Eight journalists from leading UK rail industry publications who converged on Nottingham for a special trade media preview of the NET Phase Two tram extension have given the new lines an emphatic thumbs-up.
The trade journalists were able to travel the entire length of the new line to Toton, starting at Nottingham Station and stopping off at significant tram stops such as the Queen’s Medical Centre and Beeston Town Centre before reaching the Toton Lane Park and Ride stop.
Pausing at the tram stop outside the Queen’s Medical Centre after crossing the iconic Ningbo Friendship Bridge over the A52, Sim Harris, Managing Editor of Railnews, said he was impressed by the design and construction of the extension:
“It does seem to be of a very high standard. It’s very good to look at, even on a rather cloudy day. And I think once it’s settled down and the finishing works are done it will be a very good addition to Nottingham.”
Commenting on the new line being the first tram stop to serve a major UK hospital he said: “Bringing any major urban traffic target into the tram network is a good thing, whether it’s a hospital, a transport interchange like a bus or railway station, or whether it’s places of learning… It’s about integrated city living and making it easy for people to get around, ideally without needing to get into a car.”
Christopher Milner, Deputy Editor of The Railway Magazine, said: “I think the extended network is going to be a real pinnacle for the city… This will revolutionise transport in Nottingham.
“I was always impressed with Line One, and having seen this bit of Phase Two it’s increased my impressions of how good Nottingham is. I say that with great reluctance and a heavy heart – as someone coming from Leicester…
“I think the difficulty with building any tram network is that you have to deal with so many hidden problems and it inevitably delays the scheme. People don’t like the disruption, the diversions and everything else the construction phase brings… Now that phase is coming to a conclusion in Nottingham, people will think differently in a few months’ time.”
Journalists also commented on the regeneration which had been sparked by the coming of Phase Two and the restoration and redevelopment of Nottingham Station, a combination which has turned the surrounding area into a development hot spot.
“This always seems to happen,” said Paul Abell, Editor of Today’s Railways, who was in favour of further extensions to the tram network: “We were looking some years ago at all the railway lines that had re-opened in other parts of the country, and in Wales in Scotland, and every railway line that had re-opened exceeded its predictions on passenger numbers. So it does create the regeneration, the interest and the growth. I think it’s good for Nottingham.”
The journalists were also joined by Simon Johnston of Mainspring, organisers of the UK Light Rail Conference, which has just returned to Nottingham for the second year in succession. Said Simon: “I think this is going to make a massive difference to people in the outlying parts of Nottingham.”
On the question of the delayed opening of the Phase Two extensions, Simon commented: “I can’t think of many new lines or extensions world-wide in the last 20 years that haven’t run slightly over time.
“Putting a street-running tramway into any town or city is probably one of the most challenging infrastructure tasks that you could ever imagine. With all the various stakeholders, partners, relationships, the interfaces with roads, houses, utilities etc. it’s a fantastically complicated exercise. I’m not incredibly surprised by the delays – but I think they could be have been much worse.”
James Johnson of Rail Magazine also came away with a positive impression: “The design is a very modern professionally built, European tramway system, what you’d come to expect. Delays do happen, and as a former archaeologist I can understand the issues of digging up streets in the middle of a city. The underground maps are never accurate.
“There have been plenty of smiles from all the locals walking past, so I’m sure it will be received with open arms once it does open. I am sure it will be a great asset to the city.”