Sunday 16th December 2012 is set to go down in history as a great day in Manchester’s rich tramway history, with the long-awaited opening of the latest section of the new Rochdale to Oldham line on Metrolink. In addition, there will be a welcome nod to the past on the same day at the city’s preserved tramway, giving fans of old and new tram systems a great excuse to visit Manchester.
The official Metrolink website has published confirmation that two new stops will be opened to the public this weekend, as the system continues to expand. Trams will operate in passenger service to the new stops at Derker and Shaw & Crompton for the first time on the morning of Sunday 16th December. The first tram is scheduled to depart from Oldham Mumps at 6:50am, arriving at Derker for 6:54am and then terminating at Shaw & Crompton at 6:59am.
Local Councillor Andrew Fender – who’s also the Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee – told the press: “The new Metrolink line to Oldham Mumps has already proved to be a fantastic addition to what Oldham has to offer and I’m sure that these two new stops will be very popular with new and existing passengers alike. As the leader of the steering group that developed the blueprint for the Metrolink network almost 30 years ago – a blueprint that included the conversion of the Oldham Loop Line – witnessing this milestone is very pleasing indeed”. Meanwhile Dave Hibbert, the Cabinet Member for Housing, Transport and Planning described the opening as “a superb early Christmas present for our Borough”. He added; “This effectively marks the completion of the Oldham section of the Metrolink Phase 3A expansion and we’re delighted to see this opening now and providing a further boost to the local economy”.
In addition to the opening of the new stops, a new park-and-ride facility will be available at Derker with initial provision for 100 cars, and many more to follow, whilst existing parking facilities at Shaw & Crompton have also been upgraded. The expansion, which has been desribed as the biggest infrastrructure project ever undertaken in the area, will ultimately include over 200 car parking spaces at Rochdale Railway Station.
For anyone who is more interested in traditional trams, the Heaton Park Tramway will be having its final operating day of 2012 on December 16th. It is planned that Manchester 765 will be in service during the day providing a fascinating link with the past, on a day when Manchester’s tramways look towards a brighter future. Regular readers may recall that 765 had been sidelined for the winter period as it requires an overhaul to continue in regular use, but having been prepared for a starring role at the press event to mark the start of work on the new depot, it was decided to run 765 one more time to finish a succesful year in fine style. If the weather is fine then 765 will hopefully run all day, if not, then it is expected to operate on a ‘by request’ basis.
The events of December 16th will almost certainly bring the curtain down on another eventful year for Britain’s tramways, and in a year that has been filled with developments for both modern and traditional systems, it is fitting that the one city which has both will be the focus of the attention.