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The heyday of light rail in the UK was in the 1980s-90s when light rail systems were planned for dozens of areas across the country. For one reason or another most of these failed to materialise. Nevertheless, light rail or tram scheme were opened in London and other metropolitan areas such as Manchester, the West Midlands, Nottingham, Tyne and Wear and Sheffield between the late 1970s and 2004.

Although all of these systems have expanded since then there has been no significant, new light rail scheme proposed in recent years and there has long been a debate about the high cost of this type of scheme. In September 2011 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government published new guidance aimed at encouraging the development of light rail schemes. It remains to be seen how successful this will be.

This note looks at the policies of successive governments towards light rail and provides information about reports that have been published about the same over the past eight years.

This note does not cover devolved schemes, such as the controversial Edinburgh tram, or the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). Information on the DLR can be found in HC Library note SN415.


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