After years of stalling, Preston’s tram plans could finally be on track.
Officers at Preston Council have recommended a pilot scheme in Deepdale for approval, after the latest application assured officers that the proposed line would not be available for public use.
The pilot line in Deepdale, if approved, will stretch less than a mile, and will be used only for training and “familiarisation with equipment”, as well as as a demonstrator to other authorities.
The plans would see the reinstatement of part of the former Preston to Longridge railway line, with leaders describing the future project as a “big benefit” for the city.
Professor Lewis Lesley of Trampower Ltd, the firm behind the plans, said: “We’ve worked very hard going through all the objections that had been raised.
“We hope that what we’re planning to do will be a big benefit for Preston and the people of the city.
“Of course we hope the planning committee will go along with what the officers said.
“We are reassured with what happened last time (in March last year), with officers recommending refusal and six councillors abstaining.”
Professor Lesley said the firm had been in touch with Network Rail and Lancashire County Council since the plans were submitted, and had a “very substantial national contractor” on board.
Lincoln Shields, also of Trampower, added: “There will be no passenger service, that’s excluded from the approval because it’s a pilot programme.
“It is for driver training and familiarisation with equipment, and also for demonstrating to other authorities.”
A report to Preston Council’s planning committee recommended the application, including the erection of masts and overhead cables, the construction of a station platform, and a tram shed, for approval with conditions.
The application site is a section of disused railway line, running from Skeffington Road to Deepdale Street and Fletcher Road, in a south-west to north-east direction.
The report said: “This application is very similar to the previously refused application, but differs from that proposal as the applicant now states that the proposed tramline would not be available for public use, similar to the demonstrator line approved in 2010.”
Six letters of objectors have been received by the council from separate objectors, raising fears including traffic, noise and health and safety.
Five letters of support were also received, saying the proposals were good for the environment, could cut congestion, and could show Preston was “open for investment”.
The report said the feedback had been taken into consideration, and said: “Although the proposal would result in the loss of employment land and would not strictly comply with Development Plan policies in this regard, it is considered that the principle of the use can be supported at this location.
“The proposal would not create a commercial operating tramway, but solely permit a pilot project tramway.
“Any commercial tramway would require consent under the Transport and Works Act.
“Therefore, subject to conditions specific to a pilot project tramway, this nature of proposal would not have a severe impact upon the highway network.”