By Alex Johnston, News Correspondent
Manchester’s transport network was stunned this morning at the announcement made at the London Stock Exchange that the Metrolink tram line is now in French hands.
Stagecoach, who used to run the network, have handed over responsibility to French firm RATP, despite having six years left on their running contract.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of Transport for Greater Manchester, welcomed the move, saying that RATP’s experience in carrying passengers could only benefit the city.
He said: “They will help us to continue to improve services, providing us with access to experts who are operating tram services and light rail systems in major cities across the world, from Paris and Florence to Seoul, Hong Kong and Mumbai.
“We welcome RATP to Greater Manchester and are looking forward to working with them,” he added.
Metrolink’s Director, Philip Purdy thanked Stagecoach for their help, and commented that he could see a bright future under the new owners.
He said: “I would like to thank Stagecoach for their contribution and commitment to Greater Manchester over the past four years.
“RATP Group is a global name in public transport and passenger services and we will have access to a significant amount of expertise in everything from operations and engineering to passenger service and technology, including smart ticketing.”
Metrolink is currently undergoing radical redevelopment, with the network set to expand dramatically across the city.
The long-awaited South-Manchester Metrolink opened last month after a frustrating series of delays, linking Chorlton to the city centre in 15 minutes.
RATP would not comment further on the figures involved, but Stagecoach’s shares in Metrolink are believed to be in the region of £15m.
And metrolink users were shocked by the news.
Christopher Bond, 28, from Altrincham, said: “It’s worrying when a company who most of us have never heard of take over one of the city’s most vital transport networks.
“It’s even worse when this comes out of the blue to those who use it.”
Michelle Owens, 44, from Chorlton, said: “When it was ran by someone who knows Manchester it had enough issues with the service. So what is in store for us now?”
RATP, formed in 1948, runs the Metro underground network in Paris, as well as transport services in London, Bournemouth, and Bath.
Trams are running as normal, for timetable information see http://www.metrolink.co.uk/
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