At their peak in the late 19th century, trams provided working people with a fast, efficient means of getting around. Now, argues Christian Wolmar, it is time to follow the Swiss model and put them back at the heart of urban transport policies

At their peak there were well over 100 tram systems in Britain. Every major city and many small towns had a network carrying millions of people each week. They were cheap and popular with workers – often bringing them right to the door of their factories.

But they had few defenders among the middle classes, who thought they got in the way of cars, which were seen as the future. The systems that were not shut down during the second world war by disuse or enemy action were soon closed in the aftermath. It was one of the great transport policy mistakes of the 20th century.

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Source: Guardian Environment