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In the spirit of the Stern report on climate change, The Stirrer has been looking at radical alternatives to simply pushing up taxes. Yesterday, we proposed halting all airport expansion, today Barbara Panvel looks at an eco-friendly alternative to the car, bus and tram.

Some of us have to use dirty, jerkily driven, unreliable buses, others use cars and fume in traffic jams, then struggle to find parking spaces. All would welcome higher quality, environmentally sound, affordable local public transport.

Tramway systems here in the West Midlands - as well as inManchester, Sheffield and Croydon - have drawn many people out of their cars and on to public transport. The ride is smooth, mostly on reserved track and arrives on time. They are, however, very expensive to build and install, andtherefore subject to government whim - only last week two new routes on the Midland Metro were dealyed for two years by the Department for Transport.

So maybe here's a cheaper, more practical alternative. Years ago, in a long queue, I met John Parry from Cradley Heath, and heard about his work designing and building light tramway systems for smaller towns, and light rail vehicles for use on regional railways. Parry People Movers Ltd (PPM) was founded in 1992 and is owned by about 200 shareholders.

Parry People Movers run on both road and rail and are much cheaper to build, install and operate than conventional trams. They are low-emission, highly fuel-efficient and quiet, using flywheel technology which has been used by racing engine builders for many years.

The track needs none of the massive footings of conventional trams, so underground services are not disturbed. The tram is no bigger than a bus, makes no ‘local emissions' and needs no overhead poles and wires. It can become a zero emission operation in cities with closely spaced stops; the flywheel can be charged (in approximately 30 seconds) from an intermittent electrical supply at each stop.

The flywheel stores sufficient energy for the vehicle to reach the next stop in normal operation, but a battery is provided for emergency use. It could be powered from solar cells or other renewable sources of electricity.

PPM vehicles' level access from platforms make them easy to use by people of limited mobility and they have safely carried more than 100,000 passengers in Bristol, Brighton, Barking, Swansea, Birmingham and elsewhere.

Such a system could reduce emissions and congestion and replace dirty, unreliable buses. The PPM 50 Light Railcar has regularly been carrying paying passengers on a branch of the rail network between Stourbridge Junction and the town centre on Sundays since 2005 - supported by Centro (the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive) and the Department for Transport, which now has responsibility for the Strategic Rail Authority's Community Rail programme.

With all the talk of futuristic rapid transit systems like the Maglevto solve our congestion problem - and possible energy shortages in the future - maybe we have the solution right here under our noses already.

Coming soon - a Stirrer outing to the Parry People Mover in Stourbridge. In the meantime, if you've ever used it, let us know what you think on our messageboard.

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