EXCLUSIVE: The letter from Government that "virtually kills off Merseytram"
Below is the letter from Transport Minister Sadiq Khan, which in the words of Liverpool Council leader Warren Bradley "virtually kills off Merseytram once and for all".
I've added in my analysis of what I think he is saying in bold. It is hard to disagree with Cllr Bradley's assessment of the situation.
Mr Khan may have been the person to give Liverpool is long needed electrified rail line to Manchester, but he now appears to kill of its tram.
The fact that he and Sefton Council leader Tony Robertson believe the Government is not for funding the project also now means that the scheme would struggle to meet one of the tests that Government has set: that it enjoy the full support of Merseyside district councils. A catch 22 situation.
There are many other issues with the scheme which is made clear in the letter:
Dear Cllr Round,
CURRENT POSITION ON MERSEYTRAM
In the light of recent discussions at the Liverpool city Region Cabinet meeting regarding the future of the Merseytram project i thought it would be useful if I wrote to you, as Leader of the Liverpool City Region Shadow Cabinet, to set out clearly the Department's position on this scheme.
As you will know funding for local authority led major schemes is agreed through the Regional Funding Allocation process. Last year we asked regions to refresh their original advice and the indicative funding envelopes were extended three years to 2018/19. This was received in February and the Government responded in July. In their advice the North West region did not allocate funding for the Merseytram scheme. We accepted that advice. As I and other Ministerial colleagues have said before, the Department would be happy to receive a fresh proposal for Merseytram but only as long as it has been prioritised for funding by the region. The opportunity to do this was not taken up by the region.
[Sadiq Khan is basically saying here that Merseyside missed its chance to get it into the regional funding allocation, which are now set out until 2018/19 - eight years away. When he says "we accepted that advice" he seems to suggest that he has no interest in looking at it again either.]
In line with other light rail schemes, we would require Merseytravel to provide 25% of the scheme costs and we would also wish to see that the scheme had the full support of all the Merseyside districts.
My officials have informed me that they have not seen any recent assessments but in the past there have been question marks over the scheme's value for money. I am told that the question of its strategic importance vis-a-vis other schemes in the Liverpool area, such as the need to improve access to Port of Liverpool is still not clear.
[Here read: DfT remains to be convinced that it is a good idea, even if it had met the other tests set out above. The DfT appears to regard improving access to the Port of Liverpool as more of a priority than building a tram line between Liverpool and Kirkby. The success of the Port of Liverpool is not only important to Merseyside but also the North West and the country. The Port of Liverpool access project is in the regional funding allocation. A few months ago it was sent back to the drawing board by Sefton Council over environmental concerns of building through the Rimrose Valley near Waterloo and Crosby. The new road would cost in the region of ÃÂ£200m.]
Given this position I think Merseytravel, in consultation with local authority partners, need to look carefully at their continued development of the scheme. There are, of course, other ways in which come of the objectives of the scheme could be met and other key transport issues in the Liverpool City Region which need to be addressed. I am very pleased that senior officials in my Department have already started a dialogue with Merseytravel and Liverpool City Region to discuss these issues.
[This is a crucial element of the letter. Mr Khan seems to be saying in thinly veiled language that Merseytravel needs to stop spending money on the project, which has already seen ÃÂ£70m spent on it. In saying there are "other ways" the objectives of the scheme could be met, read cheaper and easier solutions, note that critics of Merseytram have always pointed to the fact the route it would take is well served by busses. He also suggests that Merseyside should not lose sight of the fact that other "key transport issues" need sorting out without saying what they are. The mood would seem to be, move on to other things and leave Merseytram behind.]
I am copying this letter to Councillor Dowd, Chair of the Integrated Transport Authority, George Howarth MP and Neil Scales Chair, Merseytravel who I met with recently.