Preston Trampower has appointed Eric Wright Civil Engineering as the contractor for an ambitious £25m plan to bring tram services back to Preston for the first time since the 1930s.
The proposed Guild Line will consist of 3.5-mile tramway, starting with a 1,250-metre-long pilot line in the Deepdale area of the city.
The first stage of the project will see the pilot line built on a stretch of the former Longridge to Preston railway with work expected to get underway by March 2018.
A second phase of the line which aims to link the city centre with employment sites on the edge of the city is subject to a planning application being submitted this year.
While the pilot line will initially be limited to free demonstration rides and staff training, the service could welcome its first paying passengers as early as 2019 if the plans are approved this year.
Preston Trampower and Eric Wright signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the scheme during a sod-cutting ceremony on the tramway site.
Professor Lewis Lesley, technical director for Preston Trampower Ltd, said: “To have such a prestigious local contractor on board is another huge vote of confidence in this project.
“We’ve all seen how the Manchester Metrolink has been instrumental in the growth of that city and I have no doubt that a Preston tram system can provide a huge shot in the arm for the city’s economy.
“We’ve put years of hard work and detailed research into this project. By utilising existing rail infrastructure, we can deliver this tramway with the minimum of disruption to residents and motorists. While only a small section of track is being built initially, we’re confident the full Guild Line can soon become a reality.”
Diane Bourne, managing director of Eric Wright Civil Engineering, added: “Signing this memorandum of understanding is an important milestone and reassures the people who live and work in Preston that the new tramway is coming.
“As a local contractor with a strong heritage across Preston, we’re very proud to be leading the project. We’re looking forward to starting on site and delivering a quality scheme that meets local need and that the community can be proud of.
“City centre tramway projects are proven to bring numerous benefits and we’re aiming to replicate this same success within Preston.”
The pilot line will see a length of the former railway between Skeffington Road and Deepdale Street reinstated. A new tram station, platform and tram shed is being built, helping to clean-up the currently derelict and neglected land.
Under the longer-term plans for the Guild Line, the service would have 12 stops on key sites in the city including Deepdale Shopping Park, Preston North End FC’s Deepdale stadium, and later the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
Six trams would run at six minute intervals for most of the day and Preston Trampower forecast that 1.8 million tram trips should be made annually on the Guild Line, reducing congestion and pollution.
It would utilise existing railway infrastructure for most of its length, switching to an LR55 system where it meets the road network. The LR55 track system ‘glues’ into the road surface and doesn’t require large-scale excavation work.
Preston Trampower has already lined up private investment to deliver the infrastructure for the tram service, as well as additional funds for the leasing of trams.
Lincoln Shields, director of Preston Trampower Ltd, added: “The Guild Line tram will be a fast, frequent and convenient way for people to reach the city centre without having to fight for a parking place. The chronic level of congestion in the city centre, and the health-threatening toxic traffic air pollution will be eased by pollution-free trams.”
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