Now that Metrolink trams are operating from Victoria through to St. Werburgh’s station in Chorlton — minus a short period on Friday morning when vandalism caused services to be suspended — we can turn our attention to the next phases in the Big Bang expansion plan. What’s the state of play with the other construction work? Thankfully the new TfGMC have reconvened after a short break for the local elections in May to be updated on progress.
It seems to have been the signalling system that has been causing the most problems to the expansion timetable. TMS is now operational between Pomona and Eccles, including the MediaCityUK spur, but technical and interface problems have delayed roll-out to the rest of the system. Indeed, the junction at Trafford Bar from the Altrincham line towards Chorlton has had to be implemented with the old-style fixed block signalling as an interim measure.
All new trams can work with TMS, along with the retrofitted-existing trams, but not all new trams can work with the old system. Priority now will be introducing the new signalling system to the city centre: Deansgate to Pomona including the new turnback siding at Cornbrook for the MediaCityUK shuttle. Cornbrook to Stretford follows, along with work at Piccadilly to allow access onto the East Manchester line. The section of line between Victoria and Queen’s Road depot will also need to be completed to allow access onto the Oldham/Rochdale line at Irk Valley junction.
Here’s a brief timeline of dates in the report:
- Latter half of July: testing on East Manchester line begins between Piccadilly and Velopark stops
- From July: driver testing on Oldham/Rochdale line as far as Central Park
- Late November: 6-minute frequency to Chorlton begins
- November/December: trams to Central Park begin
- February/March 2012: trams to Oldham Mumps begin (three months late)
- Summer 2012: trams to Rochdale railway station begin (was Spring 2012)
- Summer 2012: trams to Droylsden begin (2-3 month delay but potentially retrievable)
Whilst the East Manchester line isn’t scheduled to open as far as Droylsden until summer next year, Metrolink are looking to be able to operate an interim service as far as Velopark stop. There are only a few short sections of street running between there and Piccadilly, and with a stop at the Etihad Stadium it would be a potentially lucrative source of revenue if it could be up and running before the football season begins. Kick-off on Saturday 13th August – can it be done?