Conductors out and smartcards in under new tram company
CONDUCTORS could be removed from Nottingham's trams within 18 months and a new Oyster-style card introduced instead.
The plans are among those proposed by Tramlink Nottingham – a consortium which includes bus firm Trent Barton – which has taken over the tram line and will begin building the new routes to Clifton and Chilwell next month.
An extra 15 million people are expected to use the tram network every year once the extension is complete.
In his first interview with the Post since the takeover last Thursday, Tramlink chairman Roger Harrison explained some of the changes in store.
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The new travel cards will work like Oyster cards in London – so people can load money onto them and then "touch in" before getting on the tram, which deducts the money.
These will be like the existing Citycards and it is expected they will be accepted on buses, in libraries and leisure facilities. People will be able to put money onto them online or at tram stops – but cash will also be accepted at ticket machines at stops.
Instead of conductors, there will be tram "ambassadors" at the stops – helping people to use the new machines – as well as inspectors on the trams, checking people have paid.
Mr Harrison said: "We don't want passengers to feel security is reduced, we're introducing a new type of staff called an ambassador. It's something used in France a lot and where there are similar systems."
Under the new system, people who have failed to pay for their ticket face being fined for the first time. Tramlink has not said how much the fines will be but Mr Harrison said they will be a "significant deterrent" and similar to those in Croydon or Manchester.
In Croydon, the penalty fare is £50, which is reduced to £25 if paid within 21 days. But in Manchester it is £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
It is hoped this system will reduce the number of fare dodgers – currently thought to be about 10 per cent.
Mr Harrison said changing the system will generate a "significant saving". However, the number of staff overall is expected to increase.
"Some roles will change, we're hoping to try and fit existing employees into new roles and will be recruiting," said Mr Harrison, who has worked at Keolis for about 10 years.
Keolis is a large, worldwide tram and metro operator and is a member of the Nottingham consortium.
Mr Harrison said Tramlink Nottingham was committed to giving work and apprenticeships to local people.
It estimates the extended tram network will create up to 8,000 jobs over the next 23 years, in operation and construction work.
Mr Harrison added that currently only about 24 per cent of suppliers are local and he wants to increase that.
Another 22 trams are also being manufactured by French company Alstom, also part of the Nottingham consortium.
This will bring the number of trams in Notts up to 37.
Earlier this year the consortium was forced to find around 20 per cent savings on the project, after Government funding was cut.
Speaking to the Post, Mr Harrison said the scope of the scheme was not reduced.
Borrowing for the scheme was originally set to be from three banks but now five are involved – including the European Investment Bank, which Mr Harrison said has lower interest rates.
The Government also chose to provide an initial capital contribution, instead of periodic payments, which will reduce the amount borrowed by Tramlink in the early years.
Martin Allen, senior organiser of union GMB Midland and East Coast, said: "We welcome the extension to lines two and three and the jobs that will create but we will be very concerned if we end up with conductors that don't get jobs as inspectors or ambassadors."
Who's in the consortium?
TRAMLINK Nottingham is the consortium which will build the next two tram lines and operate the entire network. It includes bus operator Trent Barton; VINCI Investments and VINCI Construction UK; Alstom, a world expert in urban transport; Keolis, a major international private sector tram operator; InfraVia, construction equity investment fund provider; and Meridiam, infrastructure investment provider for public/private partnerships.
Stacking up numbers
37 – the total number of trams Nottingham will have when lines two and three are completed.
15 – the number of trams Nottingham currently has.
25 million – the number of people expected to ride the tram every year when new lines open.
10 million – the number of people using trams now.
8,000 – the number of jobs that could be created by the tram extension over the next 23 years.