The following footage shows the first Metrolink tram travel along the Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport line in the early hours of the morning.
The Transport for Greater (TfGM) Manchester has confirmed the line will be fully operational before the year is out – more than a year ahead of schedule.
Residents along Hardy Lane, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, were woken up around 1am yesterday morning when the tram passed along its route as the first stages of the testing and commissioning process got under way.
On its return around 2.30am, the tram was captured on camera by professional filmmaker Michael Thompson, of Hardy Lane.
Mr Thomson, 69, has questioned TfGM’s original finish-date, and feels that construction has gone on for far longer than they sohould have.
“Schedules are easy to change so as to make things look good. I think that before the construction started, the finish year was 2014, speaking from memory,” Mr Thomson said.
“2016 was always a ridiculous finish date as it implied the line standing idol for two years without generating income.
“My own view is that a lot of time has been wasted on this project, with holes being opened up several times, remedial works and men and machines standing idle.
“On the other hand, we will be heartedly relieved when it is all over and we have the benefit of the tram.”
The nine-mile route is one of the biggest live civil engineering projects in the country.
Several major purpose-built structures have been built including a viaduct over the Mersey Valley, two new bridges over the M60 and M56, and the Ringway Road dual carriageway and underpass at Manchester Airport.
Significant improvements have also been made around each of the line’s 15 new stops.
Commuters will also benefit from a 300-space Park and Ride facility at Sale Water Park, which is free for Metrolink passengers.
Services will initially run between Manchester Airport and Cornbrook, every 12 minutes.
They will start to run through the city centre once the Second City Crossing is complete in 2017.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “The sheer scale of the challenges this project presented make its early completion a truly phenomenal achievement.
“To be so far ahead is down to several marginal gains adding up to a significant result: the early delivery of a number of lines allowed us to move resources onto the line earlier; lessons learnt during the early phases of the expansion drove efficiencies across work areas; creating a desktop simulator cut the timescales for driver training in half.
“These are just a few examples of how, by working closely with local authorities, utility firms, our principal contractor MPT, stakeholders and the operator MRDL, we’ve become an ultra-efficient machine – and this is our collective reward.”
Manchester historian, Andrew Simpson, said he too had initially been critical of both the plan and its progress.
Writing on his blog, Chorlton History, he now says he sees the benefit of the service, particularly those who live in Wythenshawe.
“I wondered how many people would use the tram to travel to the airport given the fast train service and couldn’t quite understand why it was taking so long to build a short route when a century and a bit before we had pretty much built a national rail network in a couple of decades,” he said.
“Added to that there was that bit across the meadows which many felt threatened the natural wild life that had grown up over the last thirty years.
“But back in the 19th century most of the line routes were through open country or cut through the slums of our inner cities and the engineers of the time did not have to worry over much about what was underneath the tracks.”
He admitted that things are much more complicated in modern society, which is why construction has taken several years.
“Today on the other hand they had to strengthen existing sewers and underground communication ducts and steer a course down the middle of busy roads,” he said.
“Above all I was being rather insular. From Chorlton we already had a fast tram service and one I prefer over the bus, but as I know from years of travelling to Civic Centre the bus journey to Wythenshawe is long and torturous depending on the service you choose.
“All of which now means that Wythenshawe for so long on the edge of the city will be that little bit closer.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said the early opening of the new line to Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport is a ‘tremendous boost for Manchester’.
Andrew Cowan, Chief Operating Officer for Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said they will be aiming create thousands of jobs with the project.
“For Wythenshawe, it will be a pivotal moment in the town’s regeneration which will significantly enhance its pull as a place in which to live and do business,” Sir Richard said.
“For the airport, which is crucial to the fortunes of the whole of Greater Manchester, it will provide another attractive transport option for customers and improve links with the emerging Airport City development.
“In short, this line will be a major new artery helping to pump investment into the heart of our region.”
The Airport line will bring the size of the Metrolink network to 57.5 miles, serving 92 stops.
Image courtesy of Hardy Productions UK, via YouTube, with thanks.