An interesting report here (PDF)
from the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee about the aspiration to convert our rail services to "tram-train" operation, which I thought deserved its own topic.
To summarise briefly: TfGM are providing detailed appraisals for tram-train operation on the Marple to Manchester via Bredbury route
to Network Rail for their upcoming "Alternative Solutions" Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) report. It notes that the route is the most advanced in pre-planning and would be the least difficult (cheapest) to implement. Even if this doesn't put it any closer to reality, we should at least get to see a genuine case study for the potential future of our line, making it seem a little less pie in the sky.TfGM’s input to the RUS
Network Rail proposes to include a brief case-study of tram-train on the Manchester – Marple via Bredbury rail line in the report of the RUS, based on TfGM’s analysis. The case-study will include a general description of the proposed service change; a map of the existing and programmed Metrolink network and GM rail network; a very general description of the basic infrastructure required; and a high-level table of the results from the modelling and appraisal. The report is due to be published for consultation at the end of February 2012.
It is important that the report of the RUS is clear that the Manchester – Marple line is only one of a number of potential tram-train schemes in Greater Manchester. Officers will ensure all potential schemes are fully appraised as part of a future analysis.
Any future decisions on the relative priorities of potential tram-train routes should be based upon the development of a tram-train strategy for Greater Manchester, which it is proposed is developed over the next 12 months.
The Manchester - Marple route is likely to be among the less difficult tram-train routes to implement, and has been the subject of more initial appraisal work than other potential tram-train lines in Greater Manchester.
The policy climate within DfT and Network Rail is increasingly positive towards tram-train in general, especially in view of the need to explore options to reduce rail subsidy.
A trial tram-train service linking Rotherham railway station to Sheffield's Supertram is to be decided upon within the next month. TfGM originally submitted Marple - Manchester for this trial, but the Department for Transport chose the Rotherham option, probably because it wouldn't require disrupting any existing services. Frustratingly, it seems the Marple-Manchester plans now rest on the outcome of this trial, despite Metrolink and Supertram being rather different systems.
"Tram-train", by the way, is exactly what it sounds: a rail vehicle/service that can run onto the city streets, like Metrolink, but can also run on the same lines as heavy rail. This is required for the Marple line due to the Sheffield stopping services and freight. It might be electric all the way (would hope so), or it might switch to diesel when it hits the heavy rail lines. It would certainly be a far more frequent, better service into Manchester, comparable to Metrolink and probably in fact branded as such — included in the maps and using the same ticketing. There would also be scope for a future extension into Stockport town centre. It's worth noting that while the privatised rail routes around Greater Manchester run with a subsidy, Metrolink is owned by TfGM with profits going directly back into the network.
The insistence that Marple - Manchester really is "only one of a number" of potential schemes in GM is worrying. This needs to be given full support. We've been waiting over 25 years for this kind of step-change to our rail services, let's not get knocked back down the pile again!
The Network Rail report should be available here
for consultation at the end of the month.