Tram-trains capable of travelling on both tram lines and train tracks could be introduced in Greater Manchester, enabling better use of existing transport infrastructure.
A report outlining proposals for a network of specially-designed vehicles, running on both street tracks and sharing tracks with other trains on railway lines, has been approved by members of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee's Capital Projects and Policy Sub-Committee.
An initial study into the feasibility, cost and benefits of several potential routes identified Manchester to Marple via Bredbury as the most economically viable route to develop as the region's first tram-train line.
However, the initiative is described as a "long term" project without any timetable or funding strategy.
Other routes that could form part of a tram-train network include:
- Manchester – Glossop
- Manchester – Atherton – Wigan
- Manchester – Sale – Altrincham – Hale/Knutsford
- Manchester – East Didsbury – Hazel Grove
- Stockport – Altrincham
A tram-train system would make greater use of Greater Manchester's local rail network, facilitating more frequent services. It would also provide better and more frequent access to the city centre and better connections with other public transport services there.
It is also expected that the ongoing cost of most routes would be more than met by fare revenue, making those services financially self-sustaining.
Transport for Greater Manchester will now look at how the proposals can be taken forward for further development, as part of a long-term transport strategy.
Cllr Andrew Fender, TfGM committee chairman, said: "I am delighted that clear progress has been made with the identification of the potential for tram-train in Greater Manchester.
"Track-sharing between heavy and light rail trains with street-running capability is already well established in continental Europe, especially in Germany.
"Not only are there numerous benefits to commuters, such as increased capacity and frequency and better inner-city connectivity, but tram-trains also have the potential to be financially self-sustaining.
"At this point however, tram-train very much remains a long-term project for Greater Manchester, making it difficult to identify potential implementation dates or funding."