After Chorlton, what next for Metrolink?

St Werburgh's RoadNow 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?


About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
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21 Responses to After Chorlton, what next for Metrolink?

  1. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    I see your preamble was bang up to date with the mention of the Etihad stadium. I just hope we don’t end up with a tram stop called Etihad Airlines Stadium.

    Some “wit” on a local train was heard to call the stadum the “EVER-BEEN-HAD” stadium.

  2. Shaun says:

    Interesting that they’re doing the testing at night between 11pm and 5am. A few late nights/early mornings for drivers doing the testing (and for people trying to get photos of the testing). Given that the testing is only taking place between Piccadilly and Velopark (ASDA) between “mid-July to the end of the July”, it does look like they are hopeful of getting it ready for the start of the season.

    As the East Manchester line testing doesn’t have the problem of a junction like Trafford Bar to deal with and with it being virtually out of the way of the existing network (apart from Piccadilly station), then there should be less problems than what the South Manchester line has gone through recently. If it’s not ready for the opening day of the season, then I imagine it’ll be ready by the second or third game. Certainly in time for their Champions League games starting in mid-September, which will probably more helpful for the visiting fans.

    It’ll be interesting to see where the East Manchester line services will start from. I believe it was orginally suggested that Eccles trams would continue from Piccadilly, but some of the Metrolink maps recently have Bury–Ashton-under-Lyne listed as a line colour, so it maybe possible that it’ll be every 12 minutes each from Bury to Altrincham or Ashton-under-Lyne.

  3. Watcherzero says:

    Always been suggested that the Bury and Altrincham services which run to Piccadilly would continue on and the Eccles service would turn there. With Mediacity-Cornbrook shuttle extended to Victoria in 2016 that would mean all those lines would have services from both Victoria and Piccadilly stations.

  4. J Collins says:

    In the last week Metrolink have downgraded most Altrincham-Bury services to single T68s (previously mainly paired up T68s.) Presumably, now the Chorlton-Victoria service is running they have less trams available and have an increased frequency between Deansgate and Victoria they have decided paired up T68s isn’t in their best interests.

    However, yesterday (9th July) there was international cricket at Old Trafford and Metrolink decided they would, in the main, run the T68s on the Altrincham line in single mode and wouldn’t, in the main, run additional services. A service I was on was packed leaving Cornbrook and was only able to take around 15 extra passengers when it reached Old Trafford.

    Some people leaving the cricket decided to make the longer walk to Salford Quays Metrolink stop in the hope of getting on a tram. While they didn’t have to wait as long to get on a tram they were also finding that trams were too full to take them. This was because BBC were filming some programs at Media:City yesterday with audiences arriving at and leaving Media:City filling up the trams.

    I wonder what’ll be like when Media:City is in full operation and there’s international cricket at Old Trafford on the same day.

    In my opinion a tram system can’t cope with these levels of passengers. Manchester needed a French style RER system or German style S Bahn instead and it’s a costly mistake that GMPTE have made that’s too late to change now.

    • D9000 says:

      Hardly GMPTE’s fault, is it. They wanted an S-Bahn (The Picc-Vic project), and Her Majesty’s .gov wouldn’t stump up for it. It was (quite literally) Metrolink or nothing.

      Once TMS is up and running, and more M5000’s are available for general service, doubles will return, I’m sure.

      • J Collins says:

        But it was GMPTE that opted to take the Metrolink out to Altrincham and Bury. Having trams connecting Victoria, Deansgate and Piccadilly was the right decision at the time (and the extension out to Salford Quays since.) However, now there is funding for a cross Manchester rail line but as GMPTE have converted the Altrincham, Bury and Oldham lines there are less options for cross Manchester rail services.

        Running extra 323s between Manchester and Altrincham stopping at Old Trafford (or Warwick Road as it was called in BR days) yesterday (as Northern do for the Man United stop near Trafford Park) would have been so much better than the more frequent, much smaller T68s.

  5. James McCollom says:

    There aren’t enough 323s to run the existing services under the wires, let alone putting on sports extras. Not enough spare units, which means airport line users often see a replacement diesel unit, with half the usual number of seats and slower acceleration, normally for several days at a time.

    Full disclosure: I am an airport line peak-hour user 🙂

    • J Collins says:

      I was talking hypothetically in terms of 323s. Had the Altrincham and Bury lines not been converted then the 308s would likely have been replaced by 323s so there would have been a lot more 323s built (maybe even a 4 car variety.)

      I agree there aren’t enough 323s for peak time weekday services but sporting events are usually outside peak hours on a weekday or on a Saturday, so the extra 323s used at weekday peak times can be used for sporting extras.

      Northern Rail do run doubled up 323s to the Man United stop near Trafford Park whenever there is a match on. Ideally this station would be used when Cricket is on at Old Trafford as well. However, apparently it’s on Man United’s land.

  6. Pingback: ‘The trams are much nicer’: Fun and felony as Metrolink’s Chorlton line opens. | Trams Stop Here!

  7. Trystan says:

    After being an avid fan of this blog site for over 2 years now I feel it is about time I post something. I had a ride on the new line today after finishing work and it was a fantastic experience. It took me just over an hour to go from Whitefield all the way to SWR and then back to Victoria. On the bus it would have taken that time just one way and cost more than £4.20!
    At Firswood I noticed that the yellow platform destination signs have Trams to Didsbuy & Airport painted in yellow underneath the black painted Trams to St Werburgh’s Road lettering. I asume this is to cut down costs for when the other 2 lines open fully. I must say well done to both TfGM and Metrolink and there was a healthy patronage too. Can’t wait for the next extensions to open up.
    D9000 is quite correct in when he says it was either Metrolink or nothing. I remember Metrolink being mooted and then the oiginal system built. My dad used to take me up to Bury on the old third rail slam door bright orange trains, which I must admit I do miss. The line was so unique that it was the only 1200 DC side contact third rail in the country of that type I beleive and was becoming costly to maintain and BR said the line was not viable to refurbish or upgrade and would therefore seek to close the line. So that’s when the GMCC came up with the idea of Metrolink.

    • Trystan says:

      BR Class 504’s were the trains that ran on the line before Metrolink. Had a senior moment and coldn’t rememeber the number. All other UK third rail has the electric “shoe” on top of the rail whereas these units were side contact. The only type in the whole country.

  8. Interesting article and a great blog! It’s amazing to see how many people are committed to proper public transportation and it must be reassuring for the people in charge to see such a n interest taken!

    Mr. Mccollon. My name is William Keunen and I am currently doing a research dissertation on the treatment of Sustainability in public transport policy and development (focussing specifically on the Greater Manchester Metrolink project), and people like you are just what I am looking for community feedback: I would be very appreciative if I could ask you a few questions (email, phone, in person whatever works) or at the very least direct you to my community survey on the topic:

    I appreciate any time or effort made and keep up the good work; apologies for the informal nature of contact through a blog comment!

    William Keunen

  9. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    I note that your thread heading gave forward Metrolink information, so I thought that I would add one specific point for the Rochdale area. On the Future Metrolink site for the Oldham and Rochdale line, there was a schiematic drawing showing all the stops…. but against Kingsway Business Park in the Rochdale area was a bracketed note saying this was a “possible stop”. TfGM have now had their specific committee that deals with Rochdale MBC agree a funding package for £2.5 million to enable this stop to be constructed. Kingsway Business Park is a most important part of the plans of Rochdale MBC.

    • Shaun says:

      They’ve also changed the route in Rochdale to “run on a single line section through the junction of Drake Street and Smith Street before returning to two tracks on the approach to the town centre stop.”

      As well as that, there is also consulation going on at the Oldham Mumps area too.

      I’ve seen some of the work going on along the line in the Oldham area. Hollinwood station has taken shape now with platforms in place, along with the structure of the shelters and the poles where the power lines will be attached to. As for the Werneth area, there is still a lack of tracks around where the old train station was, although it does look like they’re digging up land for the re-route into town and land has been cleared in the Westwood and town centre.

      There’s a big gap at the junction of Union Street and King Street, where the King Street stop will be and land is being cleared at the Manchester Street roundabout, they’re digging up the road on Union Street where Central stop will be and they’ve knocked down the old B&Q store for where the new Oldham Mumps stop, bus interchange and parking spaces will be. Oldham Mumps now looks a lot wider now with B&Q and the bridge removed. Also seen pictures of the temporary Oldham Mumps stations being built in the place of the old train stations.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        What exactly is the problem with Wellington Bridge over the River Roche that causes them to say only single track will be laid over it?

      • Watcherzero says:

        Its not strong enough, couldnt carry the weight of two tram lines without being totally replaced.

  10. J Collins says:

    Re: Trystan. It was 504s on Victoria-Bury and 304s on Altrincham-Oxford Road. I don’t know where I got 308s from – although 304s, 308s and 504s looked similar externally.

  11. PaulD says:

    Is there any further information on the early opening of the extension to Velopark?

    • James McCollom says:

      Unfortunately it’s not looking particularly imminent at all – check back in time for Christmas shopping?

  12. Tom Moore says:

    What are the latest new Metrolink line opening dates?

    • Shaun says:

      Still waiting for confirmation for revised dates but planned openings are currently:

      *Oldham Mumps temporary: Spring/Summer 2012
      *Droylsden: Summer/Autumn 2012
      *Rochdale train station: Summer/Autumn 2012
      *East Didsbury: Summer 2013
      *Ashton-under-Lyne: Winter 2013/4
      *Oldham and Rochdale town centres: 2014
      Airport: 2016

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