This is from an interview with Merseytravel boss Neil Scales in a Tram magazine:
Our plan is to develop the tramway as a cost-effective way of extending our rail services into the planned Wirral Waters development, as well as increasing the number of public transport served tourist attractions along the waterfront area and sustaining the heritage operation.
We have seen the proven benefits of operations such as the F line in San Francisco, the Portland Streetcar and the way that Kenosha (Wisconsin) has used the tramway to link a major regeneration project into the established transport and commercial infrastructure. The challenges and opportunities presented to Birkenhead are even greater than in those cities but Merseytravel has the legal capacity to take on the responsibility of a statutory street tramway, and we have the skill, imagination and the commitment from our in-house and consultant teams to maintain and develop it.
Wirral Waters is adjacent to the motorway and trunk road network, as well as the public transport system provided by Merseyrail, ferries and buses. What is needed is a link to the established transport network - a local transport system that can be close to the front doors of the new developments, will provide links to the wider public transport network, will be fun to use, will offer a real alternative to getting the car out and will fit in with the emerging townscape. That is where Merseytravel and the Wirral Tramway come in.
Working in partnership with the developers we can devise a tramway that can be extended or reconfigured as the area develops and is easy to fit into pedestrian areas, service roads and landscaped areas. Careful design can make it attractive and affordable and we believe it can be an icon of the reinvigorated Birkenhead.
Our current proposal would run through the planned development, ensuring that no new building is more than a short stroll from a tramstop. We will then upgrade the existing Wirral Tramway alignment and share it with the heritage operation to reach interchanges at Hamilton Square Merseyrail station and at Woodside Ferry. We expect the line to become an integral part of the Wirral Waters development and the natural way for those living and working in the area to travel. As it says on an apartment building in Portland ‘come by Streetcar’
The existing route will be upgraded and shared by the Wirral Waters services and the Heritage Tramway and our development proposal includes an extension to the vintage tramway, running to Seacombe, with spectacular views into the emerging Wirral Waters development and across the river to the gleaming Liverpool Waterfront.
The line could then terminate at Seacombe Ferry Terminal, next to Spaceport, offering circular tours to these leading attractions by public transport: Mersey Ferry, tram and Merseyrail. This will make the tramway a viable business, with money to invest and to publicise its activities.
Looking forward, we see potential to extend the tramway through Hamilton Square - one of the most magnificent examples of 19th century urban squares and second only to London’s Trafalgar Square for Grade 1 listed buildings - and on to Birkenhead Park. This park was the inspiration for many of the world’s great urban parks, and the prototype for New York’s Central Park, with a link back into the wider regeneration areas that are sure to grow around Wirral Waters.
The Wirral Tramway will need to refurbish and maintain an additional fleet of cars for everyday Wirral Waters service. We want to use our maintenance facility to set up an outreach programme, whereby craftsmen will pass on technical and life skills to disadvantaged youths. Graduates will then be assisted into finding full time jobs, giving local people a positive stake in what is happening.
This project can be one of the most exciting and groundbreaking tramway projects for a generation. Quite simply, we are using the knowledge of yesterday and the skills of today to meet the challenges of tomorrow.