MPs are Idiots #1239

MPs are gutted that we don’t have more trams. Naturally they assume this must be a result of bias stopping and not any form of rational analysis. OK I admit this is the Department of Transport and, statistically, they normally are idiots but in this case they really should be prejudiced against trams; they’re rubbish.

Consider the Sheffield “SuperTram!”. Planned for 20 million riders back in the 1990s it has just managed to reach the giddy heights of just over 13 million. Quite aside from the embarrassment, which admittedly doesn’t bother most civil servants and politicians given the disasters they’ve overseen, this did crater the finances to the point where the forces of alleged corruption and definite incompetence Stagecoach brought up the concession to run the trams till the mid 2020s for barely £1 million.

Given it cost £240 million to build this seems a bad deal. And it is. Based on a ~30 years life for the trams and about the same for the track and overheads (they do try and match them) and a construction date of 1992 the entire system will be technically clapped out in… the mid 2020s. How convenient! Sure the system could be refurbished but I’ll wager that will cost a bit more than the £1 million concession fee.

In any event I did say ‘should’ not ‘are’, for a prejudiced organisation the DoT has approved quite a few of these expensive money sinks. I particularly liked the Midland Metro, which managed barely a 1/3 of the predicted passengers, and the Edinburgh Tram which is just screwed. That’s without mentioning such wonders as Nottingham, a scheme which implicitly depends on people not using it (what use is a car park levy if everyone stops driving and uses the tram?) and has cost the rest of the country no more than £0.75 billion in off-balance sheet PFI debt that my kids will be paying off. Well worth it I’m sure no-one will agree.

So trams, awful in almost every way and the complaint should be that the DoT has allowed any more of the damned things to be built. It is therefore deeply depressing that our politicians think the problem is in fact we have to few. The Wicker Man is too good for them….


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