Public Transport hits the headlines at Lib Dem Conference

September 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Fighting for better public transport for Rochdale!The importance of public transport systems has hit the headlines at a number of Fringe Events at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth. The extension of Metrolink, better value for money from our buses, tram trains and the campaign to attract money into Greater Manchester as part of the Transport Innovation Fund Bid were all raised by delegates at meetings of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority and the All-Party Group on Light Rail.

Paul Rowen, Rochdale MP and Chairman of the All-Party Group on Light Rail said: "As usual transport issues have been predominant in our thoughts during our busy Conference. This is even before our debate on our new transport policy tomorrow."

Mr Rowen said in his speech to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Light Rail: "In recent years, a decline in bus patronage has been matched by an increase in car ownership and usage. Light Rail offers a genuinely attractive alternative to the car. High capacity vehicles providing fast, frequent, reliable services giving direct access to city centres have a unique ability to deliver significant modal shift, typically 15-20% compared to 4-6% for bus. For example, in an hour light rail vehicles can accommodate 3,500 passengers. It would take 46 single deck or 33 deck buses to match this.

"Light Rail is special because of its popularity with the public - people see its development as a sure sign that 'an area is on the up'. I know that Metrolink delivered into the heart of Rochdale's Town Centre will make a massive difference, not just in terms of improving public transport but also in terms of regeneration.

"High performing local economies are underpinned by excellent transport systems for local businesses and, by providing new, direct links to employment, education / training and leisure opportunities light rail has delivered economic and social benefits for local communities and businesses across the country as well as giving developers the confidence to invest in regeneration projects across the conurbations.

"Promoters of light rail schemes have invested in facilities that we know passengers want and which encourage people to use public transport. With so many obvious benefits, why has the UK not embraced light rail in the same way as so many other European countries? What have been the obstacles to developing schemes been and how can these be overcome in the future? Will the tram-train concept revitalise light rail in the UK? And can we resolve issues surrounding track sharing with traditional heavy rail?"