Moving in the right direction

Source: RTM April/May 2018

Alex Cropper, head of projects group at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), reports on the exciting progress so far in building the Trafford Park Line extension as part of the Metrolink network.

This is going to be a big year for Metrolink and its city region. The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has made transport a high priority, and we have an exciting and challenging year to look forward to – especially on the Trafford Park Line.

Since construction started in late 2016, we have been working hard to achieve a number of key project milestones, which I am pleased to say that we have already begun to realise in 2018. With the first piece of track laid in February, it has been heartening to see the hard work paying off, and this is due to our collaborative approach with our delivery partners M-Pact Thales (a consortium of VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales), WSP and Trafford Council.

The Trafford Park Line project is part of Greater Manchester’s plan to make travel easier, support local regeneration and drive economic growth. It’s the city region’s first major project to benefit from the groundbreaking devolution deal, signed by Greater Manchester leaders and central government in November 2014.

The devolution deal gave the city region new powers over many areas, including transport, offering control over budgets and more local accountability through an elected mayor. Funding for the £350m Trafford Park Line was secured through the deal under the ‘earnback’ mechanism – which provides funding of up to £900m over 30 years.

Once the line is open, it will be part of a network that spans over 63 miles, operates 120 trams and serves 99 stops, with the aim to acquire 27 new trams in future, taking the total number to 147 – which will improve capacity across the network.

As well as being Europe’s largest trading estate, it is a popular retail and leisure destination which attracts over 30 million people a year, with intu Trafford Centre close by and home to Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. 

Our work to date has included the laying of approximately 200km of ducts and pipes for electricity, water, gas and telecommunications, which have had to be relocated to make way for the construction of the new tracks and stops (200km is equivalent to the distance from Manchester to Oxford). Collaborative working between the utility companies, using joint utility trenches, and the cooperation of local companies is helping to achieve the planned completion dates.

Another key element of the project is the ongoing redevelopment of the Peel Circle roundabout at intu Trafford Centre to facilitate track work, whilst maintaining a safe route for pedestrians and all road users.

The scheme is now moving into an exciting phase as the development of key structures and multiple track installations start to take shape, and this will become more evident throughout 2018. We are going to be undertaking a range of engineering challenges, such as the Bridgewater Canal crossing and new Pomona Viaduct, a 130m-long four-span viaduct which ties into the existing Pomona Viaduct and will connect the new Trafford Park Line into the existing network.

Marking a milestone

The first piece of track for the Trafford Park Line was laid at Parkway Circle in February. Mayor Andy Burnham, leader of Trafford Council Sean Anstee, and chair of the TfGM Committee Cllr Andrew Fender, alongside other key attendees, witnessed this major milestone.

To see the first piece of track in place is a great indication of the progress being made across the whole programme. With the first piece of track being laid and a major utilities programme also nearing completion, focus will continue on the installation of the track at multiple locations along the route, construction of the new stops, including those at the Trafford Centre and Event City, whilst continuing to reconfigure the highway network to accommodate the tram route and facilitate the delivery of enhanced pedestrian and cycle facilities. In addition, we will also be installing the first platform units at the proposed Village tram stop and completing the Pomona Viaduct abutment installation during spring 2018.

Looking ahead

There are always challenges when delivering projects of this scale, and we are working within very tight constraints as we adapt local roads to keep general traffic moving whilst we construct the new tram infrastructure alongside. By the end of the year we will be able to see some very real progress, with key elements of the line constructed.

We will also continue our engagement work with key stakeholders throughout Trafford Park. This summer will see us extending our exhibition and information events at key destinations, much like last year when we held events at Media City, Imperial War Museum North and intu Trafford Centre. This is an important part of our work and allows us to share information with stakeholders and the public on the progress of the Trafford Park Line extension.

I am looking forward to seeing what 2018 is going to bring for the Trafford Park Line and to really see it continue to take shape as we get closer to opening the line in 2020.


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