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Crisis talks for Merseytram

The £300 million Merseytram scheme was the subject of showdown talks at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this week only five days before a decision is needed to keep it on track.
Merseytravel, the transport authority in charge of Merseytram, said it needs a decision by October 4 because it needs to order the tram fleet.

But when Construction Newsasked transport secretary Alistair Darling whether the Department for Transport would make a decision by the deadline, he said: 'We'll see. We' re still discussing it at the moment.'

A Merseytram spokesman said a meeting had been arranged for yesterday (Wednesday) with transport minister Derek Twigg to discuss the future of the scheme.

As Construction Newswent to press neither Merseytravel nor the Government could say whether Laing O'Rourke would get to carry out the contract it won earlier this year.

The tram is still in need of a further £20 million of funding after Mr Darling capped the Government grant and five Merseyside councils failed to underwrite the sum, which is needed for contingency costs.

The scheme suffered a setback at a conference fringe meeting where David Miliband, the communities minister, ruled out a special levy on council tax payers for the tram.

He told the gathered delegates that the local authority would only be allowed to raise transport funding by cutting its other budgets.

The levy plan had been suggested by Liverpool City Council leader Mike Storey at the Liberal Democrat conference.

It was the latest in a number of schemes proposed by Merseytravel and Liverpool City Council. These have included raising money from road tolls, which has also been ruled out.

by Andrew Hankinson in Brighton

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