New barriers to getting around Manchester city centre greeted drivers and pedestrians this morning as the next phase of works for the second tram crossing got underway.
The junction where Albert Square, Cross Street, and John Dalton Street join with Princess Street will be closed for an initial four weeks to prepare for laying the track in the coming months. The work signals the start of another year of construction-related congestion as usually busy parts of the city centre will remain closed for most of 2016. Cross Street remains closed whilst United Utilities repairs a collapsed sewer. Once this is completed in April the track will be constructed. The right turn from Albert Square onto Princess Street will remain closed permanently as part of the final road layout.
The new St Peter’s Square stop is due to open in late August following an eight-week blockade when no trams will run through the square. The new stop will have four platforms and be served by both tracks, old and new.
Testing of the new second city crossing will begin in late 2016, with an opening date of summer 2017 at the latest.
The Metrolink works brought Manchester city centre to a standstill on a frequent basis in 2015 and the prospect of another year of misery for drivers is forcing many to reconsider driving as they opt for other modes of transport if possible. Many business people and developers keen to progress city centre construction projects have complained privately that the works seem uncoordinated, chaotic and unnecessarily disruptive.
Meanwhile, Portland Street, another key arterial route, remains closed for two months while resurfacing work is carried out. The main bus station at Piccadilly Gardens, accessed from Portland Street, is closed at the same time and bus stops have been relocated. When Portland Street reopens for buses TfGM will close John Dalton Street to lower the level of the road to tie into the tram tracks at the junction.
TfGM said in a statement on Friday: “The works are part of a once-in-a-generation coordinated programme of investment to futureproof the city’s transport infrastructure for years to come and will mean some changes to city centre routes for road users.”
The new second city crossing Metrolink stop at Exchange Square opened in December. TfGM said that when it fully opens in 2017, the new city centre tram line will allow Metrolink to run more flexible, frequent and reliable services across the city and Greater Manchester.
Cllr Kate Chappell, executive member for environment at Manchester City Council, said: “Anyone travelling in the city centre will be aware of the phenomenal progress we are making with these major projects to ensure our city’s transport infrastructure can cope with demand to travel now and for many generations to come.
“It’s a time of great change which will deliver real benefits, but anyone travelling on city centre roads in coming weeks and months should plan ahead and allow extra time for their journey.”
Metrolink extension work is carried out by M-Pact Thales, a consortium of Laing O’Rourke, VolkerRail and Thales, with RATP Dev responsible for operating the Metrolink network.