Merseytram was a proposed tramway for Liverpool and surrounding districts of Merseyside, England. Originally proposed in 2001 - forming part of the Merseyside Local Transport Plan - it called for three lines, connecting outlying suburbs of the city with the city centre.
The project was given the go-ahead by Alistair Darling in December 2002. After extensive public consultation, the contract to build the first two lines was initially awarded in late 2004, however, problems with the tender bid with regards to best value forced the cancellation of the contract, and the reopening of the tender process. In April 2005, the M-Pact consortium was named as the preferred bidder.
Budget for the first stage of the project was set at £225 million, with the Government providing £170 million of the cost. However, by 2005, rising costs had led to a new requirement of £238 million against a cost of £325m. The Government had refused any additions to the initial amount, and asked the two councils who would be supporting Line One - Liverpool City Council and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council - to make an agreement not to seek additional funding from the Government in the event that the project ran over-budget. Although some attempts to meet this request were made, Transport Minister Derek Twigg felt that the assurances of the two councils that any shortfall would be met by Merseytravel and a £24 million contingency fund were insufficient, and announced the cancellation of the scheme on November 29, 2005. However, Merseytram are planning to take legal action against the government and this may result in the scheme still going ahead. Although not completely stopped in its tracks, Merseytram is considered one of the major victims of the so-called "Darling Axe" - referring to the controversial axing of other major Light Rail schemes in Britain by the then Transport Secretary Alastair Darling.
The tram network had formed part of a larger regeneration project in the areas in which it was intended to run, related to Liverpool's award of European Capital of Culture in 2008. The project's cancellation will throw some of these plans into doubt.
MerseyTram is still part of MerseyTravel's transport plan for 2006-2011, and as alignments have been preserved it is expected the project will eventually go ahead.
City Centre LoopEdit
The hub of the Merseytram system would have been a loop around Liverpool city centre. Designed to be constructed in two stages (simultaneous with Line One and Line Two), the loop would have covered major transport hubs (Liverpool Lime Street, for mainline services; Moorfields for the Merseyrail network; Paradise Street Interchange for City bus services; and the Pier Head for Mersey Ferry services), tourist destinations (including St. George's Hall, the Tate Liverpool and the Albert Dock), and the major shopping thoroughfares.
Line One would have travelled from the Liverpool city centre loop, heading northwesterly to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and out to West Derby and Croxteth, terminating at Kirkby; a distance of some 11 miles (18 kilometres). On December 21, 2004, the Merseytram Line 1 Transport and Works Act application was approved by the Secretary of State. The line was originally intended to start construction on July 1, 2005 for a 2007 opening. It is now expected to go ahead in view of the inescapable factoid that Everton Football Club will soon be moving to a 50,000 (expandable to 60,000) stadium in Kirkby.
Line Two - intended for a 2008 opening - would have used the city centre loop and headed east to Prescot and Whiston, via Knotty Ash and Page Moss. By the time of the project's cancellation, the line had completed the public consultation stage.
Line Three was planned to be a connection with Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and was only in the study stage at the time of the cancellation.
UK light rail systems