Sadly, Metrolink has made the wrong turn, confirming the decision to run the next line along Corporation Street and Cross Street. Much misinformation has been disseminated by those involved, particularly the canard that the only alternative was to go straight down Deansgate. This was never an option for it would have needed expensive ramps and underpasses to connect with the existing lines or an awkward ugly turn around the Cathedral. True, the public voted for the new route, but neither the public, the Evening News nor the councillors contemplated the real viable alternative – New Manchester Walks’s Chapel Street/Spinningfields scheme. Still, we’ere not giving up. Third City Crossing here we come!
The following is the original blog, written mid-October 2011 before the confirmation was announced.
Those who run Manchester’s favourite tram system are currently sifting through thousands of suggestions and ideas in response to the proposed Second City Crossing. The deadline for submitting ideas has passed, but New Manchester Walks has sent in the best and most detailed report on where the new lines should go and the extra stops located.
The 2nd City Crossing is clearly the most important new transport project in Manchester, and if it’s not done properly then we will all suffer and much money will need to be spent in future years to rectify any problems. (Just have a look at the lack of cross city centre bus routes, which all feed in to Piccadilly and Shudehill instead of linking the suburbs London style, for a similar venture that hasn’t worked).
So why do we need a new tram route across town? As you probably know, new routes are opening soon to Rochdale, Ashton and the Airport. Without extra tracks in the city centre to take the extra trams there will be severe congestion. Metrolink wants to take trams along Cross Street, but this will mean a new line that is too close to the existing routes and that wouldn’t bring enough parts of the city centre into the Metrolink ambit. Nor would it do enough to address the need for Metrolink to influence economic growth in the city centre through its choice of route.
Metrolink wants to build a new stop atExchange Squareoutside the Arndale Centre, between Foot Locker and Withy Grove. Bad move. It would be too close to the Victoria station and too far from St Peter’s Square station. If there is going to be tracks along a major route such as Cross Streetthere needs to be a station there.
Many of you will have read plans for an alternative route along Deansgate. Manchester Confidential has championed this idea, and on first glance it looks perfect. The Deansgate version would use the empty viaduct in Castlefield alongside the existing lines, and via a new ramp take trams down to Deansgate itself near theBeethamTower.
But there are a number of drawbacks with this proposal. There is no money to build a costly ramp from Deansgate-Castlefield station down to Deansgate. The promoters of this scheme (and ManCon) have yet to explain how the trams would enter Victoria Station. Also, Deansgate is the most important road inManchester, and is used for ceremonial occasions and sports events. These couldn’t happen if there were tram tracks on Deansgate.
So how would a (superior) alternative route work? First, it needs to be cheap. New ramps and underpasses aren’t going to happen. It needs to use the existing segues from the suburbs into the city (the slope by Manchester Central and Lower Mosley Street to enter St Peter’s Square, and the existing lay-out in Victoria Station that allows trams to enter town). It needs to open up areas of the city centre that are currently isolated from the network). It needs to have new stops in the best places, particularly in Spinningfields. (By the way, I saw a miracle the other day; someone got on atPomona. That only took 11 years then).
The Chapel Street Alternative
This is New Manchester Walks’s alternative planned route…from north to south.
• The trams would run through Victoria station using current tracks.
• They would turn right onto Corporation Street(as in Metrolink’s own Cross Street plan).
• They would go along Corporation Street(as in Metrolink’s ownCross Streetplan).
• Turn right turn onto Market Street.
• New stop – “St Mary’s Gate” – on St Mary’s Gate
This would be the main stop for the shops of New Cathedral Street, particularly Marks & Spencer and Selfridge’s, and for the western section of the Arndale Centre, without the problem of blocking sight lines between different sections of shops, which the proposed Exchange Square stop will cause. The space on St Mary’s Gate is extremely close to the popular shops but in an underused location.
• Along Blackfriars Street.
• Over the river into Salford.
• Left turn onto Chapel Street.
• Along Chapel Street.
• New stop – “Lowry Hotel” –on Chapel Streetby Lowry Hotel.
There is sufficient room for a staggered stop on either side of Chapel Street (as at Harbour City). Westbound it would be west of Dearman’s Place; eastbound it could be either west or east of Deal Street. Should there be a problem with naming a station after a commercial concern then “Chapel Street” would be fine.
• Left turn onto New Bailey Street
• Over the river back intoManchester.
• New stop – Spinningfields –on Bridge Street
There is sufficient room for a staggered stop here. Westbound it would be between Dolefield and Gartside Street. Eastbound by Albert Bridge House.
• Along Bridge Street.
• Along John Dalton Street.
• Along Princess Street.
• Right turn onto existing tracks at Mosley Street.
• NMW’s route would bolster the important regeneration schemes for Chapel Street and Greengate by giving direct access to Metrolink for any new businesses planning to locate there.
• It would give the businesses and residents of Spinningfields direct access to Metrolink.
• The proposed new stops are better thought out than Metrolink’s and set at appropriate distances from one another.
• Increased length of new track needed (compared to the Cross Street proposal).
• The extra time it would take for a tram to go from Victoria to St Peter’s Square (compared to the Cross Street proposal).
• The capital cost of strengthening the two river bridges. (Nevertheless much cheaper than creating brand new ramps).
• Adopting this route would necessitate a complete overhaul of the proposed new traffic and bus routes.
But these are outweighed by the advantages, and would be cheaper than the Deansgate alternative.
I have walked this route and studied the topography closely in devising it. Like many people, I believe it is vital for the Second City Crossing to incorporate new areas of the city centre; Spinningfields and Chapel Street/Greengate are two areas that desperately need Metrolink.
Metrolink’s planned Cross Street route is insufficient in scope. It does not provide enough that is new, and does not provide value for money. The Chapel Street alternative does.
The planned Cross Street route does not provide stops in the right places. Anyone starting from, say, around the Royal Exchange will be put off heading towards the new Exchange Square stop for fear of being swamped by shoppers, whereas a stop on St Mary’s Gate will be popular for people coming both from the shops and from the Royal Exchange area. If the proposed Second City Crossing route is adopted there will be many complaints about the congestion at the newExchange Squarestation and the lack of stops on Cross Street.
What do Metrolink think about this?
I attended one of Metrolink’s public consultation meetings in the summer. Also in attendance was Tony Hill, director of MOSI. The Metrolink chiefs present were a bit shocked, to be honest, that anyone had anything contrary to say. Tony, myself and the manager of The Triangle shopping centre on Hanging Ditch tore their plans to shreds. Apparently, those who went to the earlier meetings barely made a sound. I have sent this proposal to Metrolink and await the arrival of trams in Spinningfields and on Chapel Street in next to no time!