Rochdale Metrolink suffers first day nerves as maiden voyage ends in signal failure

By Mark Shales

The late arrival of Rochdale’s Metrolink was delayed further yesterday as a signal failure ground the service to a halt – on its first day of service.

The tram made its maiden trip at 5.59am on the 4.6 mile expansion of the Oldham and Shaw line, but a fault at 6.45pm saw services suspended.

Passengers on the line between Rochdale and Market Street in Manchester city centre were told to use a replacement bus service while the blunder was fixed.

Early adopters of the new service were left fuming, with some taking to twitter to give Metrolink their feedback.

Mikey Makin quipped: “Nice to see a whole new area of Manchester discovering how shit #metrolink is.”

Some users were more understanding, with Adam Hewitt writing: “Poor old TfGM just can’t catch a break.”

The unfortunate timing of the bug came as Middleton Councillor Alan Godson emphasised the make-or-break nature of the expansion.

But with the town preparing for a multi-million pound shopping-centre development Cllr Godson, who represents Rochdale on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, is excited by the prospects it brings.

“If this doesn’t make a difference they might as well pull the place down because nobody’s going to go,” he told MM.

“The town centre’s being renovated, there’s new council offices and there’s a new transport interchange so that’s all looking in Rochdale’s favour.

“It also goes through the Kingsway Business Park which I think will help boost employment in the area so it’s got to be an advantage.”

Cllr Godson admitted to hearing some negative comments but believes that once the tram reaches the town centre – expected next year – the Metrolink will help to reduce Rochdale’s carbon footprint.

“I imagine that once it gets up and running it will make quite a difference,” he added.

“There are some really big car parks being put in at some of the stations, free for people travelling on the tram so it’s got to be good.”

However, some retail managers are worried about shoppers taking their wallets to Manchester instead of Rochdale.

But, the manager of the Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre, Martin Ballard, remains optimistic.

He told MM: “It will obviously make it easier for people to leave Rochdale and access other parts of the borough.

“But equally if we get the private spending on whatever happens within the town centre then it’s going to give people a reason to come in.

“We’ve already got a very unique town centre with a beautiful town hall, an art gallery and so many independent retailers with good products, and it’s now become easier to get to them.”

Tickets from Rochdale train station to all Manchester city centre stops, including Piccadilly and Deansgate-Castlefield, will cost travelers £4.10 and £6.20 respectively. 

Picture courtesy of The Laird of Oldham, with thanks.

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