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Old August 9th, 2005, 10:46 AM   #1
Gavin
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Phase 3 Expansions - Metrolink | Manchester | U/C

http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/me...the_truth.html

Metrolink: The truth
David Ottewell


THE MANCHESTER Evening News can today unveil a dossier of secret documents that reveals the truth about the Metrolink extension.

Using Freedom of Information laws, we have obtained private letters and reports casting new light on the government's decision to axe the Big Bang - before massive public pressure forced them to put the money back on the table.

The M.E.N. can reveal:

The Department for Transport (DfT) was considering axing the Metrolink extension SIX MONTHS before it finally ditched the scheme.

Labour MPs privately warned Transport Secretary Alistair Darling of a "potentially disastrous" political fall-out in the run-up to the General Election.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) was proposing a cut-price scheme, delaying the line to the airport until private funding could be found.

Manchester's top councillor wrote to MPs to say senior civil servants had revealed the government wanted to stop investing in trams altogether - something the DfT has never admitted.

Alistair Darling announced in July last year that £520m for new Metrolink lines was being withdrawn over fears that costs were spiralling. The decision was greeted with shock and outrage on all sides.

Homeowners and public bodies had in the previous few months spent millions of pounds on property and infrastructure along the three proposed routes - to the airport, Ashton and Oldham-Rochdale - on the understanding they were still going ahead.

Details

But now the M.E.N. can disclose details of two reports sent to Mr Darling from the civil servant in charge of local transport, calling into question the future of Metrolink.

The first was sent as early as January 7 last year, asking the Transport Secretary what to do about the extension "in the light of further cost increases since it was approved for funding in December 2002."

The timing is described as "pressing". The second, from March 8, again asks Mr Darling "whether to approve all or part" of the Big Bang, which was the name given to the plan to build lines to Ashton, Oldham-Rochdale and south Manchester in one contract.

In both cases the DfT has decided to censor the civil servant's recommendation before releasing the documents to the M.E.N. But on February 17, the same mandarin wrote to then transport minister Tony McNulty ahead of a meeting he was having with Greater Manchester MPs.

"Our current public position is that we are reconsidering the scheme in the light of the major cost increase," he wrote.

The DfT continued to insist last night no final decision was taken until just before Mr Darling's announcement.

A spokeswoman said: "Considersation was given to the future of the scheme throughout, in particular whether it could be delivered on budget.

"When it became clear the costs had spiralled, we had to take the difficult decision to revoke approval.

"The decision was taken when it was announced in July."

The two reports sent to Mr Darling also make clear the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive was no longer planning to use the £520m to cover the cost of all three lines.

"The promoters' current proposals are for the Oldham-Rochdale line, the Ashton line plus the East Didsbury spur," said the March document.

Other papers in the dossier show how local MPs feared anger at the announcement could cost them their seats.

Decision

Eccles' MP Ian Stewart wrote to Mr Darling on August 8 on behalf of all Greater Manchester MPs, saying the reaction had been "possibly the most hostile reaction to a government decision which we have witnessed during our political careers".

He said: "The decision should, in our view, be the subject of urgent economic review if it is not to have potentially disastrous implications economically and politically."

There are also documents suggesting government officials were rethinking the future of trams nationwide - a charge repeatedly denied by the DfT.

A private letter from Manchester city council leader Richard Leese to all Greater Manchester's Labour MPs said: "We firmly believe, and senior civil servants have corroborated this, that there is a serious intention to marginalise light rail as a future investment option on the grounds of value for money."

Many papers - including minutes of meetings between senior politicians and ministers' letters - have been withheld because the DfT believes releasing them could "seriously impact on the policy-making process". The £520m funding for Metrolink was eventually put back on the table after a massive campaign, led by the M.E.N.

More than 40,000 people signed a petition we took to Downing Street, while thousands more gathered for a series of public protests. The GMPTE is working through proposals aimed at cutting the cost for all three lines, which rose to above £800m. Director general Chris Mulligan admitted last night that GMPTE had offered to go ahead with only two of the main lines, plus a spur to East Didsbury.

But he said that did not mean the airport line had been completely scrapped, just that it would be delayed until private funding could be arranged.

He said: "The DfT requested that we present them with several options. At the time, the passenger transport authority's preferred option was to proceed with the Oldham and Rochdale, Ashton under Lyne and East Didsbury lines. There were clear affordability issues with the South Manchester line which needed to be addressed - and which now have been.

"The South Manchester line is now the best performing of the full package. There was never any intention to drop the extension to Manchester Airport.

"This line was to be included in the Phase 3 contract.

"We intended to put together a funding package in partnership with third parties, including the airport."

The M.E.N. will be appealing over the DfT's decision to withhold parts or all of key documents.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #2
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"the government wanted to stop investing in trams altogether"

this is gotta be joke, no investment in rail, motorways,trams, a ******* disgrace, how do they expect people to go to work
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Old August 9th, 2005, 03:22 PM   #3
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pirlo - it also shows how much effort the local politicians and media have been to to get as far 'back on track' as they have.

Note - 2 stories in the MEN again today pro tram, the amount of pressure that has built up in Manchester in the last 13months to get this going again is amazing, and I reckon the reason for the £102m guarenteed for upgrades, £520m promised towards the original phase 3 stuff and the specific mention of Metrolink in the labour manifesto.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 03:29 PM   #4
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I agree Metrolink,

it's encouraging to see the internal political pressure within the Labour party over this.

I think the Manchester Evening News has played a blinder as well, as have the local councils of Manchester and the 40,000 who have signed the signatures.

If the government thought they could get away with this they would have done.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 04:10 PM   #5
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How is it that the department for transport is so devoid of knowledge on transport issues? Trams are quite cheap, popular, quick-ish to install and do the job required. Alistair Darling is particularly incompetent. What is their plan for transport exactly????
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Old August 9th, 2005, 05:27 PM   #6
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Taken from http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/...0153#g12745.r0

Alan Duncan (Rutland & Melton, Con) Hansard source

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the light rail schemes which have commenced construction since 1997.

Alistair Darling (Secretary of State, Department for Transport) Hansard source

The following light rail schemes have commenced construction since 1997:

Manchester Metrolink Phase II (to Eccles), 1997.

Tyne and Wear Metro Sunderland extension, 2000.

Nottingham Express Transit , 2000.

Docklands Light Railway extension to London City Airport , 2002.

Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich Arsenal, 2005.

Some advanced works have also been undertaken since 1997 for the following proposed schemes: Manchester Metrolink Phase III extensions; Merseytram; Leeds Supertram.
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Old August 27th, 2005, 05:19 PM   #7
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Old April 1st, 2006, 07:42 PM   #8
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Metrolink phase 3 is go!!!

For those who don't visit the Manchester threads often, but have an interest in local public transport, it appears government have agreed funding for Metrolink Phase 3.

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Old April 1st, 2006, 07:48 PM   #9
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Great News!!!

This gives me some hope that the government will agree funding for Netphase Two.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 07:54 PM   #10
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Lets hope so.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 08:03 PM   #11
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We all know Trams would attract more local businesses and they can help expand the size of the city centre, population in particular. This is so much great news for Manchester.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 08:15 PM   #12
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Old April 1st, 2006, 08:52 PM   #13
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For those who aren't familiar with Phase 3 - have a look at this...

http://www.gmpte.com/pdfmaps/met_network.pdf

It's a huge project, we'll end up with in the region of 100 stops - about half that of the London underground, and around 90 odd trams.

The system is expected to carry between 40m and 50m people a year, taking between 10m and 15m car journeys off the roads of Greater Manchester annually.

It's expected to add over £1bn to the local GDP.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 09:10 PM   #14
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MEN headline on Monday - "We're Back on Track" guarenteed.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:13 PM   #15
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If this is true, I could cry, I really could. I don't even live in Manchester but from the bottom of my heart, I so hope Manchester gets these extensions.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:15 PM   #16
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Zim - I'm feeling the same.

I'm 99.999% sure this is true, but given all the crap that we've had in years gone by, until I get the press release from the DfT I won't be 100% happy.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:23 PM   #17
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More government handouts for those dastardly Mancs, raping the country, rabble rabble rabble and so on.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:25 PM   #18
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arf
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:28 PM   #19
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Here's the letting confirming the news. Looks slightly scaled down from the map (the Rochdale line now only goes to Oldham). You also have to pray it doesn't start to go over budget as the government will refuse to cough up the extra.

Sheffield Supertram should get a verdict on funding for its extensions any day (due end of March). They are also seriously scaled down. If you search for the Manchester "Local Transport Plan 2" it should give you a better idea of what exactly has been approved.

Forgot the link:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/group...foi_611181.pdf
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Old April 1st, 2006, 10:33 PM   #20
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That leter is dated 2002 - not quite.
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