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Bury and Altrincham Lines Track Upgrades

Introduction

Metrolink reopened on 13 September 2007 after an extensive upgrade which took place during a phased blockade that started on 26 May.

Doing this work during the summer months, when fewer people use Metrolink, minimised both the time taken and costs involved. Trams continued to run in the City Centre and on the Eccles line over the whole period. A brief summary of replacement bus service details is at the foot of this page.

The track and platform upgrades are part of a GBP102m investment package of works intended to increase peak capacity, to renew certain life expired parts of the infrastructure and to improve access.

Track Upgrades

Restrictions in available funds, for conversion of the former Altrincham and Bury railway lines to Metrolink, prevented the track being upgraded in 1992. By 2007 some of the track was more than 50 years old. In the last few years ride quality had, in some parts, become very poor.

Carillion Construction Ltd have replaced nearly 20 miles of worn out track on the segregated part of Metrolink. This was approximately two thirds of the track on Victoria to Bury line combined with Cornbrook to Timperley on the Altrincham line.

The oldest track type was jointed Bull Head track which had top and base of similar shape and was mounted in chairs and held in place by wooden or steel keys. Rail lengths were 60 foot (18.29 metre) or less. More recent railway track was flat bottom rail at 113 pounds weight per yard which is 56kg/metre. Some of this was jointed every 60 foot; much was in long welded rail.

Existing continuously welded rail sections were improved as required. The old jointed track was completely removed and the ground surface prepared before the new track was installed. The new track uses twin block sleepers, seen more often in europe than this country, and flat bottom rail.

Platform reconstruction

To reduce costs when the lines were converted to Metrolink, minimal work was done to the platforms to give limited level boarding. Platform edges designed for main line train operation can give vertical and horizontal gaps up to 200mm from tram floor level. An 8m long level access zone in a was constructed on each platform, in a position corresponding to the level access area of the city centre profiled platforms.

Some platforms have been reconstructed in previous upgrade work. These each took several weeks as work was only possible during the night when trams were not running. All remaining platforms have now been upgraded to give level boarding, with a minimum gap, over the length of a double tram.

Metrolink bridge works

During the track upgrade works engineers lifted a new 50 tonne road bridge into place over the Bury line at Withins Lane in Radcliffe on 22 August. The bridge, which leads to a local farm, was built on the site before being positioned over the Metrolink line using an 800 tonne crane. The old bridge was made with wooden decking and a tarmac surface and needed to be upgraded.

The Metrolink bridge which goes over the M60 at Besses o’ th’ Barn has also been re–waterproofed.

Depot Facilities

Depot facilities at Castleton on Network Rail were brought back into use. A new depot was built at Buckley Wells on the East Lancashire Railway. The connection between Metrolink and the ELR at Buckley Wells was reinstated. This enabled access for materials and equipment, from Network Rail at Castleton over the ELR Heywood and Bury line, for the track renewal works.

60,000 tonnes of ballast, 40,000 sleepers and nearly 40 miles of rail were stored at the East Lancashire Railway depot in Bury. Up to five extra goods trains ran daily, except on Sundays, in each direction on the section of the line between Heywood and Bury, saving approximately 4,000 lorry journeys on local roads.

For the Altrincham line, a works compound was set up near Trafford Bar on part of the Metrolink second depot site. Materials and equipment were transferred from Network Rail to Metrolink using the engineering cross–over at Altrincham.

Metrolink track works during May

On Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays in May, Metrolink services on the Bury Line were all replaced by buses. This enabled preparations for the main renewal works, which took place from June to September.

Sunday 6 May and Bank Holiday Monday 7 May
Bury line and most Manchester City Centre stops were closed. Altrincham and Eccles services ran to and from G–Mex.

Sunday 13, 20 and 27 May and Bank Holiday Monday 28 May
Bury Metrolink services did not operate. Altrincham and Eccles services ran to and from Piccadilly.

Bury Line phase 1 — 26 May to 20 June

On 26 May and from 29 May Bury Interchange and Radcliffe Metrolink stops closed with replacement bus services in operation. The 400 ran between Radcliffe and Bury; the X2 between Whitefield and Bury; the X3 between Whitefield and Radcliffe. At Whitefield the Interchange stops alongside the inbound platform were used. Metrolink tickets could be used on the buses with passengers continuing their journey by tram from Whitefield.

Bury line Piccadilly and Whitefield service operated with double units every 12 minutes. After arriving at the Whitefield outbound platform, drivers easily changed ends, before returning to Manchester. The crossover was operated by control, on radio request from the driver, indicators showing the points had moved to the required position. Manchester bound trams moved slowly until they had cleared the crossover.

The Altrincham service, during the day, ran alternately to Piccadilly and Victoria; giving the usual ten trams an hour. The Eccles line ran normally, to and from Piccadilly every 12 minutes.

Crumpsall Crossover Renewal

The old ground frame worked crossover became defective at some time, a length of switch and stock rail were replaced by a piece of plain line. This stopped the crossover being used and it was subsequently replaced by plain line on both tracks.

A new crossover, pre–assembled in several sections, was observed alongside the line on 17 May. It was installed by 29 May, but secured out of use. On 21 and 22 June, while replacement bus services operated between Manchester and Bury, this crossover was commissioned.

Co–ordinating with drivers by radio, Metrolink Control operate this power worked crossover. While it is in use, point operation is shown by illuminated indicators.

Bury Line phase 2 — 21 June to 22 July

From 23 June to 22 July all stops from Bury to Bowker Vale were closed. Four replacement bus routes were provided between Manchester Shudehill and Bury. Tickets could be obtained from the Ticket Vending Machines, if available, or the bus driver.

Single trams ran from Piccadilly to Crumpsall at 12 minute intervals. After passengers left the tram, it was driven forward. Metrolink Control operated the crossover, on radio request from the driver, when the indicators showed that the points had moved to the required position, the tram was driven to the inbound platform.

Until 30 June, during the day, the Altrincham service continued to run alternately to Piccadilly and Victoria; giving the usual ten trams an hour.

Altrincham Line — 2 July to 27 August

From 2 July all stops from Altrincham to Stretford were closed, then from 27 July Old Trafford and Trafford Bar stops were also closed until 27 August. Two replacement bus routes were provided between Manchester St. Peter’s Square and Altrincham. One was along the main road, the other called at all tram stops. Tickets could be obtained from the Ticket Vending Machines, if available, or the bus driver.

Northern Rail accepted Metrolink tickets on all their trains linking Altrincham and Manchester. Three Chester line morning trains to Manchester and three evening trains from Manchester were twice the usual length.

A 12 minute interval service of single trams ran to Manchester on the open section. In early mornings, evenings and on Sundays these terminated at Piccadilly; at other times they terminated at Victoria.

The Altrincham line reopened on 28 August.

Bury Line phase 3 — 23 July to 12 September

From 23 July all stops from Bury to Woodlands Road were closed. Four replacement bus routes were provided between Manchester Shudehill and Bury.

The Victoria — Piccadilly trams ran except on Sundays 5, 19 and 26 August, also 2 and 9 September. On these days, the replacement bus services continued from Shudehill Interchange to Fairfield Street near Manchester Piccadilly.

Eccles — Piccadilly trams continued to run. The Old Trafford/Cornbrook to Manchester trams continued to run; see Altrincham line renewals for details.

The Bury line reopoened on 13 September.

Replacement Bus Services

Buying tickets
Metrolink tickets were available from all the usual outlets. Day tickets were available from Metrolink replacement bus drivers. At many closed stops the Metrolink ticket machines were not accessible.

Fare Reductions
Metrolink tickets have been discounted from 21 June to 15 September 2007, on the Bury and Altrincham lines. Adult Return and MetroMax fares were reduced by up to 10%. Weekly, four-weekly and quarterly tickets have been reduced by up to 20%. Adult Single and the Child, senior citizen and disabled concessionary fares did not change. Prices for Eccles line tickets did not change.

Notices at Metrolink stops showed the location of the ordinary bus stops used for replacement buses, each such stop had an additional Metrolink Repacement Service plate.

Services ran both from and to Manchester. A group of four routes for the Bury line and two for the Altrincham line were designed to minimise journey times for the majority of Metrolink customers. The service interval varied through the day and evening.

Bury Line, phases 2 & 3, 21 June to 12 September

Manchester — Bury limited stop, service X1
Shudehill Interchange; Cheetham Hill, Bury Old Rd/Seymour Rd for Crumpsall; Bowker Vale, Middleton Road; then via the motorway to Bury Interchange; journey time 35 minutes from Shudehill

Manchester — Bury limited stop, service X2
Shudehill Interchange; Cheetham Hill, Bury Old Rd/Seymour Rd for Crumpsall; Heaton Park, Metrolink Station; Prestwich, Longfield Centre; Besses o’ th’ Barn, Chestnut Avenue; Whitefield, Hamilton Road; Bury Interchange; journey time 45 minutes from Shudehill

Manchester — Radcliffe limited stop, service X3
Shudehill Interchange; Prestwich, Longfield Centre; Besses o’ th’ Barn, Chestnut Avenue; Whitefield, Hamilton Road; Radcliffe, Metrolink Station; journey time 37 minutes from Shudehill

Manchester — Bury all tram stops, service 400
Shudehill Interchange; Woodlands Road, Metrolink Station; Crumpsall, Delaunays Road; Crumpsall, Metrolink Station; Bowker Vale, Middleton Road; Heaton Park, Metrolink Station; Prestwich, Longfield Centre; Besses o’ th’ Barn, Chestnut Avenue; Whitefield, Hamilton Road ; Radcliffe, Metrolink Station ; Bury Interchange; journey time 55 minutes from Shudehill

Altrincham Line, 2 July to 27 August

Manchester — Altrincham main road route, service X4
St Peter’s Square; G–Mex, Deansgate Station; Cornbrook, Chester Road; Trafford Bar, Talbot Road; Old Trafford, Talbot Road; Stretford, Chester Road; Sale, Washway Road/Ashton Lane; Brooklands, Washway Road/Marsland Road; Timperley, Manchester Road/Park Road; Navigation Road/Manchester Road; Altrincham Interchange; journey time 40 minutes from St Peter’s Square

Manchester — Altrincham all tram stops, service 500
St Peter’s Square; G-Mex, Deansgate Station; Cornbrook, Chester Road; Trafford Bar, Talbot Road; Old Trafford, Talbot Road; Stretford, Chester Road; Dane Road, Metrolink Station; Sale, School Road; Brooklands, Brooklands Road; Timperley, Moss Lane; Navigation Road/Wellington Road; Altrincham Interchange; journey time 55 minutes from St Peter’s Square

27th July to 25th August
During this four weeks, an additional Monday to Friday daytime bus link was provided between Trafford Bar and Exchange Quay for through passengers.


Track Upgrades 2007: top of page

This page was written by Tony Williams, Manchester Area Officer, Light Rail Transit Association. Contact manwebm@lrta.org if you have any comments, ideas or suggestions about these pages.