Side Tracked: 2nd City Crossing Approved

Progress it seems at last, as fans of trains-that-run-on-roads excitedly read that Manchester Metrolink’s 2nd city crossing is approved.

It might not have the glamour of London’s new under construction city crossing, Crossrail; or the huge price tag of yet undecided HS2 – but The Met’s 2nd city crossing will provide much needed relief to a congested transport network.

Manchester Metrolink Map

Image by TfGM

Opened in 1992, The Met has experienced rapid expansion over the last two decades now serving suburban destinations such as Rochdale and Didsbury alongside the original Bury and Altrincham lines. The route towards Eccles through Salford Quays has been key in the redevelopment of a former industrial area, much like the Docklands Light Railway’s influenced investment in London’s Isle of Dogs.

Such rapid expansion, and similar to the DLR in London, has lead to a bottleneck in it’s central section. All 5 major routes converge in the City Zone putting a limit on service frequency to all destinations.

Image by TfGM

Image by TfGM

The 2nd crossing will split from the 1st at a redeveloped St. Peter’s Square where it will turn through 90 degrees and run up to the town hall. The line then runs along Cross Street and rejoins the original route at Victoria. A new station will be built at Exchange Square near the entrance to The Arndale and ‘The Big Wheel’ (although in the following video it seems to have disappeared). The new line will improve reliability and frequency of service by allowing routes through the city to be split up rather than all converging in the Piccadilly/Market Street area. I’m surprised only one extra station has been proposed as there’s surely a case for another near the Town Hall on Cross Street, however this would add cost and slow the service down. Here’s what an artist expects the whole thing to look like…

So what next for Manchester’s rapid expanding transport network? An extension to the Airport is currently under construction and due to open at the same time as the 2nd crossing. Extensions into both Oldham and Rochdale Town Centre’s are also well underway and due to open sometime in 2014.

Beyond the Metrolink, in 2011 George Osborn announced funding for The Ordsall Chord, which you can fully learn about from Network Rail. This would involve the construction of a short stretch of track to the west of the city that would effectively link Manchester’s two main stations: Piccadilly and Victoria. This project would seek to improve rail travel not only in Manchester but in the entire North West – but this is another story for another day.

Picc-Vic Project

70’s Picc-Vic Project

The Ordsall Chord is a scaled down and much more sensible version of the once proposed Picc-Vic project (above). Suggested in the early 1970’s and seen in the bellow artists impression with what appears to be London Underground 1967 stock, the Picc-Vic would have tunnelled underneath Manchester linking low level stations at, you guessed it, Piccadilly and Victoria. Some intermediate stations would have likely been included with the line also taking over former suburban routes to Bury and South Manchester much like Metrolink does now.

Picc-Vic Tunnel

Sadly this grand scheme for Manchester’s own Tube line was axed in 1977 due to cost (and eventually replaced with the cheaper tram project in the 90’s), despite a short section of tunnel being built underneath The Arndale – which is still there today. However, with the help of The Ordsall Chord Piccadilly and Victoria will finally become linked as envisaged over 40 years ago.

– Andy Carter

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