A consortium would put millions of pounds towards a future tram system in Warrington – if the ambitious proposals are backed by Town Hall bosses.
The council is facing renewed calls to support, and deliver, a tram system in the town.
Jim Harkins, managing director of Light Rail UK, believes a new approach is needed to tackle major issues, such as pollution.
Light Rail UK provides consultancy to the Government and local authorities to enhance their awareness of the advantages of light rail and tram networks.
Mr Harkins, who also provides secretariat support to the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group, confirmed Light Rail UK is proposing a hydrogen-powered tram for Warrington.
“A tram network would significantly help to tackle issues including congestion and pollution facing the town,” he said.
“It would save lives – air pollution can kill.
“It would massively reduce car journeys here too.
“The council are not taking into account the real costs.
“We are in the process of putting forward a firm proposal to the council.
“If the council goes ahead and gets the funding in place, which will be the big challenge, a tram system in Warrington could be operating within seven to 10 years.
“We have funders here in Warrington who, for an exchange for a 35-year lease, would fund it, incrementally, if the business case stands up.”
The early proposals for Warrington include a north-south line which would go from Newton-le-Willows to Stretton – including through the town centre, with stops at Time Square and Golden Square.
Mr Harkins added: “One of the big issues facing Warrington town centre is that it is an unpleasant place to be, however, the ambience of a tram would drive people to the shops.
“We will start with one line and then continue from there.
“Around 37km would be enough to start the tram network in Warrington.
“It would be built incrementally.
“A ball park figure for a tramway is a cost of around £5-£8 million per track kilometre.
“The initial two lines to be proposed in the town would be north-south and east-west lines.
“Light Rail UK is in process of carrying out a feasibility study on this matter.”
The council’s draft local transport plan, LTP4, is due to be published in March.
A spokesman added: “This will then be the subject of public consultation to take place in spring/summer 2019.
“An important theme in the draft local transport plan will be to propose measures to substantially improve public transport in Warrington – it will be proposing that the feasibility of a ‘mass transit’ network is investigated, which will look at all options to improve public transport in the town, including improvement options for rail, trams, tram-train, guided buses and conventional bus services.
“The council is also involved in discussions with both Liverpool and Manchester about what options exist to improve rail services, including what options may exist for Merseyrail and/or Metrolink extensions to Warrington.
“We are aware of Light Rail UK’s proposals and have met with them on a number of occasions in the past.
“We have been able to take these into account in preparing our draft local transport plan and we will be happy to engage with them further as part of the upcoming consultation.”