Second in a series of short articles looking at what effect the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review may have on transport in Greater Manchester
Will the chill winds of austerity leave Metrolink with an icy future? Are investment plans about to come off the rails? Not as much as other modes of transport in Greater Manchester might be facing. No, it seems as if investment in trams is secure thanks to Government money being ringfenced already – not to mention the additional investment in the shape of the Greater Manchester Transport Fund that local ratepayers are contributing towards.
So construction continues apace on the South Manchester and Oldham & Rochdale lines, with services between St Werburgh’s Road and Central Park expected to begin in Spring 2011, with the full route completed on these lines in 2014. Whilst Rochdale Town Centre tram stop will be built as planned, the new bus station adjoining the tram stop will only go ahead if it is successful in winning funds from a £600 million pot of money that the Department for Transport has put aside to pay for an array of transport schemes nationally.
To the east of the city, construction on the line to Droylsden and Ashton has been causing confusion and misery along Ashton New Road – the good news is that some long stretches of rail have been laid in the middle of the road, so we hope that the roadworks that have blighted drivers and bus passengers alike will ease off over the next year. Meanwhile, the airport line and a second cross-city-centre route along Corporation Street are schemes that will be funded though the £1.5 billion Greater Manchester Transport Fund.
Metrolink passengers are being asked to put their hands in their pockets to help pay for the improvement works, with fares increasing by an average of 6% in January. Whilst the transport authority can attempt to deflect the anger of rail commuters towards fare increases by blaming the Train Operating Companies, on Metrolink they make policy and have the final say: it’s a double-edged sword with more control, but also more criticism. Obviously GMITA prefers to have more control regardless of the downsides, with plans for the future looking into the possibility of “tram-trains” that could convert infrequent, subsidised, local heavy rail services into frequent, commercial light rail services that penetrate into the city centre – with political control to boot.
[Image credit: “Stretford Metrolink” by Karlos Karlinski on Flickr]