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Is reviving Minitram answer to congestion?

Wellesbourne Airfield
Wellesbourne Airfield

“It would take traffic off the road and would be a clean, reliable form of public transport.”

The battery-operated, zero-emission tram was trialed for three months on a circular route through Stratford in 2003. It ran on rubber wheels and, if introduced, would have been guided by underground cables.

At the time it was described as ‘revolutionary’ and the ‘future of public transport’, and was said to have been one of the most successful trials in public transport ever conducted by Warwickshire County Council with 98 per cent of the people who used it giving it the thumbs up.

At the time, council officials from all over the country visited Stratford to see how it worked. The idea remained on the table for several years and county council documents from 2007 show a full feasibility study was still being talked about.

However, in 2010 the £200,000 the council had set aside for that purpose was used to help fill a massive overspend on the Rugby Western Relief Road.

Mr Pemberton said the prototype Minitram was in storage and could be updated and reconsidered if the county council, the county’s transport authority, expressed a new interest.

“We would be happy to update and reintroduce it if someone came to talk to me,” he said.

“We invested a great deal of time and money in Minitram and it was way ahead if its time. It never continued beyond the original three months because nobody really seemed to know how to pay for it.

“But it’s still an option. Battery technology has moved on and, overall, it’s still a relatively cheap idea. More importantly, following the new Paris Agreement, it’s very eco-friendly and produces no tail-pipe emissions whatsoever.

“The tram itself cost around £100,000 and it wouldn’t be too expensive to lay the guidance cables along the route. It would take traffic off the road and would be a clean, reliable form of public transport.”

Mr Pemberton first approached Stratford District and Warwickshire County Councils back in 1998 and suggested a parkway station was built on the edge of town with a tram terminus from where people could be ferried to various stops around town, which he envisaged to have more part-pedestrianisation.

The parkway was built, but the Minitram was forgotten. TDI continued to work on the idea of low-cost, sustainable public transport and is now involved in various research projects including an ultra-light railcar, recently developed in conjunction with manufacturers Severn Lamb in Alcester.

The first production vehicle was tested in Long Marston last month and is now on its way to a private customer in Turkey.

TDI has also won a Government competition last year to develop advanced, very light rail (VLR) technology with the rail industry and Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University.

Mr Pemberton added: “Instead of driving big buses right through the heart of Stratford, we could semi-pedestrianise more of the main streets and introduce a Minitram guideway to link the shops and amenities to outlying car parks, a bus terminus and the railway station.

“That’s the reason why I proposed the parkway in the first place. We would then have an integrated transport system. Politicians talk about it but they’ve no idea really what it means. People are fed up with the traffic.

“Trams are everywhere in Europe, so why not here — the tourists would love it too. All we need is someone with vision and a little investment to make it happen.”

Nadhim Zahawi MP, who has been spearheading the traffic summits, told the Herald he was happy to look at any proposals that deal with the problem of traffic congestion in a strategic and well thought through manner.

A spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council said: “If Mr Pemberton wishes to operate and fund a Minitram trial then we will be happy to speak to him about how best this could be moved forward, however, under the current financial constraints at the county council there is no budget available to subsidise trials such as this.”

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