least twice a week.

“Hopefully, attitudes will convert to actual behaviour and we have factored in 1.8m passengers in our first year.”

The Guild line would have 12 stops, running from Preston Railway Station up to junction 31a of the M6, with a further congestion-busting park and ride system pencilled in.

Planning approval for a pilot project utilising pre-existing but disused rail track in Deepdale was given planning approval last year.

Preparatory works on the less than one mile stretch are due to start imminently and is being treated as a significant landmark.

Petros Price, a transport expert attached to the tramway project, said: “The pilot study will include a depot and a short section of tram line and a road crossing.

“That is to start training tram drivers to get them familiar with the operating system and that side of things.

“After a long time, it’s finally getting there. It’s giving us a new impetus to getting the permissions for a commercial service.

“We will soon be negotiating with highways agencies regarding the service and the exact location of stops and stations.”

Throughout this week, Prof Lesley and Mr Price have been conducting tests on how a tram would impact traffic at busy junctions, including the interchange at Church Street and Ringway.

A ‘bendy’ bus has been hired in place of a tram, giving a glimpse of what the new service would entail.

Mr Price said: “One of the main on-street issues with trams is how it will affect the junction across Ringway; the idea today is to create a model for that effect.

“We’ve been videoing and surveying the junction throughout this week, we will look at traffic queue lengths, changes in signal timings, delays to vehicles and basically how a tram would affect wider traffic characteristics of the junction.

“The bendy bus is similar to a tram (in size), we’ll get a very good idea of how the junction will operate with a tram with a six-minute frequency.”

Prof Price added: “It will have an impact as we’re not factoring in those using a park and ride for Deepdale Retail Park. The tramway will alter the dynamics of the transport network.

“We need to satisfy ourselves that it can operate safely and effectively, without disrupting other traffic, so that’s why we have commissioned this survey of key traffic junctions.”