Your Next Station is … Arthur’s Hill and Wingrove
West End Tram Proposal – Elswick & General Hospital Stations – Possible Metrocentre link
Regional transport planners are looking at a new tram service for Newcastle’s West End, connecting the Metro system in the city centre with stations at ‘Elswick’, General Hospital, East Denton and a terminus at West Denton.
Plans are tentative at this stage, but the A186 West Road is considered “the most effective proposition” and currently the “preferred” route for a West End service.
North East transport planners say the route offers “considerable” opportunities, and note the high population concentrations on both sides of the road, combined with low car ownership. It would offer the possibility of developing a ‘park and ride’ facility near the A1/A69 junction and could link “important destinations” such as the city’s flagship Science Central project and a redeveloped General Hospital site.
Potentially, this could be linked to a new network with Metrocentre, Gateshead centre and Team Valley. Planners insist no serious assessment of cost or demand for this option has yet been undertaken however.
It is claimed the line could attract over 13 million journeys a year and be a good ‘green’ option for the city, providing it with an opportunity to become “a national light rail exemplar in sustainable energy use and energy efficiency”.
Both Elswick Road and Scotswood Road were considered as possible options for a West End route to follow, but appear to have been dismissed, primarily because of their lower population base.
The estimated cost of building a West Road line by 2030 is put at almost £150m, and, Hadrian’s Wall aside, would be the biggest single transport infrastructure development investment the West End has ever seen.
Such a project would not be without its technical challenges however, and the steep gradient of the West Road is just one of many it would face. Another is competition from bus services. A steeper climb is convincing central government to invest, says the North East Joint Transport Committee (NEJTC). Without it, the West End will not get a light rail tram network, and will lose out on the employment and economic opportunities it could provide.
It is “essential”, says NEJTC chair, Martin Gannon. “(We) urgently need that financial support.”
“A significant barrier to development is the availability of future funding to maintain existing assets and allow ongoing operations. Light rail has substantial fixed costs which farebox revenue does not cover, as Metro fares are set at affordable levels which reflect the spending power of the communities we serve.”
The NEJTC is one of 12 regional bodies across the country invited by the Government to press for extra transport infrastructure investment in their areas and Nexus has published a 2030 Metro Strategy, with ideas to extend light rail links across the North East. The West End line is considered the one with most potential of all new routes being proposed.
Final decisions on Government investments are expected “early” next year, although different bid stages mean the transport authority is likely to have a good idea of whether it might be successful by November.