The new Oldham town centre extension of Manchester Metrolink is almost ready to welcome its first fare paying passengers with final testing and commissioning work due to take place over this weekend. Provided that no problems are experienced during this work the first tram is due to leave Manchester Victoria at 0509 on Monday 27th January, this will then return from Rochdale Railway Station at 0600.
Services have been suspended between Central Park and Rochdale Railway Station since Saturday 18th January to allow the new line to be fully connected to the existing line with replacement buses in action to allow passengers to complete their journeys. During this period of inaction testing has taken place on the Rochdale town centre extension – due to open this spring – as well as in Oldham town centre.
Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “I’d like to thank Metrolink passengers for their patience over the past week while we made the final connections to the existing Oldham-Rochdale line. The new line looks fantastic and has transformed the town centre, not least at Mumps which is now unrecognisable compared to how it stood just a few years ago. During a visit this week, I was particularly impressed by the evident regeneration activity that is already underway at a number of sites along the route. I have no doubt that it will be an incredibly popular addition to the network. Delivering it has been a major civil engineering challenge, so to be able to open it several months ahead of schedule is an achievement in itself – but it is, of course, now the third new Metrolink line in a row to arrive early, which is simply outstanding.”
Four new stops have been constructed for the Oldham town centre extension at Westwood, Oldham King Street, Oldham Central and Oldham Mumps with the old stop at Oldham Mumps no longer open and on the closed section of track. The new Oldham Mumps stop integrates with bus services and also offers a free park and ride site for Metrolink passengers.
The opening of the Oldham town centre line is providing an opportunity for Manchester Metrolink to make a number of service changes from Monday 27th January. Trams from East Didsbury will now commence from 0559 and will then every 12 minutes with services from the Rochdale end being every 12 minutes from 0600. In addition on weekdays there will now be more early morning services between Piccadilly and MediaCityUK although this is at the expense of the trams which used to run from Victoria to MediaCityUK. The last tram from Altrincham on a weekday will be slightly later at 2358 and both the Bury and East Didsbury lines will see slightly later services on Sundays. There are also going to be other minor changes to first and last tram times across the network. The number of double units in service will remain at the same level as currently but the eight on the Bury-Altrincham direct service will be spread out more evenly during the morning peak and the three doubles on the East Didsbury line will be slightly earlier to cater for demand.