Philip Haigh: Wait goes on to decongest Manchester

May marked the 40th anniversary of the initial rail strategy report for Greater Manchester that led to the city developing its Metrolink tram service, but which also proposed heavy rail links across the city. 

Also in May, the Department for Transport finally killed off Network Rail’s 2015 proposal to increase capacity along its congested Castlefield Corridor. Of course, DfT buried this within its press release announcing a third platform for Salford Crescent station. 

Manchester’s railways are complicated. That May 1983 report said: “The development in the Victorian era of the railway system in the Manchester area by independent companies, often competing but also serving different areas of the country, is the basic reason for its major deficiency - there is no north-south route crossing the regional centre. 

“Passenger services - both local and inter-city - on the north and south sides of Manchester city centre are virtually independent. In addition, Manchester has been a terminus for services to London. The stations serving the regional centre are all on its periphery with Piccadilly and Victoria the main terminals on the north and south sides - approximately a mile apart.” 

The report comprised two major parts, with both looking at how to cross the city. The first, from ‘Working Party A’, examined heavy rail links. The second, from ‘Working Party B’, looked at light rail options. 

Working Party A looked at links across the city centre. It noted a proposal from the 1970s to build a heavy rail tunnel to give direct access to the city centre and a north-south link using electric trains. It noted: “This was never proceeded with because of lack of financial resources.” 

Nevertheless, Working Party A again looked at tunnels. Its preferred option ran from Piccadilly to a junction and station under Piccadilly Gardens, where the line divided. 


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Read this article in full in RAIL issue 984 here

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