Manchester’s population is expanding, the city is an increasingly popular destination for high-profile employers and employees – and now its transport system could be set for an upgrade to help meet their demands.
Mayor Andy Burnham has revealed plans for an expansion of the Metrolink system that would involve using innovative tram-trains – trams that are adapted to run on both tram lines and railway tracks. Adding this latter option, currently part of a feasibility study, could see services extended out in the near term to Wigan, Marple and Wilmslow. Putting tram-trains along these routes could also help the journey into the city from increasingly popular areas such as Stockport.
Taking tram-trains out to the suburbs
A second link to Manchester Airport is mooted, as is one between the suburbs of Hale and Altrincham. Expanding to include tram-trains raises the possibility that residential developments in areas like Cornbrook and White City, out of the city centre but not too far, could have new or upgraded stations for both trams and trains.
Plans are also afoot for new residential, retail and leisure developments in Trafford around the Town Hall not far from White City.
“Greater Manchester is a growing city-region, but our transport network and infrastructure is holding us back,” said Mayor Burnham.
“People of Greater Manchester deserve a transport system that works for us both now and in the future.”
Integrated housing and transport plans
Burnham’s announcement follows on from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which recently unveiled plans for much-needed new housing stock on a number of sites around the area. Extending an existing tram line out from Ashton-under-Lyne to Stalybridge would help serve proposed new-build sites is just one example of what the mayor hopes will happen with government backing.
“It could be a matter of a few years to see the first tram-train vehicles in Greater Manchester, three to five years, possibly, something like that,” Mayor Burnham adds.
The Trafford Park line, currently being built past Old Trafford football ground and that goes near Media City to the Trafford Centre, could be extended out to Port Salford.
It is also hoped that extending the tram network would help ease congestion around Oxford Road station, as well as offering a better way of moving around the city centre and its inner suburbs.
Research underlines the need for better transport – the city’s population jumped by 6% to 572,000 in the last three years, and with EY predicting employment will grow by 1.25% in the next three, Manchester is set to keep expanding.