Industry experts have discussed the 'Green light for light rail' report, published by Norman Baker MP last month, at the UKTram board meeting on October 12. The Government wants to see the development of tram and light rail systems in England, and has proposed changes to utility diversions and standardisation.
UKTram is set to work with UITP (the international association of public transport) to share best practice on cost effectiveness, procurement procedures and design standards.
UKTram chairman Geoff Inskip said: 'We welcome the minister's report and the challenge to the industry to ensure it has an efficient cost structure.
'I believe that working with the Department for Transport we can meet the minister's wishes in making light rail more cost effective for the future. We must not let the opportunity slip and need to work together as an industry to get results.
'The Department's proposed consultation exercise, inviting views from all parties on the interface between utilities and light rail, will be an important element in the drive to achieve construction costs more in line with other EU countries and UKTram looks forward to participating in the Minister's proposed high-level 'Tram Summit' announced as the next step in his review of light rail costs.'
RFG calls for funding for Scottish freight
The Scottish Government's Spending Review Plans could threaten the freight modal shift from road to rail, impacting on the ability to meet climate change targets, which necessitate reduced emissions, according to the Rail Freight Group (RFG).
The plans budget 6.5m to the Scottish Futures Fund in 2012-13, which must support warm homes, development into low carbon vehicles, promoting active choices and the move of freight to rail.
The RFG has written to the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment Committee to outline the consequences of reducing funding for freight, and how more money is needed to ensure a sufficient reduction in emissions in Scotland. The RGF recommends a budget of at least 5m dedicated to freight.
David Spaven, RFG's Scottish Representative (pictured), wrote in the submission: 'The outcome of the Spending Review places the long-standing Freight Facilities Grant scheme in doubt, and provides no clarity on how the Scottish Government is going to deliver capital grant assistance to achieve its freight modal shift targets.
'In the Scottish Government's draft budget for 2012-13, there is no identified budget for the Freight Facilities Grants scheme, which over the last 36 years has provided capital grants to encourage freight modal shift from road to rail (and more recently, sea) transport.
'The Support for the Freight Industry 2012-13 budget of 1.1m will be sufficient only to allow continued revenue grant funding of the rail and water freight flows currently supported by Waterborne Freight Grant and Mode Shift Revenue Support.
'Rail freight potentially has an important role to play in meeting climate change targets, but if manufacturers, processors, logistics companies and road hauliers who are interested in the opportunities for shifting freight from road to rail are to be persuaded to pursue this interest, they urgently need much greater clarity.'
Half a billion pounds in EU funding for Manchester Metrolink
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is set to give 500m as a long-term loan to Manchester's tram scheme to further expand the network with new trams and infrastructure.
The money will fund the long hoped-for 'phase 3b' of the construction plans can go ahead, which will make the network three times bigger, with 60 miles of track and 99 stops served by 94 trams.
The network will extend to Manchester Airport, Didsbury, Ashton-under-Lyne and Rochdale town centre. There are future plans to also take it to The Trafford Centre shopping complex, and to Stockport, south of Manchester.
The new line to Chorlton and St Werburgh's Road, a conversion of an old heavy-rail line, opened this summer and has proved very popular with passengers.
The loan was described as part of the EIB's pledge to support 'sustainable public transport in leading European cities and to reduce reliance on private car use'.
Simon Brooks, EIB vice president responsible for the UK, said: 'Extension of Greater Manchester's Metrolink network will transform tram links across the conurbation. The EIB is committed to supporting sustainable transport and successful completion of the project will improve the lives of Greater Manchester's residents for years to come.'
Andrew Fender, chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: 'The Metrolink expansion is the single largest investment in public transport in the UK, outside of London.
'It will deliver a legacy for Greater Manchester that will regenerate and transform key district centres and provide new connections to the labour market for businesses. As such, it will play a vital role in keeping the region's economy growing now and long into the future.
'I'm pleased that we've been able to work with the EIB to realise this ambitious vision on a sound financial footing and I look forward to seeing the network grow and spread to new destinations, across the region, in the coming years.'