Metrolink extensions to Stalybridge, Port Salford, and Middleton along with tram-train services to Wigan, Wilmslow, Hazel Grove, and Marple will all be considered within the next five years as part of Greater Manchester’s wider transport strategy through to 2040.
Released alongside the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has set out a potential boom in Metrolink coverage across the region, including a number of extended and new lines.
Among these is an extension of Ashton line to Stalybridge, along with a branch of the Bury line heading to Middleton. Proposals have also been put forward for an extension of the Trafford Park line, which is currently being built, to Salford Stadium and Port Salford. The Middleton line has already been backed by TfGM which agreed last summer it “made economic sense” to connect the town to the wider network.
Another extension, linking MediaCity with Salford Crescent, is also being proposed.
The GMCA has committed to develop options for all of these extensions within the next five years, with some having the potential to be delivered by 2025.
Two further extensions, to Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2, and to Davenport Green, have also been put forward to be delivered in the next five years, subject to business case approval and funding. The GMCA has already put forward a bid to the Department for Transport for the Terminal 2 extension.
Several new stops and stations on the tram network have also been proposed: Elton Reservoir on the Bury line and Cop Road on the Oldham-Rochdale line could see new stations within the next five years, while in the longer term a transport hub is proposed at Sandhills on the Bury line, as part of FEC’s wider Northern Gateway project.
Beyond the Metrolink, the exploration of a tram-train system features prominently in the 2040 strategy. The tram-train system, which is currently being tested for feasibility, would enable adapted Metrolink vehicles to run on the same rail lines as trains.
In the nearer term, studies are being put forward to explore running a tram-train service between Hale and Altrincham, as well as running a similar service between Manchester Airport and Wilmslow.
Longer-term, the GMCA is looking at a major extension of these services including tram-trains to Hazel Grove, Marple, Glossop, Wigan and Atherton, Warrington, between Rochdale and Bury, and between Cornbrook and Manchester Airport via Timperley.
These new tram-train routes open up the potential for new stations across the rail and Metrolink network; these include Timperley East; Baguley; White City; a railway station at Cornbrook; Gatley North; Adswood; and Cheadle.
However, the report to the GMCA warned there were “significant hurdles to overcome” before tram-trains can implemented. While the report said TfGM and the GMCA were working with Network Rail to make the system work, it added: “If tram-train solutions turn out to be unviable on certain corridors, capacity improvements to the existing rail network could be delivered in the short-to-medium term instead”.
Past 2025, other options being looked at include a series of “rapid transit corridors”, which could feature tram-trains, the Metrolink, road improvements, busways, and other public transport improvements. These are:
TfGM is already introducing a zonal fares system, which is due to come into effect this weekend, and will also introduce contactless pay-as-you-go across the network this year.
In terms of funding to support these interventions, extensions, and new lines, the GMCA is working on establishing a second Greater Manchester Transport Fund to build on the original GMTF, which established in 2009 and includes £3bn of investment.
Under this second fund, the GMCA is looking to double the length and double the level of investment, meaning as much as £6bn could be spent on local transport services.
The transport strategy forms part of the wider Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, a draft of which has now been published. A formal consultation on the GMSF is due to take place, but an “informal” consultation is being invited on the transport plan; comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: Transport is the lifeblood of every town and city. It’s how people get to work, get to school, meet their friends and ultimately live productive and fulfilled lives. It’s also closely linked to some of the top issues facing our city-region, including congestion, air quality, our health and the attractiveness of our streets and town centres.
“That is why I have made transport one of my top priorities. I am committed to pushing for continual improvements to our transport network so it can help make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old.
“Building on our past successes, this Delivery Plan sets out the shorter-term measures and schemes our city-region so desperately needs. As is the Greater Manchester way, it has been developed in close co-operation with TfGM, GMCA and the local authorities to ensure our transport investments support and are supported by the new housing and commercial development sites in our draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
“It also outlines some of the key measures that we will need to develop and implement if we are to clean up our air. By dealing with the key challenges on our transport network – poor air quality, congestion and improving public transport, cycling and walking – this joined-up plan sets a clear direction for achieving better, cleaner and more connected transport for all.”