The East Midlands congestion charge, introduced in 2008 and forecast to raise £128 million a year, was dropped because local politicians feared a backlash at the polls. Instead they adopted a charge on businesses with more than ten car parking spaces – the workplace parking levy. The chamber of commerce predicted an exodus of businesses, but in fact the reverse happened after the two new Nottingham tram lines were built and improved access to the city. The trams have also stabilised congestion, which would have increased without them, in line with other cities that do not have trams.
Nottingham has since satisfied the government that it will meet the cleaner air zone targets with existing sustained investment in green measures, including the tram network, conversion of taxis to cleaner diesel engines, a modern fleet of electric buses and retrofitting 180 older buses with cleaner engines.
The tram lines are now so popular with residents and business alike that there is pressure to extend them. Modern, tram systems can be installed quickly without the need for service relocation or road closure. This is ideal for heritage cities with vaults because they impose lower loading and create less damage than buses.
Roger Harrison, retired (former chairman, Tramlink Nottingham, and former president, Light Rail Transit Association)
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