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December 6 1999: Broadway Official Opening
March 1999: New Line 2 Trams — Delivery Expected
February 1999: Dumplington Line — Funding Stalled
September 1998: Trafford Centre Opens
August 1998: Minister Lays first new track of Line 2 & Market St Stop Opens
July 1998: Piccadilly Crossover problems over
June 1998: Funding for Oldham & Rochdale — Trams by 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair formally opened the Salford Quays extension of Manchester's Metrolink on the 6th December 1999 and announced to the press and public that proposals for further extensions had been examined by senior Ministers and "looked promising". The Prime Minister, who was accompanied by his Transport Minister, Lord Gus Macdonald, stated that light rail can be an alternative to the car and stated that the public/private partnership that had been responsible for building and operating the system was "exactly the type of infrastructure project we need". He was welcomed by Councilor Joe Clarke, Chair of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority, who stated he was pleased to see that Mr Blair was supporting the projected extensions. Manchester had managed to lay on the type of weather for which it is famous.
The Prime Minister arrived at Piccadilly Undercroft stop just after mid-day and boarded car 2006, one of the new cars delivered specially for Line 2. At Salford Quays the tram broke through a barrier, before the PM stopped for speeches and a photocall. Once these were over the PM walked around the assembled crowd where he was able to shake the hands of the LRTA Treasurer, Manchester Area Officer and former Manchester Area Officer which must have made his day. As he left the guests adjourned to the Copthorne Hotel for refreshments.
Back at Piccadilly Undercroft the first service car, 2003, was prepared to commence public service at 14.03. However the start was delayed whilst Martin Garrett of Altram and Metrolinx the cat made a floral presentation to the first passenger, 10 year old Beckie Mickleburgh of Nottingham. The resultant delay was compounded when 2003 emerged from the Altrincham platform of the Undercroft only to come face to face with car 1006 on an inward journey. Once this had been sorted out the car, its front end full of LRTA members, continued to Cornbrook where it left the old line and ran through to Broadway, this time stopping but not terminating at Salford Quays. This is only a temporary terminus however and services on to Eccles will start in the spring.
The new extension has been designed and constructed by John Laing and Ansaldo Trasporti (with Serco as operators) under their Altram partnership. The project called for 6 new trams, telecommunications and stop equipment. The former are similar in appearance to the older vehicles in the fleet but have three phase AC traction motors, retractable auto-couplers and bogie skirts. The Eccles Line net cost was GBP 160 million, see Metrolink Phase Two on the Funding page for details.
The civil engineering work included construction of two canal bridges, two viaducts and seven new tram stops. The new Cornbrook Interchange, which is located on a Victorian brick arched viaduct, has been built between the operational tracks of the Altrincham line and includes a turnback on the city side. At present there is no access to the station other than by tram but this will change when the local area is developed.
From here a fine new bridge takes the line over the Bridgewater Canal into Pomona, a virtual island between the Manchester Ship and the aforementioned canals. A further bridge takes the line away from the Pomona stop and on to Exchange stop. The line turns left here and crosses the Trafford Road on the level before reaching Salford Quays stop. At Furness Quay a 250 metre long viaduct takes the line around office development into the Anchorage development. The line then follows the road to Harbour City before turning northward to reach Broadway.
Thanks to GMPTE and Altram for information.
Delivery of the first of six new trams is expected this month. Built by Ansaldo, they will be tested on the existing network, and all six will be needed to service Line 2 (Manchester to Eccles.) A minimum off–peak service frequency of 12 minutes has been specified in the contract. The journey time from Eccles to Piccadilly Gardens is expected to be around 30 minutes. Unlike the existing trams which have DC motors, the new ones use three–phase AC motors.
The government is proposing to increase the amount of funding which local authorities must provide to relocate statutory utilities such as gas and electricity, necessary as a result of introducing a new light rail system, for instance. They currently pay 82%. The government proposes to increase this to 92.5%. GMPTA says this will add almost GBP5.4 million to the cost of the extensions to Rochdale (via Oldham), Ashton-under-Lyne (via Eastlands), and the Airport (via Wythenshawe Garden City). GMPTA chair Joe Clarke said the decision was disappointing, and that GMPTA was hoping to issue a single contract for these extensions to get the best value for money.
Funding for the extension to the Trafford Centre is still stalled. GMPTE has no objections, but will not be putting forward any local public sector funds. Peel Holdings, who own the Trafford Centre, have promised GBP23 million, and claim that the current Metrolink operator Ansaldo has offered to provide the remaining GBP50 million. But there are concerns that the Peel Holdings money is dependent on the success of a planning application with Trafford M.B.C. to develop sites near the Trafford Centre. Ansaldo have denied that they have committed themselves to funding the extension.
The opening of the massive Trafford Centre shopping and leisure complex at Dumplington has predictably caused chaos on the nearby M60. The owners’ aim to have 25% of all visitors arriving by public transport poses a significant challenge. A Metrolink extension is one of the ideas proposed to help to achieve this.
Transport Minister Glenda Jackson laid the first bit of track for the Salford Quays to Eccles section The route of the Cornbrook to Salford Quays section can be seen clearly now, as can the stations and the bridges over the canals. Work is apparently on target for completion in Autumn 1999 (Salford Quays) and Summer 2000 (Eccles).
The new bidirectional central loading platform in the city centre at Market Street opened on 10 August. This replaced the two one–way platforms at Market Street and High Street and improves the flow of passengers along the pavement outside Lewis’s.
Permission for the Ashton–under–Lyne extension has been granted. GMPTE aim to have the link to the City of Manchester (Commonwealth Games) Stadium completed by 2002.
The crossover outside Piccadilly Undercroft on London Road is now operational again, after teething problems put it out of action. Rain water had been washing street litter and debris into the points. Now, one platform at Piccadilly serves Bury, and the other Altrincham. This has enabled the frequency of the trams to be increased to one every 5 minutes during the morning peak time of 0715 to 0900.
The Greater Manchester region's EU regional development fund of GBP8.3 million was allocated in its entirety to the Oldham & Rochdale extension, "virtually guaranteeing" that trams will run to Oldham by 2001, with a possibility of trams to Rochdale by 2002. This route has been prioritised as the next phase now that Line 2 (Salford Quays-Eccles) is under way. The route also forms the main part of Greater Manchester's bid for Transport Policies and Programmes (TPP) funding for 1999/2000.
News 1998 & 1999: top of page
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