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Manchester Metrolink (branded and usually referred to as Metrolink) is a light rail system in Greater Manchestermarker, England. It consists of three lines which converge in Manchester city centremarker and serve the surrounding towns of Burymarker, Altrinchammarker and Ecclesmarker. The system is owned by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) and operated under contract by Stagecoach Group.

Metrolink trams run on the highway in the city centre, but most of the routes in the suburbs use former heavy rail lines. Several extensions to the system are currently under construction or have been proposed. Late in 2008 works started extending the system to East Didsburymarker, Ashton-under-Lynemarker, Oldhammarker, Rochdalemarker, Mediacity:uk and Manchester Airportmarker. The expansions will increase the system's length from 37km (23 mi) to 97km (60.2 mi) with at least 99 stops. On the 13th May 2009, funding was finally secured for phase 3b, with a small rise in council taxes, and work will start from late 2009.. Further potential extensions to Stockportmarker and the Trafford Centremarker are envisaged, subject to funding.

History

Background

A 1910 map of railways in central Manchester
The railway network built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by numerous railway companies had created a number of railway termini around the periphery of Manchester City Centre. Unlike London, which had linked its stations with the London Underground, Manchester had a large central area which was not served by rail transport, though it had one of the most extensive tram networks in Britain run by Manchester Corporation Tramways - the last of which ran in January 1949.

For many years there had been plans to connect Manchester's two main railway stations, Piccadillymarker and Victoriamarker. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were plans for a "Picc-Vic tunnel" to carry main-line trains under the city centre.. The proposal was abandoned because of excessive cost.

In the 1980s, light rail was increasingly seen as a more cost-effective solution to expanding rail transport. Inspired by the success of the Tyne and Wear Metro (opened 1980) and the Docklands Light Railway in London (opened 1987), Manchester transport planners looked to light rail as a way of bridging Manchester's transport gap.

By the late 1980s the power equipment on the electrified suburban railway line from Victoria to Burymarker, which had a unique-in-Britain side-contact third-rail power supply, was in need of replacement, and it was decided to construct a light rail system to connect the Victoria–Bury line via an on-street link with the line from Piccadillymarker to Altrinchammarker via the city, rather than replace the equipment on a like-for-like basis.

Initial proposals

A light rail system was first promoted by Greater Manchester Council as a solution for city centre rail transit in 1984. Named simply Light Rapid Transit (LRT), the proposed system was described as "a cross between a tram and a train". The network was planned to begin operation in 1989 pending Government approval, and construction costs were estimated at £42.5 million.

The proposals outlined a three-line system traversing the Greater Manchester area, linking converted rail lines with an on-street tram system through Manchester city centre. A fleet of two-car "supertrams" with a top speed of 80 km/h would run services at a ten-minute frequency.

The lines proposed were:

1984 proposals
Line A:

Altrincham - Hadfield/Glossop
Line B:

Bury - Rose Hill/Marple
Line C:

Rochdale - East Didsbury
connecting the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway to the Glossop Line connecting the Bury-Manchester line to part of the Hope Valley Line connecting the Oldham Loop Line to the re-opened Manchester South District Line


Obtaining Government grants towards development was not easy and subject to certain criteria, and it was proposed to build the system in phases, beginning with the Altrincham and Bury lines, and the city centre track as far as Piccadilly.

Later proposals

In 1987, when powers and funding had been secured for the initial phase of the network to go ahead,the brand name Metrolink was first introduced.

Around this time, proposals were put forward by GMPTE for further extensions to the network; in addition to the Bury/Altrincham lines and city centre tracks already confirmed, it was envisaged that the network could be extended to include a number of new lines in the regeneration areas along the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford and Trafford. Some station names vary from the 1984 proposals, notably the renaming of Central as G-Mex, the addition of Cornbrook station. A spur into Rochdale town centre was also first proposed here.

1987 proposals
Altrincham - Hadfield/Glossop Bury - Marple/Rose hill Rochdale Bus Station - East Didsbury Broadway/Dumplington - Piccadilly Gardens
As the 1984 proposals Bury Line/Hope Valley Line, as the 1984 proposals Oldham Loop Line/Manchester South District Line - as the 1984 proposals, with an extension from Rochdale to Wet Rake and the bus station a new line into the Salford Quaysmarker regeneration area


Of these early proposals, some parts have survived as extension plans today: the Rochdale and East Didsbury lines now form the basis of parts of the Phase 3 expansion plans which are currently underway; the present-day Eccles line is a modified version of the proposed extension into Salford Quays; and the proposed Dumplington line has evolved into the proposed Trafford Centre extension scheme. The proposal to convert the Marple/Rose Hill and Hadfield/Glossop lines to Metrolink running now appears to have been abandoned, and does not feature in the current Phase 3 expansion plans. The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority did, however, commission in 2004 a feasibility study into converting the Marple line for tram-train operation; and in this revised form it remains on the "reserve list" of proposals for future Metrolink expansion, and was proposed to the Department for Transport in 2008 as a candidate for the national tram-train pilot. No proposals are current for linking the Hadfield/Glossop services into the Metrolink network.

Construction

The Metrolink lines were formed by converting the electric train lines between Altrincham and Cornbrook Junction and between Bury and Manchester Victoria. Because much of the Metrolink route was formerly main-line railway with platforms 915 mm above rail level, the new stops in the city centre also have high platforms.

The Altrincham line was formerly the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway line, electrified in 1931. Trains from Knutsford, Northwich and Chester were diverted at Altrincham via Stockport to Manchester when Metrolink conversion began between Altrincham and G-Mex. This added at least 10 minutes to an already slow journey, causing a disadvantage to some Cheshire rail users. The Bury line was electrified by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1916.

Authority to construct Phase 1 of Metrolink (Bury to Altrincham via city centre, with a spur to Piccadilly station) was granted in January 1988. The tender to design, build and operate the system was awarded to Greater Manchester Metrolink Limited (GMML), a consortium whose shareholders included GEC Alsthom Transportation Projects Ltd., John Mowlem plc, Amec plc and Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Construction of the on-street section began in March 1990.

Opening

Steam locomotives returned briefly to the line between Manchester and Bury in 1991, before the opening of the tram system, when Metrolink held an open weekend at its new depot in Queens Road, Manchester. East Lancashire Railwaymarker steam locomotive, no. 32 Gothenburg (now painted in blue as No. 1 Thomas the Tank Engine) ran light engine from the ELR to Manchester under the not yet live wires to attend the event. The engine returned on the Sunday evening. Diesel locomotive D2767 (a North British 0-4-0) was hired by Metrolink to assist in the construction of the overhead wires during the construction phase in 1991.

On 6 April 1992 Metrolink services between Bury and Victoria began. The central section between Victoria and G-Mex opened on 27 April. On 27 April Metrolink vehicle 1007 operated the ceremonial first tram into the city, wearing a special headboard. No. 1007 was chosen as that was the number of the last tram to operate in Manchester on 10 January 1949.

Services between G-Mex and Altrincham began on 15 June. Trams started operating into Piccadilly on 20 July the same year, completing Phase 1 of the system.

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the system on 17 July 1992. Conversion of the existing railway lines to Metrolink took far longer than had been planned. The Altrincham line was closed for six months, rather than one month as promised, with bus substitution during that period. Metrolink's own new trackwork in Manchester's city centre required reinstalling twice in the first years of operation, caused by allegedly inadequate quality controls and poor design work, such as placing points directly where the blades could be expected to be repeatedly crossed by buses.

Phase 2: Eccles extension

On 25 April 1997 work began on Phase 2, an extension from Cornbrook on the Altrincham line through Salford Quaysmarker to Ecclesmarker. Service started as far as Broadway on 6 December 1999 and to Eccles on 21 July 2000. The line was officially opened on 9 January 2001.

Modifications

1019 arrives at GMex while 2004 departs for Eccles
There have been a few modifications to the system since the opening of Phase I in 1992.
  • The original Market Streetmarker stop handled trams to Bury, with High Street handling trams from Bury. When Market Street was closed to road traffic these stops were replaced on 10 August 1998 by a new platform stop in the centre of Market Street for trams in both directions.
  • Crossover points were installed in the section approaching Piccadilly Station in order to allow inbound trams to access either platform without having first to proceed to the buffer stops at the far end of the undercroft area, for quicker turnaround times. However, this mode of operation seems to have been discontinued in recent years. These have since been removed as part of the track relay between Piccadilly and Piccadilly Gardens in late 2008.
  • Shudehill interchange opened between Victoria station and Market Street in April 2003. The bus station complementing it opened on 29 January 2006.
  • Cornbrook station on the Altrincham line was opened to provide an interchange with the new line to Eccles. There was initially no public access from the street, but this changed on 3 September 2005 when the original fire exit was opened as a public access route.


Due to the age and condition of most of the track on the Bury and Altrincham routes it was decided that the mostly 1960s trackwork was to be relaid. This construction work included improvements to stations along the lines. In 2007 EWS was contracted to provide three Class 08 diesel shunters to assist in relaying the track between Manchester and Bury, using the original connection to the old Bury depot, now part of the East Lancashire Railwaymarker.

The renewals commenced on 29 May 2007 with the cessation of services between Bury and Whitefield. By 22 June services on the Bury line terminated at Crumpsall. By 23 July there was no service on the Bury line, northbound Metrolink trams in public use terminated at Victoria. The Bury line re-opened on 13 September that same year. With the possible exception of the section between Stretford and Dane Road, the Altrincham line track was not as worn as that on the Bury line and so not as much work was required. From 2 July various sections of the line were shut down and serviced with a replacement bus service. The Altrincham line re-opened on 28 August 2007.

Mediacity:uk extension

Planning permission was granted in October 2007 for a 400-metre long extension from a point between Harbour City and Broadway to the central plaza of the new Mediacity:uk development in Salford Quaysmarker.

Phase 3 enabling works

The lines to Altrincham and Eccles were closed for the whole of August 2009 to allow for the existing lines to be modified ahead of Metrolink Phase 3.

On the Altrincham line, the overhead cables were replaced - the original railway line was electrified in the 1930s and the structures were re-used when the line was converted to Metrolink, and these needed upgrading. A new junction was built near Trafford Bar to allow connections to be built to the Chorlton extension and the new tram depot. Cornbrook stationmarker was also closed for remodelling to allow for the shuttle service to mediaCity:UK, and on the Eccles line a junction was built between the Harbour Citymarker and Broadwaymarker stops to connect to the mediaCity:UK branch.

Routes and stations



Alternatve version of this map

(more geographically representative)


Monday-Saturday service:

  1. BurymarkerAltrinchammarker
  2. PiccadillyBurymarker
  3. Piccadilly - Altrinchammarker
  4. PiccadillyEcclesmarker


Sunday and Bank Holiday service:

  1. PiccadillyBurymarker
  2. Piccadilly - Altrinchammarker
  3. PiccadillyEcclesmarker


Frequency on Bury - Altrincham services is every 12 minutes with services interspersed with Piccadilly services providing an overall frequency or around 1 tram every 5-6 minutes.

The current route length is:
Phase 1
Bury – Victoria
Victoria – G-Mex
Spur to Piccadilly station
G-Mex – Altrincham
Phase 2
Cornbrook – Broadway
Broadway – Eccles


Rail interchanges on Metrolink include Piccadillymarker, Victoriamarker, G-Mexmarker (for Deansgatemarker), Altrinchammarker and Navigation Roadmarker. Ecclesmarker is also available for interchange via a 400-m walk. Major bus interchanges are at Burymarker, Victoriamarker, Shudehillmarker, Piccadilly Gardensmarker, Altrinchammarker and Ecclesmarker. In December 2007 there were 37 Metrolink stops: 17 former British Rail stations on the Phase 1 lines to Altrincham and Bury, 17 new stops on the Phase 1 lines in the city centre and on the Phase 2 line to Eccles, and 3 shared main line stations (Altrincham, Piccadilly and Victoria).

The Metrolink depot is south of Queen’s Road (Cheetham Hillmarker, M8) on the western side of the Bury line, between Victoria and Woodlands Road. The depot connections face Bury. Queens Road staff halt serves the depot. This facility will not be able to handle the expanded network, so GMPTE has obtained a site for a second depot near Old Trafford. Work on this site, alongside the track between Trafford Bar and Old Trafford, commenced in early 2009 with the demolition of the remaining buildings on the site.

Bury Line Altrincham Line Eccles Line
(*)=planned The line through Navigation Road is single track.


Fares and usage

A 2000 Metrolink tram crossing the Manchester Ship Canal at Pomona
Fares are charged according on the number of fare zones travelled through, and whether travel is in the peak period - before 0930 on weekdays (except public holidays).

Tickets are purchased from machines at each stop. Single journeys must be completed within 90 minutes, return journeys the same day. It is possible to purchase tickets from the machines for travel all day, for groups, or all weekend. Some ticket machines accept only coins, others also accept banknotes and give a maximum of £7 in change. Train users travelling into the city centre from stations in Greater Manchester are able to use the Metrolink in the central zone for nothing. These train tickets can be used between Victoria, Shudehill, Market Street, Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly, Mosley Street, St Peter's Square and G-Mex. Free tram rides also extend to stations outside Greater Manchester between Ashley and Northwich. Standard rail tickets for stations between Altrincham and Mouldsworth are valid on Metrolink services on Sundays only. This was due to no trains running between Altrincham and Manchester on a Sunday between 1992 and December 2008, due to a GMPTE budgeting crisis in 1992 after which the service was not reinstated. A 2-hourly Sunday train service between Altrincham and Manchester has since been resumed, but tickets remain valid on Sundays.

All Metrolink tickets must be purchased before travel. A "standard fare" of £100 is charged for travelling without a ticket (Reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days). Metrolink is policed by the Greater Manchester Police including Police Community Support Officers. An initiative by Greater Manchester Police, which saw around 15 officers routinely patrolling the tram network, was stopped due to lack of funds. On-board ticket checks are done by Carlisle Security on behalf of the GMPTE.

Metrolink carried 18.8 million passengers in 2004, compared to 7.5 million who used the Bury and Altrincham rail services before Metrolink. According to Metrolink sources, at least two million fewer car journeys have been made each year along the tram route. Metrolink has become something of a victim of its own popularity. Many services are extremely busy, especially at peak times at the city centre stations, and fares have risen at a rate far above that of inflation. In the first two years of Metrolink operation, peak hour patronage was well below expected levels, but off-peak patronage exceeded expectations. Metrolink reacted by reducing peak fares which improved loadings.

Vehicles

T-68

The original vehicles operated on the Metrolink network since 1991 are T-68 trams built by the Italian manufacturer AnsaldoBreda. In 1999 the same company supplied six T-68a trams for operation on the Eccles extension. In December 2007 the Metrolink fleet consisted of 26 T-68 vehicles numbered in the 1000 series, and six T68a vehicles numbered in the 2000 series.

The trams normally operate singly, except during the rush hours when there are a few double trams along the Bury–Altrincham route. 1005, 1010 and 1015 and all 2000-series trams are modified for use on the Eccles line, which involves large amounts of street running, with retractable and covered couplers and covered bogies. The trams consist of two units joined by an articulated section, with four doors per side. They are 30 m long and bi-directional with cabs at both ends. The front and rear bogies are powered, with two 750 V, 105 kW motors per bogie. The third bogie, under the articulation, is not powered. The maximum speed is 80km/h, with 48km/h allowed for street running. There are 83 seats in each vehicle (plus four folding seats) and the nominal capacity is 200 passengers (250 maximum). Up to four trams can be worked in multiple, but the platform length at central and Eccles line stations allow for a double unit only. Although the former heavy rail stations on the Bury and Altrincham lines can accept a triple or quadruple tram, each platform's public area is currently shorter than its full length.

Twenty-three of the T-68s have name plates, named after famous Mancunian people, achievements, places or company sponsorship.
  • 1000 The Larry Sullivan (Prototype)
  • 1001 System One
  • 1002 Virgin Megastores
  • 1003
  • 1004 The Robert Owen
  • 1005 The Railway Mission
  • 1006
  • 1007 East Lancashire Railwaymarker
  • 1008
  • 1009 Virgin Megastores
  • 1010
  • 1011 Virgin Megastores
  • 1012 Virgin Megastores
  • 1013 The Grenadier Guardsman
  • 1014 The Great Manchester Runner
  • 1015 Burma Star
  • 1016 Virgin Megastores
  • 1017 Bury Hospice
  • 1018 Sir Matt Busby
  • 1019
  • 1020 Lancashire Fusilier
  • 1021


M5000

As part of the "Big Bang" network extension project, the Metrolink fleet is set to expand with the introduction of new Flexity Swift high-floor trams, built by the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Transportation.

In April 2007 eight Flexity Swift LRVs were ordered, designated 'M5000', similar to the K5000 series used in the German cities of Cologne and Bonn, and similar to the low-floor models used by London’s Tramlinkmarker. Each tram is 28.4m long, and has 52 standard seats with a further 8 'perch' seats. At a standard 4 persons per square metre, there will be space for 146 standing passengers, giving each tram a total peak capacity of 206. When they enter service in autumn 2009, these new trams will enable all the Bury–Altrincham direct services to be double trams, significantly increasing capacity. A further four trams of the same type have been ordered to allow for a new 12-minute service between Cornbrook and the new Mediacity:uk extension in Salford Quaysmarker.

On 24 June 2008 a further 28 trams were ordered for the extensions to Oldham and Rochdale, Droylsden in Tameside, and Chorlton in South Manchester. All the new trams are being built by Bombardier in Viennamarker, Austriamarker, and will cost just over £2 million each. The current order book is for 40 new Metrolink trams. The first delivery of the new trams from Bombardier arrived at Metrolink's Queens Road depot on the 13th July 2009 and will go through approximately 3 months of testing and driver training before entering service in the autumn.

Branding and publicity

When proposals to build a light rail system in Manchester were first promoted in 1984, the system was known simply as "Light Rapid Transit", or LRT for short. Artists' impressions at the of the LRT vehicles depicted them in orange and white livery, bearing the Greater Manchester Transport "M" logo, sharing the same branding as GMT buses of the period.

The Metrolink brand was first introduced in 1987 in time for the tendering process to build and operate the system. The original Metrolink logo which appeared on publicity used the orange Greater Manchester Transport "M" monogram to form the "M" of Metrolink. Artists' impressions in publicity depicted the vehicles painted in light grey livery, with the lines of the "M" symbol continuing along the sides of the vehicles as double bands of orange.

When the system opened in 1992, Metrolink branding had lost any association with the old GMT, with vehicles, signage and publicity coloured with turquoise and charcoal grey. The Metrolink logo used a stylised "M" monogram placed at an angle within a circle, reflecting the organisational separation of the system operations from the transport authority. The trams wore a livery of turquoise doors, white body and grey "skirts" and this design is still in use today.

A curiosity of the time was that Metrolink's original policy was not to use the word "tram", and early publicity referred instead to "vehicles", "LRVs" (Light Rail Vehicles), "trains" and even "Metrocars". This policy was reversed after a year or two: Mancunians had referred to the system as "trams" from the opening, as had the road signs on the routes, because in law (Transport & Works Act 1992) Metrolink is a tram system with some segregated route. (Many other tram undertakings have similar off-road sections, some converted from heavy rail and others built specifically away from a highway: in Britain, Tramlinkmarker in south London includes examples of both.) Metrolink was also criticised initially for publicising the times of the last trams each evening with their scheduled arrival times in the suburbs, not their departure times from the city centre.

The launch branding also attempted to introduce "The Met" as a nickname for the system ("Don't get wet ... get The Met") but the name failed to catch on.

In 2003, GMPTE introduced new branding for Metrolink to promote its proposals for the "Big Bang" network expansion project. The logo featured a new "M" symbol formed from yellow and blue upward arrows, with the strapline "Transforming our Future". This logo was not used on trams or signage, however.

In October 2008 a new corporate identity was created by Hemisphere Design and Marketing Consultants of Manchestermarker. The design features a pale yellow and grey colour scheme, a logotype in the specially-commissioned Pantograph sans regular typeface by the Dalton Maag type foundry, and a graphical motif of repeating circles. When fully introduced, the new branding style will be applied to station signage and tram livery, and the current "M" symbol will be replaced by a diamond graphic formed from the repeating circle pattern. The new livery will eventually be applied to the new stock of trams when they are brought into service in late 2009, replacing the turqoise and black colour scheme with yellow at the vehicle ends, grey sides and black doors. The older trams will be re-painted in the new livery when they come due for re-refurbishment.

File:Metrolink artists impression 1984.jpg|An early artist's impression of the proposed tram system in Market Street (1984)File:Metrolink artists impression 1987.jpg|An later artist's impression of a tram in St Peter's Square (1987)File:1010 turns off Mosley Street.jpg|Turquoise & grey tram livery (1992-present)File:Metrolink New Livery on Both Trams.jpg|The new livery displayed on both types of tram (2008)

Operator

Metrolink was originally built and operated from 1989 by the consortium Greater Manchester Metrolink Limited (GMML). In 1997 the contract was awarded to a new consortium, Altram (Manchester) Limited, a consortium of Ansaldo Transporti, Serco Investments Limited, Laing Civil Engineering and 3i. Serco Metrolink, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Serco Limited, took over the operations and maintenance of the system on 26 May 1997. In March 2003, Serco Investments bought out its partners and Altram (Manchester) Limited became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Serco.

In July 2007 the contract to operate Metrolink was awarded to Stagecoach Metrolink, a subsidiary of the Scottish transport company, Stagecoach Group plc. Unlike Serco, Stagecoach do not own the concession, merely operate it on a fixed-term management contract.

Future

Mediacity:uk extension

The Mediacity:uk spur
The extension of the network to Mediacity:uk in Salford Quaysmarker is under development. Construction on the 400-metre spur off the Eccles line was due to start in spring 2009. The Transport and Works application was approved in May 2009.

It is planned to open the new line in summer 2010.

Phase 3

Construction work along the extension near Chorlton-cum-Hardy
Phase 3 is an ambitious expansion programme that will see trams running to Oldhammarker, Rochdalemarker, Ashton-under-Lynemarker, Wythenshawemarker and Manchester Airportmarker. It has been dubbed the "Big Bang" on account of the size of the planned extensions.

Expansion of the Metrolink network has been promoted since the 1980s, but proposals have had mixed fortunes. In 2000, a £500 million expansion of Metrolink was announced by the Government, promising extensions to Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport. These plans were later cancelled due to increasing costs.

Phase 3 was eventually split into two more phases due to funding constraints, known as Phase 3a and Phase 3b. In December 2004 the government announced that £520 million would be authorised for Phase 3a. Phase 3a was given the go-ahead by the Department for Transportmarker in July 2006, with a £300m funding gap expected to be met by a loan. Funding for Phase 3b was tied in with the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund; following the rejection of congestion charging in Manchester in a 2008 referendum, councils grouped together and agreed a way to raise the capital through loans, council tax rises and the government releasing future funding. In May 2009, a revival of Phase 3 was announced, with plans to complete both phases of the "Big Bang" as part of one project, funded by national and local government.

Summary of Metrolink Phase 3 extension plans
Rochdale Line East Manchester Line South Manchester Line
Phase 3a:
  • Conversion of part of the Oldham Loop line Victoria - Rochdale
Phase 3b:
  • Re-route line through Oldham town centre
  • Extension into Rochdale Town Centre
Phase 3a:
  • Construction of the line as far as Droylsden
Phase 3b:
  • Extension to Ashton-under-Lyne
Phase 3a:
  • Construction of the line as far as St. Werburgh's Road
Phase 3b:
  • Extension to East Didsbury
  • Extension to Manchester Airport


Phase 3a

Phase 3a will take over the existing heavy rail Oldham Loop Line to Oldhammarker and Rochdalemarker, and extensions to Droylsdenmarker and to St Werburgh's Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardymarker.

Environmental surveys began in April 2008 which will continue until the autumn. Several companies were short-listed to build the extensions with the M-Pact Thales consortium, made up of Thales, Laing O'Rourke and GrantRail, being eventually picked in spring 2008. The project's final cost was calculated at £575 million and was signed off in May 2008. Construction is due to start in 2009 and the new lines are hoped to become operational in 2011/12.

Phase 3b

Phase 3b will divert the Phase 3a Rochdale line into Oldhammarker and Rochdalemarker town centres, and extend the Droylsden line to Ashton-under-Lynemarker and the St Werburgh's Road line to East Didsburymarker and Manchester Airportmarker.

Phase 3b forms part of Greater Manchester’s integrated transport strategy, which recommends a wide-ranging package of transport investment and traffic management measures. In July 2007 GMPTE and the AGMA submitted a bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund to secure the funding for this package which would have guaranteed the extensions to these destinations. The bid was put to a referendum and rejected by the residents of Greater Manchester. Following on from this, AGMA agreed a package to raise the capital needed for the extensions and work will begin in late 2009.

Two further Metrolink extensions were included in the 2007 GMPTE plans, serving Stockportmarker and the Trafford Centremarker. The Trafford Centre line will continue from Pomonamarker viaduct on the Eccles line, which has been built with the expansion in mind, and will have stops serving the Manchester United home ground at Old Trafford and Imperial War Museum Northmarker. These extensions are awaiting funding from private sector sources. Proposals to extend the extend the East Didsburymarker line to Stockportmarker town centre have not been approved by the Department for Transport and would therefore need to be deferred.

Concerns were raised in the original Phase 3 proposals regarding the continued reliance on a single route through the city centre, which could have become a bottleneck when the new extensions opened, with six or seven routes running over the same track. GMPTE has reacted to this by including an additional line, probably along Cross Street between GMexmarker and Victoriamarker with stops at the Manchester Town Hallmarker and Arndale Shopping Centremarker. There will be a Bus Rapid Transit route developed linking the Metrolink service in the centre of Manchester with Leigh and Salford that will not be reached by the Phase 3b extensions.

The full proposal for the Metrolink extensions, including the additional city centre crossing and Trafford Park lines, and linking with new Bus Rapid Transit routes, would take the total cost of Phase 3 to an estimated £1.2 billion, requiring revenue from the government and local council taxes.. AGMA commissioned a public referendum on the plans, including the congestion charge, and this concluded on 11 December 2008. Each borough representative agreed to vote in accordance with the public vote of their residents, with a minimum 7 to 3 majority of boroughs being required for the TIF proposal to proceed. 79% of the votes were cast against the plans.

The network including all immediately planned proposed expansions would increase in size from with 37 stops to with at least 105 stops, and carrying 70 million passengers per year.

Project Length New trams required
Extension spur from Harbour City to Mediacity funded jointly by Peel Holdings and North West Development Agency, service to run between Cornbrook and Mediacity every 12 minutes 4
Additional route across Manchester city centre between Centralmarker and Victoriamarker Not yet known
Conversion of existing railway from Victoria to Oldhammarker and Rochdalemarker (plus some street running) 12
Extension to Manchester Airportmarker 16
Extension to Ashton-under-Lynemarker 10
Extension to East Didsburymarker 10


Phase 3 Big Bang revival, May 2009

At a meeting of AGMA (the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities), 12 May 2009, cross-party agreement was reached between representatives of all ten Greater Manchester authorities for an increase in Council Tax to cover a number of transport improvements. The list of 10 schemes costing £1.4 billion includes some road and bus improvements but crucially for Metrolink fills the gap in funding left by the shortfall of the "3a" scheme.

The money is to be found by a combination of an increase in council tax (by approx £2 per year per council tax payer), contributions from Manchester Airport, increased revenue from passenger journeys and the early release of some central government money, previously earmarked for transport improvements in the conurbation. The revived project was presented by the leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese as "a new plan" which had been drawn up after the failure of the Transport Innovation Fund referendum.

Further projects

The Metrolink expansion proposals still not programmed following this announcement are:
  • The Trafford Park/Trafford Centre line (dependent on private sector funding)
  • The full extension of the Didsbury line into Stockport Town centre.


In addition, feasibility work is continuing on possible further Metrolink expansions beyond the Phase 3 network:
  • The completion of the Manchester Airport loop (dependent on private sector funding)
  • Conversion of the Marple rail service to tram-train or Metrolink operation (dependent on funding from rail operation budgets)
  • Conversion of the Manchester-Atherton-Wigan line to tram-train or Metrolink operation.
  • Conversion of the Manchester-Bolton line to tram-train operation.
  • Possible linkages between Metrolink and the East Lancashire Railwaymarker.


Criticism

Metrolink been criticised for its concessionary fares policy, in particular the student fare which does not extend to students over 19 years old This has attracted criticism in the form of a web-based petition from the student population, which has recently led to an assessment of demand to alter the pricing and upper age limit to the current student fare. (A Railcard for 16-25s and full-time students over 25 is on sale for rail journeys but is not valid for Metrolink journeys apart from through journeys from the National Rail network.) Metrolink is also unpopular with students as bicycles are prohibited, unlike on heavy rail.

GMPTE has invested a lot of money converting popular heavy rail lines to light rail, which has attracted criticism. Critics have remarked that while trams may run more frequently than heavy rail services, they are much smaller, meaning that there is actually less capacity on the Altrincham and Bury lines than in the 1980s. They also point out that all trams call at every station, meaning that they are slower at reaching Manchester than some of the 1980s train services.

The conversion of the Altrincham line has meant that trains from Knutsfordmarker, Northwichmarker and Chestermarker must take a longer route to Manchester through Stockportmarker. In December 2008 that service had to be cut back further due to a shortage of paths through Stockport. which resurfaced criticism about conversion of the Altrincham line. Similarly, there have been suggestions that Rawtenstallmarker should get a regular train service to Manchester, via the East Lancashire Railwaymarker, with the conversion of the Burymarker line this creates complications.

There have been public calls from as early as 1996 that the city centre spine via Mosely Street to Victoria could face a "tram-jam" when Metrolink vehicles are feeding into it from up to 8 termini across the urban area. This potential problem will be mostly solved by the proposed "Second City Crossing" (see above).

Issues regarding safety after operator Serco handed over to Stagecoach Group have arisen over 2008. It is alleged that Serco allowed maintenance to decline after losing the franchise. A second derailment in just over six months followed on 29 June 2008, at Princess Street, while carrying passengers from a Radiohead concert at Lancashire County Cricket Groundmarker. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report into this derailment was damning of the state of maintenance of the track, reporting that the keep rail (the rail on the inside of the wheel) on one track had worn down to a thickness of only 2.5 millimetres, from an initial 15 mm, and that there was a lack of communication between Metrolink, Serco, and Stagecoach Group on the state of the track at the time the franchise was transferred.

See also



References

  1. publicity brochure
  2. - publicity brochure
  3. [1] Manchester Museum of Transport, Metrolink prototype exhibit, 7 December 2008
  4. LRTA web page on the new trams for Metrolink, including pictures
  5. RAIL Issue 603
  6. - map of the proposed network expansion
  7. (subscription required)
  8. ibid, p 16
  9. ibid, p 12
  10. http://www.16-25railcard.co.uk
  11. http://www.railwayscene.co.uk/showthread.php?thread=4436
  12. http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/2095707.rushhour_trains_may_be_scrapped/


Further reading

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