Hastings Borough Council is to look at running a ‘mini-tram’ from one end of the seafront to the other after winning European project funding.
At a meeting on Monday (February 4), cabinet members heard how the council is set to receive more than £156,000 to take part in a five-year project looking at how sustainable transport can attract tourism.
With the funding, the council plans to hold a feasibility study on running new public transport links between The Stade in Hastings Old Town with West St Leonards.
Kevin Boorman, the council’s marketing and major projects manager, said: “What we are particularly focused on in Hastings is improving seafront mobility.
“Most of you will know, I am sure, that you can’t get the bus from one end of the seafront to the other. You have to change either in the town centre or around the pier.
“That causes massive problems in terms of mobility along the seafront. Visitors and residents cannot get from one end of the seafront to the other by public transport.
“We want to try and address that.”
According to council documents, part of the problem is down to standard-sized buses being unable to turn around in the Old Town. Because of this, the council intends to look at running a so-called mini-tram service.
The potential vehicle – affectionately known as the Boorman Bus among some council staff – is likely to be double-ended and run on some form of sustainable fuel, most likely electric. It is unlikely, however, to be a true tram running on a set tramway.
Council leader Peter Chowney said: “It is something that has been suggested by people for a long time.
“When we looked at it before we realised there were a lot of different options. It needed a lot of research, which at the time we couldn’t justify spending the money on .
“But now we have got Desti-Smart money we can. We have the money to do research on some kind of sustainable transport.”
Known as Desti-Smart (Delivering Efficient Sustainable Tourism with lowcarbon transport Innovations: Sustainable Mobility, Accessibility and Responsible Travel), Mr Boorman told cabinet members the Interreg Europe project would see the council receive £159,463 over a five-year period.
However, he said, the council would be expected to contribute officer time to the first phase of the project as part of the deal.
Mr Boorman also stressed the Desti-Smart funding will not used to buy or run the vehicles themselves, as it is intended to allow the council to invest time in developing the plans and policies behind such a project instead.
While details of the arrangements are still being finalised, Mr Boorman said the feasibility study may begin as early as this summer.
It would be expected to gather seafront footfall and other data as well as undertake market research on the proposed service and its variations (e.g. the serving of the railway stations).