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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Its Quieter in Manchester

Manchester is almost a tram city once more. After cessation of the Edwardian era double deck trams of stained quarter lights and once elegant livery fame - in 1949 when the final example (1007) trundled into its depot - a renaissance of steel tracks has made Manchester the largest UK tramway by 2017.

The initial fleet of Italian built vehicles have given way to a standardised Bombardier model complete with new livery that is present throughout very competently designed and presented (and maintained) infrastructure. A second all street route linking the many services permeating the central business and commercial centre makes it seem as if there are trams everywhere. Destinations from Eccles to Rochdale show (digitally) on ever present trams passing through the heart of the city.

Smooth passage over maintained track (albeit recently laid) traversing the second city crossing for routes into and out of the city centre. Below - delightful? trackwork leading into the busy tram station behind the Town Hall complex with the Midland Hotel in the background (red brick edifice). Elegant canopies over the platforms and integrated signage, barriers and ticket machines all meshing with the Metrolink 'branding' of a very impressive system. Just a pity all the rolling stock is imported.

What is especially noticeable is the quiet almost imperceptible passage of trams over the junctions and pointwork - with only the airhorns to warn pedestrians and traffic of their imminent presence. This is a far cry from the rattle and clatter of Blackpool's versions even without points or curves to negotiate. If anything Metrolink's operational delivery is a model which Blackpool would benefit from at least observing - starting of course with the station stops and shelters, and then proceeding to monitoring the muted sounds from the trams travelling along street track and traversing pointwork. Ideally before any construction work begins on the Talbot Road extension from the Promenade - although the thought of trams drowning out the blaring dirge emanating from the 'Ma Kelly's' establishment would be a blessing to those in proximity.

Manchester has got street tramway construction and operation right, Blackpool has not - even on straight paved reservation. Lessons must be learned - not too far away in the northwest is an eminently suitable teacher.

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