UK: Calls for a Light Rail System in City to Help Get Bombardier Back on Track

A light rail system should be built in Derby to showcase the city's engineering talent and bring work to Bombardier.

That is the message ambassadors for the city plan to take to the Prime Minister.

They are looking for Government investment in Derby to compensate for its decision not to award the Thameslink contract to the city's trainmaker.

And politicians and business leaders believe one way David Cameron could make amends for the "crass decision" to name German firm Siemens as the preferred bidder is to invest in Derby's own transport system.

John Forkin, director of Marketing Derby, said: "The idea of a light rail system has been around in various forms for some time.

"We already have much of the skills and talent in the rail industry, not just in Bombardier but other companies, to come up with this showcase piece of high-tech work as a demonstrator of what we can do, but also as a practical tool to move people around the city.

"This has been talked about before and now, in light of the Bombardier decision, is an opportunity to either look at this idea seriously or never talk about it again."

Government cash would be needed to make the system a reality.

While Bombardier as a company creates trams and light railway carriages, those are not made at its Litchurch Lane plant, which is predominantly a train manufacturer.

Money would therefore be needed to allow the company to adapt the plant to construct the stock in Derby for the city, and also for other potential future contracts.

Bombardier currently has a Flexity range of light rail systems and has supplied more than 2,500 trams and light rail vehicles to about 100 cities in more than 20 countries.

Government cash would also be needed to allow a light rail system to be built here.

Chris Williamson, Derby North MP, began looking at a light rail network for the city when he was in control of Derby City Council.

He said: "This is certainly something we should press for. The Government owes us one, given it has sold Derby short on so many occasions and particularly with this latest crass decision."

The system would ideally link a park-and-ride off the A52 near Celanese with a proposed sports arena at Pride Park, as well as Pride Park Stadium, Derby College's Roundhouse campus, the Derby Midland Railway Station, and potentially the city's bus station in the Morledge.

Mr Williamson said: "This wouldn't replace the £1.4billion order for Bombardier but it would help to tide Bombardier over and keep a train manufacturing base in the city until the next major order."

The city MP believes that, with the right political will and investment, the light rail system could be a quick reality for the city.

But it is not the only door at which Derby is pushing in the halls of power.

Council leader Philip Hickson has set up a Bombardier task force made up of people such as the authority's chief executive and UK Bombardier chairman, Colin Walton, to talk through the next steps.

He said he wanted the Government to ensure that the High Speed 2 link between London and Leeds came through Derby.

It will be one of the key issues discussed by the task force when it meets on Monday.

Another will be the council's intention to press the Government for investment into Derby's regeneration fund. The authority set up the £10 million pot of money to help kick-start development projects in Derby.

Some of that cash has already been allocated to help companies begin work on constructing office blocks in the city. The council will then recoup the money once the buildings are sold.

Mr Hickson said: "We would be wanting a substantial amount - several million - to help us stimulate business projects and other startup projects.

Money to improve the city's education to ensure youngsters are trained in the skill areas the city needs for its industry is also on the agenda, as is money for the city's infrastructure, in addition to the light rail plans. The council said it needed investment to improve key city road junctions such as the A38 at Kingsway and the Little Chef roundabout at Little Eaton.

Mr Hickson said: "I think these suggestions are realistic.

Clearly we don't think Gov-ernment is likely to reverse its decision on the contract so what we need to do is put forward these recommendations strongly so any damage to the rail industry can be packed out in other areas."

kgreen@derbytelegraph.co.uk

"Should Bombardier decide to close ... the decision will be due to Government stupidity." OPINIONS, PAGE 10

"The Government owes us one, given it has sold Derby short on so many occasions." CHRIS WILLIAMSON

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