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Why light rail matters to UK cities more than ever

A new report highlighting how Britain’s light rail systems are instrumental in supporting economic growth, promoting social inclusion, and reducing emissions, has been produced by consultant Steer on behalf of the Urban Transport Group.

A new report highlighting how Britain’s light rail systems are instrumental in supporting economic growth, promoting social inclusion, and reducing emissions, has been produced by consultant Steer on behalf of the Urban Transport Group.

Leading light: What light rail can do for city regions argues that protecting light rail services and maintaining the urban connectivity they provide – with further Government support if necessary – is key to ensuring towns and cities can recover from the impacts of COVID-19. It also calls for a long-term policy and funding programme to further the expansion of light rail into more towns and cities while encouraging the growth of existing networks.

Primary findings highlighted in the report are that:

• Light rail has supported economic growth in the areas served, promoted social inclusion and led to environmental benefits including a reduction in carbon emissions

• There is a need to maintain the connectivity provided by light rail as the economies of places served recover from the pandemic

• Investment in maintenance and renewal will continue and potentially enhance the benefits that light rail brings to the economy, society and the environment

• A stable government policy and funding environment would help promoters of new schemes produce proposals that will bring further economic, societal and environmental benefits.

Patronage continues to grow across UK networks since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. In some cities, particularly Edinburgh and Blackpool, the popularity of ‘staycation’ holidays helped improve ridership over the summer months. However, commuter numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels.

UTG Director Jonathan Bray outlines the case for investment in more detail here.