Sunday, 8 August 2010

Manchester's Two Transport 'Gods'

When it comes to Manchester and modes of transport there are 2 'gods' to which the local environment can be sacrificed – one is the Metrolink tram system and the other is the Airport. When the two combine, then Heaven help what is left of South Manchester's biodiversity.

As recently as June 24th I mentioned the possibility of a Metrolink line to the Airport, stating that it had not yet got funding. Things have moved faster than I thought, the line has now been approved, and work is expected to begin within a year. There is a good case for improving public transport links between Wythenshawe and the rest of the city, for example when Withington Hospital was closed, it was on the basis that Wythenshawe would serve the whole catchment area. The line isn't about this though – it's about the Airport. To emphasise this the South Manchester Reporter's lead story on this granted the longest quote and the only photo, not to a South Manchester politician but to the boss of the Airport, Geoff Muirhead. Residents living close to the Airport line will also be pleased to hear of the intention to run trams from as early as 3 am, whilst to add injury to insult, the branch which passed Wythenshawe Hospital in the previous plans seems to have disappeared completely.

In that previous blog I mentioned the impact on the Mersey Valley, and I'll refer people again to an excellent blog post from Dave Bishop on this; also here's a photo of the type of area which will be lost , but there are issues with the route from Chorlton even before it gets that far.

Presumably the plan is still to destroy the central reservation of Mauldeth Road South, with all its trees.  As well as the loss of trees this would create 6 lanes (four road and two rail) down that stretch and the junction with Barlow Moor Road would be highly problematic.    When the plan was route was first proposed, back in the late 1990s, Greens in Chorlton opposed this destruction. I have long felt that if the Metrolink is there to take cars of the road, then it should take up road space instead of Green belt or existing heavy rail lines (elsewhere in the conurbation, the development of Metrolink has led to the closure of existing rail facilities for years at a time). In this case it should use part of Princess Parkway. That's if one accepts that such a tram-link is the best transport solution.

There is a precedent for protecting the valley from outdated transport plans. Decades ago there was a proposal to extend Mauldeth Road South/Hardy lane into a motorway spur across the Mersey Valley at Jackson's boat and onto what is now the M60. Apart from a half-hearted attempt to revive it about 20 years ago by Trafford Tory Philistines, it has been long dead and buried.

The usual approach of the '3 Main' Parties to any Metrolink expansion is along the lines of 'We brought the Metrolink', 'No, we brought the Metrolink' etc. - It's like a scene out of the movie 'Spartacus'. Following their well-publicised opposition to the football development plans in the Mersey Valley, it will be interesting to see what the local Lib Dem councillors, and the remaining Labour councillor, in Chorlton/Chorlton Park have to say about this route.