Oldham town centre line to open 27th January 2014

Providing that there is no adverse wintry weather conditions in the meantime Transport for Greater Manchester have announced that the Oldham town centre extension will open to the public on Monday 27th January 2014. As previously announced the line between Central Park and Rochdale Railway Station will have to be closed for a week ahead of this and this is expected to happen from Saturday 18th January 2014.

The weeklong closure is necessary so that the existing track can be severed from the temporary line and connected to the new alignment. Once the track and overhead are connected final testing will be able to begin and the official public opening will immediately follow this. A replacement bus service will be put into operation during the closure and details of this are due to be released early in the new year.

Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “The arrival of Metrolink in Oldham has already been a huge success story – patronage is already double that of the former rail services – and we’re now in the final stages of completing the next chapter. The town centre line is a cornerstone in the rejuvenation of Oldham and has been the catalyst for some very exciting developments. I only hope the famous Oldham weather is kind enough for us to be able to get everything done in the timescales we’re working to. If it is and we are able to open the line at the end of January, it would be the third new Metrolink line in a row to arrive ahead of schedule – which, given the sheer scale of the work involved across the expansion, would be a truly remarkable achievement.”

The Oldham town centre extension has four new stops at Westwood, Oldham King Street, Oldham Central and Oldham Mumps and when it opens the section of line between Werneth and Oldham Mumps (temporary) will be permanently closed to trams. It is planned that by the end of spring 2014 this closed line will be fully decommissioned with platforms, platform equipment, ramps, overhead power lines, rails and sleepers removed. Some of this equipment will be retained for further use elsewhere on the network. The tunnels which Metrolink currently travels through will be sealed at both ends in an attempt to prevent trespass.

3075 stands at Oldham Mumps on 18th December during a pause in driver training.

Also at Oldham Mumps is 3076. Rather typically the day the photographer went to see the trams in action they were doing nothing!

Meanwhile at Shaw this tamper is currently stabled. (All photos: Ken Walker)

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19 Responses to Oldham town centre line to open 27th January 2014

  1. Frank Gradwell says:

    Errm – the trams are already accessing the new line so why on earth is any closure necessary?

    There seems to be a new mindset these days to impose blockades and inconvenience the passenger instead of doing like the Highways Agency and working overnight to leave the infrastructure usable during the day.

    It really is unacceptable and Fender and his ilk should put their foot down and demand better for their constituents, or consider their positions!

    • Ken Walker says:

      There is only a connection at the Mumps Bridge end of the town centre line, and that is only a single connection to the outbound line. The line at both ends has to be relaid, although seeing that they put the existing connection in at the beginning when laying the Oldham-Shaw section I don’t know why they couldn’t have put all connections in and then just plain-lined the junctions at a convenient time after opening the town centre route. Doing it in the middle of winter doesn’t seem a very good idea either, considering the problems they keep having just keeping the trams moving in Oldham when the temperature gets anywhere near freezing. I fully expect this blockade to overrun by at least 100% if previous ones are anything to go by. It would be nice to be proved wrong though.

  2. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Glad to hear the line through Oldham centre is opening earlier. However living over the border in Saddleworth I feel that the situation planned is a missed oppurtunity. We had a reaspnable connection at present Mumps Stn or from Shaw park and ride. We really cna do without the grand tour of Oldham the 184 does that already! It takes 40 minutes from my village to Oldham centre and forty minutes to Huddersfield. Tend to go to Huddersfield on the bus. The tram which most use to Manchester centre is presently a good connection without having to go through three additional stations in Oldham. We could have had 2 routes an express for those from Rochdale and Shaw and connectors from Saddleworth. Secondly a stopping service for those intending to go to Oldham. however Transport for GM knows better.

    • Ken Walker says:

      I don’t think the detour is that bad, Ralph, it’s straight along Union Street then following a slight detour alignment to get round to Werneth, I don’t think it’ll put more than about 5 minutes into the journey, especially considering that at the moment they seem to dawdle along at about 30-35mph in the 50mph sections most of the way trying not to get ahead of time, it’s certainly rare that they have to slow down for the 35mph section approaching Shaw from Rochdale for example. I wonder whether the present schedules are padded out so that there won’t be much difference in the times when going through Oldham town centre. I have to say that the present route between Mumps and the former Werneth station is rather drab and dreary, as it has always been since BR or Network Rail or whoever stopped bothering about the vegetation, at least from that point of view the town centre route will be more pleasant. I think the main problem will be that the trams will be more crowded when they are serving (what’s left of) the shopping centre of Oldham. At least those visiting Oldham town centre by tram won’t have either a tidy walk or a wait of up to 20 minutes for the shuttle bus when they get to Mumps, so it’s a case of swings and roundabouts I guess Ralph.

  3. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    I was rung today to say that the Oldham town centre line was opening on 27th DECEMBER!

  4. Clifford Stead says:

    Would it not make sense to keep the current route mothballed in case of emergency diversions etc, could be a useful back up bearing in mind how many problems seem to occur on the street track sections.

  5. Ian Robinson says:

    Good news about Oldham but what about Rochdale Town? The infrastructure has been in place for a few weeks now, and tried and tested and as far as I can see they only need some ticket machines for the town stop. Can someone explain why this cannot be used?

    Are they waiting for the machines from Mumps or is it because O comes before R and the technology can’t cope with it??!

  6. David Butterworth says:

    There was never any intention to operate both the Oldham town centre line and the line through the tunnels. Just think of the exrta costs involved and the logistics; timetabling, co-ordination of frequency of the services, for example. The townsfolk were relieved when the decision was made to bring the trams through the town centre since it was widely rumoured that we would have to make do with the old railway alignment. This would have brought little benefit to the town centre.

    • Tony Hampson says:

      When the initial go-ahead was given to build the oldham/Rochdale extension, the town centre section wasn’t funded. That came later, hence the awkward situation TfGM find themselves!!

  7. Howard Piltz says:

    I see we still have a forest of big, black poles. They were criticized when Metrolink first opened through the city center and everyone thought they’d learn for future reference…………………………..!

  8. James Palma says:

    It does seema shame that the current temporary alignment is being closed, isn’t it possible for it to be used for any further extension?

    I am afraid I do not know Oldham at all.

  9. Clifford Stead says:

    My suggestion was to retain the route through the tunnels for emergency diversions only and not for regular passenger services. Many tram systems abroad have track that simply acts as a diversion in emergencies.

  10. Ian Robinson says:

    I hope Tony’s comment after my query about the opening of the line down into Rochdale Town does not mislead folks into thinking that the Rochdale line needs to be connected at Werneth!!

  11. Anne Ibbotson says:

    I am extremely unhappy that the link through Oldham Mumps/Derker and Shaw is going to be taken from us. I have been using this since it was first up and running to get to Manchester city centre where I work. At the moment I can get on a tram at Manchester Victoria and arrive in Derker in around 20 minutes, but I can’t see that happening when you divert the trams to go through Oldham town centre. Why could we not keep both links. I can see I’ll be driving into Manchester in future – what a shame you can’t do joined up thinking!

    • Colin Smith says:

      The present link was advertised, from before opening, as “temporary.” I believe the main reason for not retaining the current line is all to do with the Werneth and Central tunnels. Both are in need of urgent major repairs and then there would be ongoing maintenance costs which, in the case of tunnels, far exceeds the cost of maintaining other parts of the line.

      I’m not sure how your journey between Victoria and Derker can be completed “in around 20 minutes.” It has always taken much longer when I have travelled the line and that has averaged twice a week.

      • Ken Walker says:

        Victoria to Newhey is scheduled as 35 minutes and usually takes more or less exactly that, so I would say Victoria to Derker is about 26 or 27 minutes, so I suppose ‘around 20 minutes’ is close enough if you’re not actually timing it.

  12. John Stewart says:

    Anne, I don’t think it helps to address the contributors to this website as the perpetrators of what you think is a misguided policy. Many of us have been saying for years the same as you about the closure of the old railway route and I am afraid that you are bleating a little late in the day. TfGM has been resolute in this matter and it isn’t going to change now.

  13. Bryan Tonks says:

    I agree with several of your contributors that completely closing the “old british rail” route is short-sighted as far as GMPTA is concerned. Surely they could retain even a single mothballed line on the old alignment for stock movements and in case of tram breakdown/accident in Oldham town centre. (There is a short section of Tyneside Metro between Jesmond and Manors for this purpose).In addition, a possible future route for the Metrolink could be from Oldham to Greenfield (Saddleworth) via the old BR alignment (Lees/Grotton/Springhead etc). This would only require a relatively short section of non-separated track in the vicinity of the under-used Royal Mail site (Hamilton Street) to rejoin the line close to the existing temporary stop at Mumps – and those parts of Oldham MBC would surely benefit from a Metrolink service, as well as making a useful interchange with BR services across to Huddersfield and Leeds. (There is an unused bay platform at Greenfield which could be the terminus). Long-term, I know, but I fear that if the tunnel route south of Oldham town centre is lost, then any future routes here will cost £Millions more than necessary. We should have learned lessons from the closures of the 60s and early 70s, but have we?

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