Friday, 20 February 2015

The Tram and a fools night out in Beeston

Last Friday I went along to the Beeston & District Civic Society meeting* to hear a number of presentations by different professionals associated with The Tram and its construction, management, publicity and future operation. The hall was full, which is a measure of the interest there is among local residents in The Tram.

In truth it was all a little disappointing. I heard nothing new and most of the questions asked were inane. For example: 'Will there be fire safety training given to the staff and drivers?'; 'Are all the grey poles on the streets insured and who do they belong to?'; 'Why is there a hump between the tracks at the White Hart (pub) in (Old) Lenton? and 'Will trees cause track problems like they do with trains?' I heard members of the audience around me groan. I thought the professionals all gave full answers, but still some of the questioners kept coming back and, at one point, angry words were exchanged at the back of hall between members of the audience over some minor point. It was that kind of meeting.

(NOTE: *For another take on the meeting, you can visit the Civic Society's website and read their account of the meeting).

The most sensible question of the evening went unanswered. A lady asked why the temporary footpath from the main post office to Devonshire Avenue was so narrow, making it difficult for buggies and wheelchairs to pass one another, when all around there was space.

A man in front of me was very upset about there being restricted access to Devonshire Avenue, even after the work was complete. He claimed this was a last minute change, not mentioned before. When the Nottingham City Council speaker said the restriction had been in the plans all along, it took a lady behind me to shut the man up. She said that she had objected to the restriction at the time of the Planning Enquiry.

Someone pointed out that the restriction was already turning Imperial Road into 'a rat run' for cars and there had been no discussion with local residents. A fair point I'm sure, but I cannot believe that if the road really is (or becomes) a rat run that the problem will go unaddressed. The man then left, his anger expressed, not seemingly interested in any discussion, so no more was said.

It was that kind of meeting. The question about 'leaves' was probably the most stupid of all. The track from Toton Lane to Ring Road tram bridge has no gradients as such when compared to the existing line on either side of Forest Road East, where there have been no problems of note. I thought everyone knew that trams are fitted with sand boxes which can be used on the few occasions when a tram does need extra traction.

It really was a fools night out. Janet Patrick, also a councillor, made the most interesting contribution of the evening when, towards the end, she said The Tram is the 'most exciting development in Beeston in a hundred years'. Perhaps the claim was a frustrated response to the questioners in search of some last minute victory which, somehow, would result in The Tram disappearing. The claim does actually prompt in my mind a topic for discussion at a future Civic Society meeting. As a member, I am going to put the idea to them. Perhaps it is a debate they have had already (I have had a promise already that the idea will be considered, so thank you to the Society's Chair, Judy Sleath, for a very quick response)

I already have it in mind to write about Beeston's expectations for The Tram, shared by the Nottingham Post as recently as today in the paper's Editorial. Great claims are made for The Tram and we have heard them all before. The Tram was going to work wonders for Hyson Green. It has never happened and the same will be true for Beeston unless those responsible for all the hype around The Tram and Beeston actually do more than wait in the belief that a year from now The Tram will have brought a new golden age to the town with its shopping centre re-born, helped by the return of Wilkco's.

In my next post I will explain why fast developing bus technology will see off The Tram, except where trams can take over existing railway tracks and operate as tram-trains. If I was a betting man, I would give you 100-to-1 that we will see no more street running tram routes developed in Greater Nottingham. Buses remain more important to Beeston's future than The Tram — as they do to our conurbation.

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