Merseytram is the name for the strand0alone street-running three line tram system planned by Merseytravel to serve Liverpool's eastern suburbs and beyond. The scheme has been in development since 2000 and Line 1 of the scheme, from Liverpool City Centre to Kirkby, gained official approval in 2005. However, the scheme received a severe setback in 2005 when the government refused funding for this line. The scheme remains official Merseytravel policy and planning permission has been effectively extended to 2015 with the commissioning of a large park and ride car park at Gillmoss, which means that work on the scheme has been officially commenced. However, no firm proposals have been made for a revival of the scheme for some time (January 2011).

Merseytram Killed off?

In 2009, the then Transport Minister Sadiq Khan, in the words of Liverpool Council leader Warren Bradley "virtually kills off Merseytram once and for all". Sadiq Khan's letter:

The cost overruns of the Edinburgh tram scheme must put the lid on the ill-conceived tram system.

Why Trams?

Merseytram arose out of an aspiration of Merseytravel to have as much of the population of Merseyside as possible within ten minutes walking distance of a 'steel wheel' stop. In some areas, the existing rail network, improved with greater integration, electrification and the opening of new stations would be the solution. However, in areas remote from the rail network trams were seen as the answer.

The significance of the 'ten minute walking distance' is that research has shown that this is the optimum maximum walking distance for tracked transit systems whereas the figure for conventional buses is closer to five minutes. The advantages of trams over buses are seen as follows:

  • Faster journey times. Although trams are no faster than buses, the combination of segregated lines of route and fewer intermediate stops reduces journey times.
  • Higher capacity. Running on rails, trams are much longer than conventional buses and can accommodate far more people. Where high capacity is required, units can be couple together to double capacity.
  • Reduced energy costs. Trams use steel wheel on steel rail technology, which by reducing friction requires less fuel. Trams, running on electricity, can also be powered from diverse sources including renewables, nuclear or conventional coal, gas or oil.
  • Reduced pollution. Electric powered trams produce no pollution in city streets and, depending on the source of electricity generation, little or no pollution elsewhere.
  • Reduced noise.
  • Greater accessibility.

None-Integration with Merseyrail

Merseytram is unlike Manchester's Metrolink tram network, which used existing rail lines and stations serving the outer towns around Manchester and street running in the city centre. Amazingly, Merseytram was a stand alone 100% street running network not integrated with Merseyrail. Unable to build an underground rail in the city centre after the cancellation of the Picc-Vic scheme, Manchester designed Metrolink as a mixture of commuter rail and street running trams where because of cost constraints tunnels could not be bored. Unlike Manchester, Liverpool has used and unused underground tunnels under its city centre. Metrolink acted as a fast commuter rail system on the outskirts and a slow street running tram in the city centre.

Merseytram did not use any Merseyrail track and branch off to disconnected parts of the city not served by rail as was its intention. Neither did Merseytram use mothballed tunnels or trackbeds in the Liverpool area, of which the city has in abundance. The lack of integration with Merseyrail was criticized and a serious design flaw.


The route of Line One has caused controversy. The fact that it terminates at Kirkby, already served by a fast and frequent Merseyrail service, has led it to be seen as duplicating an existing service. Merseytravel has responded by pointing out that Line One serves a completely different market - an argument accepted by the inspector at the subsequent public inquiry.

There were also fears that the tram by taking one side of a dual carriageway at West Derby Road, would increase congestion on an already busy road. Merseytravel argued that congestion would be more likely to occur without the tram project and that improved junction design would serve to maintain capacity. Again, this argument was accepted by the inspector.

Liverpool councillor, Stuart Monkcom, has been vociferous in his opposition to the tram scheme, highlighting poor financial performance of other tram networks: "In 2006, for example, Manchester's Altram accounts showed a loss of £8M due to overoptimistic passenger projections, while in the West Midlands the Midland Metro, also operated by Altram, showed losses of about £16M. Worst of all, down in London, Tramtrack Croydon Ltd recorded debts of £100M and was seeking financial restructuring in order to continue trading."

In response, critics stated that these arguments failed to recognise that these systems were all operated on a not for profit basis by the relevant PTE's. Tramtrack Croydon Ltd was bought out by Transport for London for £98m in 2008, TfL, which always set the fares had been paying the company £4 million a year in compensation for the commercially unviable fares under a 1996 agreement however it recognised operational savings could be made from owning the system directly.

Councillor Monkcom suggested expansion to Merseyrail or modern reconstruction of the Liverpool Overhead Railway as preferable schemes to Merseytram.

The Edinburgh tram scheme originally costed at £375 million in 2003, the budget was later increased to £545 million. In May 2011, it was revealed that £440 million had already been spent on the project. A report issued the following month estimated that the partial completion of the tram line from the airport to the city centre would cost £770 million. A further report issued in August 2011 estimated that the final cost for the proposed line would be over £1 billion, including £228 million interest payments on a 30-year loan to cover the funding shortfall.

The Edinburgh debacle and Merseytram waste of £80 million without a line being laid must surely put the lid on these stand-alone tram schemes.

Merseytram News UPDATED 11th Feb 2010

Around 800 homes could be affected by Merseytram CPO plans Feb 11 2010 by Marc Waddington, Liverpool Echo

Up to 800 homes and businesses along the route of the proposed Merseytram line could be affected by Compulsory Purchase Orders in order to make way for the long-awaited scheme.

Merseytravel has issued notices to householders and landowners warning them that they may need to acquire their land and properties in a bid to ensure the £450m project is not derailed.

The notices had to be issued by yesterday’s deadline or the transport authority would lose its planning consent for the scheme.

Private houses, gardens, pubs and other land lie in the path of the proposed Liverpool to Knowsley line.

But the ECHO understands that some properties may only have to give up part of their land for the installation of electrics and cabling needed to power the line.

Merseytravel said issuing of the notices does not mean assets will be immediately purchased.

Liverpool Labour group leader Cllr Joe Anderson said: “They’ve done this to meet their statutory obligations but it does not mean anyone will be forced to give up their properties or not have the chance to raise issues.

“They had to lodge these notices by a certain date and it means from Liverpool and Knowsley – indeed Merseyside’s point of view – it’s still very much alive.”

A Merseytravel spokesman said: “Merseytravel remains committed to Merseytram and is working with our partners and other stakeholders towards securing the funding needed to make it a reality.

“In the meantime, Merseytravel is taking whatever steps are needed to protect the route and alignment so that Merseytram can be implemented when funding has been secured.

“Those steps include using the powers in the Merseytram Order to compulsorily acquire land and rights over land needed for Merseytram.

“The Notices to Treat start this process of acquisition. Service of a Notice does not result in the immediate purchase of the land or rights described in it. It starts a process between Merseytravel and the recipient which will lead to the acquisition of the land or withdrawal of the notice.”

Merseytram ambitions for Liverpool to Kirkby link remain on track Jan 13 2010 Liverpool Daily Post

LIVERPOOL’S planning committee has approved plans that will keep Merseyside’s tram dream alive It formally agreed a number of technical conditions on a previous planning consent for the construction of a huge park-and-ride site off the East Lancashire Road, at Gillmoss. The facility for more than 600 cars will crucially allow Merseytravel to keep its powers to build Line One from Liverpool to Kirkby.

Its rights to build the line expire next month, but, as long as it has started work before that date, the organisation retains them. Work is expected to start within days. Last night, Liverpool’s regeneration leader, Cllr Peter Millea, said: “Today’s decision demonstrates our continued support for Merseytram and enables Merseytravel to continue to seek funding for this significant project.” Merseytravel said the park- and-ride was in a strategic location and would also help get football fans to both Goodison Park and Anfield stadiums.