Three tram-train trials in Manchester investment plan

07 Jan 2019

UK: Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham introduced the city region’s revised long-term spatial strategy on January 7, which includes a transport investment vision running to 2040.

The transport vision sets out how Greater Manchester’s wider economic objectives can be met through targeted infrastructure investment. It includes a Draft Delivery Plan running to 2025, which is intended to pave the way for the longer-term objectives to be realised. These include a target for no more than 50% of journeys to be completed by private car.

Public transport investment is targeted primarily at enhancing capacity and undertaking asset renewals on the 97 km Metrolink light rail network, developing more bus rapid transit routes, and working with Network Rail and franchisees to improve suburban rail services. Other key objectives include integrating the planned High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects at a local level, and assessing the case for opening more tram stops and rail stations on existing lines where local development is planned.

The plan supports development of tram-train technology, which is now being trialled for the first time in the UK in Sheffield. Transport for Greater Manchester says it intends to prepare business cases for three ‘pathfinder’ routes, linking the existing light rail terminus at Altrincham with Hale; Bury and Rochdale; and Manchester Airport and Wilmslow. It is likely that the Bury – Rochdale route would partly share the alignment of the heritage East Lancashire Railway. These ‘pathfinder’ projects would be used to test the viability of tram-trains ahead of a wider roll-out to several local rail corridors, including Manchester – Wigan via Atherton, Manchester – Warrington Central and Manchester – Glossop.

Several light rail extensions are also to be evaluated for implementation in 2025-40. These include a possible cross-city tram tunnel linking Cornbrook with an expanded Piccadilly station, relieving pressure on the two existing surface tramways through central Manchester. Other proposals include a branch from the Bury line to serve Middleton, an eastern extension of the Ashton line to Stalybridge, and a light rail or tram-train link between Stockport and Manchester Airport.

A number of other investments are also proposed, which would be funded through developer contributions. These include a Metrolink extension from the Trafford Centre, terminus of a route now under construction, to Port Salford, and a tram stop at Sandhills north of Manchester city centre where the Bury and Oldham lines diverge.

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