There is no question that Manchester's city centre and commercial heart has been boosted by the extraordinary growth of the Metrolink network. The second city centre crossing provides critical new capacity for the frequent peak hour tram services which all run into a relatively compact business and shopping district. Celebrating 25 years since the first Metrolink trams appeared in service the system has come a very long way since then. The initial fleet of Italian sourced trams have all disappeared, replaced by a monotonous class of yellow branded units all manufactured in Germany (where else?).
Reaching out to many, but not all, adjoining towns and communities surrounding the city of Manchester, Metrolink now provides a cohesive phyical link across once seperated economies, drawing together a very large metropolitan heartland in the northwest. A further expansion of the system to access Trafford Park (I believe) is one of the next service extensions, and no doubt others are being looked at to further enhance the vitality of this already thriving city region. Or at least that's how it seems from the Fylde coast.
Whilst Liverpool and Merseyside are also benefitting from a similarly cohesive branding and strengthening of Merseyrail services across that other northwest metropolitan area, the absence of 'trams' quietly rumbling through city centre streets are a definite loss. Especially so given the strong case put forward over a decade ago by Liverpool to attract central government funding for a light rail starter scheme. Turned down by shortsighted politicians and no doubt blinkered bean counters in the Treasury, considerable public investment in property acquisition, new rail and a swathe of legal costs was squandered. Likewise of course Leeds; which deservedly merited reopening of its former reserved track tramway strips on arterial roads leading into the central district, was given short thrift by the same cast of characters then in charge of UK transport policy. Even the lower cost option of enviromentally friendly trolleybuses utilising these now dormant reservations was given the thumbs down, despite a strong case being put forward with a demonstrator example being tested I believe in Doncaster.
Meanwhile across the Channel and North Sea where credible political leadership with more than a smattering of vision and joined up strategic urban planning is at work - trolleybuses, trams and smart electric urban transport is very much the accepted norm, as opposed to diesel buses. Ironic really that London's new Mayor is waking up to the fact that his citizens and visitors are being subjected to sustained concentrated emissions of diesel fumes from the dense passage of vehicles through urban corridors, day in and day out. Oxford Street and Regent Street must be the most polluted city centre roads in Europe - given the almost endless nose to tail caravans of buses, taxis, commercial vehicles of all kinds slowly progressing up and down narrow corridors surrounded by mid and high rise structures. Mercifully Manchester at least has chance to wean its public transport away from bus dependency in favour of electric trams.
Whilst I can't summon up unadulterated delight at imported fleets of German built trams - at least they are making a highly visible statement in this part of the Northern
Powerhouse. Now lets see some UK built tram designs emerge in post Brexit Britain.
Exit Italian built trams although they had a certain colourful style whilst the monolithic yellow, grey and a splattering of dots is far less appealing in the current Manchester Metrolink fleet. Now red, white a lotof gold lining out would really get the selfies going.