Metrolink contract set to be signed

Date published: 31 March 2008

The contract to bring trams to Rochdale will be awarded next month, with work starting in 2009.

At a meeting in Rochdale Town Hall, Councillor David Jones and the leaders of Greater Manchester’s other nine districts agreed to let the £575m first phase of “Big Bang” Metrolink expansions go ahead.

And, rather than use the old loop line railway tracks, an extra £18m is to be spent on brand new tracks to give passengers the same ride quality as on the recently re-laid lines to Bury and Altrincham.

Although the town centres of Oldham and Rochdale are included in the second phase - which is dependent on money from the government’s Transport Innovation Fund - the leaders agreed to award the contract for the whole line to create a “seamless integrated package” rather than finish one phase before starting another.

If the TIF money - which is dependent on a congestion charge scheme - is not won, the contract would have to be renegotiated.

Other lines to be started are East Manchester and Droylsden, and the airport line as far as Chorlton.

Three separate bidders have submitted their “best and final offers” to design, build, and maintain the new lines. Stagecoach will continue as operator.

The preferred bidder and a first reserve will be declared by Friday, with the contract finalised two weeks’ later.

Conversion of the Oldham Loop Line to Metrolink will involve the stopping of train services for several months, but the second phase will mean the building of one and a half miles of new loop running through the heart of the town.

Government officials are still poring over Greater Manchester’s bid for £1.2 billion of funds and permission to borrow another £1.8 billion against the proceeds of a congestion charging scheme. The result will now be announced after the May local elections and there will follow three months of public consultation.

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