The Greater Manchester area is once again seeing a welcome boost to local public transport as new trains and trams migrate to the North Western city.
More trains and trams come to fruition in time for busy Christmas Markets.
Manchester was the first UK city to reintroduce trams in the modern era and they have been a great success in every sense being run under the Metrolink branding. The tram and rail network are undergoing more investment as ridership increases remorselessly.
One of the most noticeable differences is the recently built Bombardier “M5000” trams, which carry a new and striking yellow livery. These are now in regular service following testing and running in across the Metrolink network.
They feature a more comfortable ride, and better interior for the partially sighted, as well as being a significant increase in passenger capacity as new lines have recently opened and being planned to open.
Also now in service are more Class 142 and Class 150 units, having transferred from First Great Western and London Midland respectively. Interesting, Central Trains and Centro liveried Class 150 units have been running around the Manchester area in late 2011 with little more than a northern logo to distinguish their new operators.
The net improvement to the heavy rail service is reasonably significant. Whilst four Class 156 units (or 8 coaches) have transferred away, five Class 150 units have entered the area (an increase of 2 coaches), and then another five Class 142 units have also gravitated north. This means that as many as six peak hour trains can be doubled in length, which, considering Manchester was recently noted as a commuter “pinchpoint”, will make a notable difference.
The deliveries and transfers arrived in time for the Manchester Christmas Markets, which Virgin ran special services to. The seven markets attracted many thousands of visitors, with this visitor certainly enjoying the hot “Gluhwein” and German Beers available over a good mile of stalls.
Forthcoming improvements to the area will see new four car Class 350 units entering service for TransPennine Express on their Manchester to Scotland services, which in turn are expected to free up existing diesel units to create more six car services on the core routes between Manchester and Leeds.
Also occurring are the extensions of Manchester Metrolink to Ashton under Lyne, Rochdale via Oldham, Manchester Airport and East Disdbury. Metrolink is also making many improvements to stations on their tram network to accommodate extra passengers.