Lessons from Media City
Greater Manchester is a powerhouse for the north of England, by no means the only one with Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle all having exceptional strengths in their own right. Joined up urban strategies and political engagement across Parties to achieve defined goals are a hallmark of economic success and achievement.
Manchester's great asset (one of many) is it the ever spreading tentacles of its Metrolink system - and the singular branding (yellow and grey) which mark out an integrated network linking the neighbouring towns and communities with an ever vibrant centre. Where once numerous municipal tram and bus (and trolleybus) systems fed into Manchester's own substantial operation, with diversity of colours and municipal pride vyed for road space from Oldham and Rochdale with their Pennine reaching routes; as well as Rochdale, the South Lancashire system, the marvellous concoction that was the SHMD network; Ashton under Lyne, and of course Salford (great bus fleet - terrible tram fleet). Now its the singular graphics of Britain's largest tramway network under one corporate brand.
Manchester's equivalent of the North Station extension is the short branch off the route to Eccles which cuts through successive mid rise property developments bordering on what was once Salford Docks. Continuing investment and infusion of youg professionals and students ensures service on the MediaCity extension is busy.
MediaCity is a highly successful project anchored of course originally by the BBC's decision to relocate some of its principal programming divisions north to Salford. This has triggered a slew of consequent investments, up and around the BBC studio anchor site. It also contributed to the short light rail extension terminating in front of a large plaza serving multiple businesses and venues including the Lowry Centre.
Like Blackpool North - MediaCity is a double track light rail terminal. Smart station platforms with clean (yes clean) glazing panels all complete, no grafitti, no litter and no missing features. A constant cleaning operation is ongoing to remove litter and empty trash bins on platforms ensures the Metrolink infrastructure reflects aspirations of the entire region. One downside of course is the high platform operation of Metrolink which originates from the first line being a conversion of two heavy rail suburban services into a joined up cross city route with a street running section in the centre. Bielefeld, Germany similarly opted for high platform surface light rail/metro operation converting this time from street level running trams - perhaps in retrospect a costly decision but far better than Stuttgart's option of putting all its centre tram services into subways (not the eating kind). The Metrolink trams are to a standard design, slightly narrower in width than Blackpool's design. Despite the many curves on the MediaCity line and elsewhere the trams run very smoothly and the bogies/wheelsets are definitely less noisome than those on Blackpool's Bombardier Flexity cars - probably the noisiest in the UK. The Lowry Centre complex across from MediaCity tram terminus :
Busy Piccadilly, Manchester - no red buses here only yellow trams every thirty seconds or so it seems. Buses play second fiddle to the omnipresent trams heading in all directions these days. Below : Inside a tram - clean look no cluttering advertising or operator notices.
No roving conductors clean interior layout with plenty of handrails throughout the interior - slightly hard seats but generally amenable! Smart information points at most if not all station stops with easy to use ticket and contactless payment systems. Even I managed to purchase my return centre district ticket without needing a second look so it must be good for all ages. All Images : John Woodman