My first Daily Post column: Time to back Merseytram
The window of opportunity to get Merseytram up and running is closing.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling started the timer when he revealed recently that a Conservative Government would probably not support the project.
And the planning permission to build Line One to Kirkby from Liverpool city centre expires in February 2010.
If the planning issue can be overcome it looks like transport authority Merseytravel has less than a year to get the cash and get work started, if, as is widely predicted, Labour lose the next General Election.
In theory the Government is still committed after former Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said she was prepared to fund the project on two conditions.
She wanted to see a viable business plan and support from across Merseyside for the project.
But that was way back in February 2008, a lot has happened since then. The banks have swallowed up billions of pounds and the nation is now up to its eyes in debt.
Who ever forms the next Government is going to have to start cutting budgets.
Yesterday's announcement of ÃÂ£100m to electrify the line from Liverpool to Manchester may be a positive sign that investments are still being made.
If there is still any cash available for the tram, which was last estimated to cost more than ÃÂ£400m, now is the time to try to grab it.
Merseytravel certainly has not given up on the dream, and the private sector are starting to lobby on behalf of the scheme.
French firm Keolis, that would operate the tram, says it would be "one of the most commercially robust and successful systems in Europe".
Former chairman of the Chamber of Commerce David Wade Smith, whose Livesmart firm is part owned by Merseytravel, has also got involved.
This week he provided a briefing paper to the Chamber of Commerce seeking its support for the project.
"A strong coalition of supporters, from across the public and private sectors, needs to make its support for Merseytram known," it concludes.
Since Mr Grayling's comments, debate has returned to the matter of whether the first line should have gone to the airport.
This is a moot point. Line One from Liverpool to Kirkby is the only show in town. It has planning permission, much of the preparatory work has already been done and it is ready to roll.
The fact it may not satisfy everyone should not detract from what would be a great scheme.
Now is the time to get behind Merseytram, time is running out.