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Manchester Metrolink Back On Track Campaign

GMPTE Get Our Metrolink Back On Track logo

26 July 2004: Fury at Metrolink Funding Decision
12 August 2004: GMPTE Launch Metrolink Back On Track Campaign
2 September 2004: Get Our Metrolink Back On Track — Tameside Rally
6 September 2004: Decorated ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’ tram hits the tracks
8 September 2004: Banner blazes Metrolink message through to Whitehall
10 September 2004: Oldham, Rochdale and Manchester Rallies
15 September 2004: Hope for Phase 3 extensions
17 September 2004: GMPTA welcome overwhelming support for Metrolink Phase 3
30 September 2004: Determined delegation and meaningful meetings
14 October 2004: A step forward in tram campaign
24 October 2004: Metrolink on BBC Politics Show
10 November 2004: Parliament lobbied
16 December 2004: Getting Back on Track
17 December 2004: Getting Back on Track 2
21 December 2004: Metrolink joint statement

Note items go down this page in date order

26 July 2004: Fury at Metrolink Funding Decision

On Tuesday 20 July 2004 in Parliament the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt. Hon Alistair Darling MP, delivered the Government’s Statement on Transport Strategy.

In this he acknowledged that Metrolink has been extremely successful. The costs for planned extensions have increased, further increases could not be ruled out. He referred to the Leeds and South Hampshire schemes also the National Audit Office (NAO) report. He refused to approve the schemes.

The reaction in Greater Manchester was of anger and fury. Additional details at 26 July 2004 News.

12 August 2004: GMPTE Launch Metrolink Back On Track Campaign

The Government’s refusal of funding for the Metrolink Phase 3 extensions raised a storm of protest. Local people, the business community, local councils and MPs in Greater Manchester want these extensions to go ahead.

There have been over one hundred articles in the local papers and on their web sites.

See the Funding page for an explanation of how phases one and two were financed.

2 September 2004: Get Our Metrolink Back On Track — Tameside Rally

The first people power Metrolink rally took place in Tameside.

An open—top bus picked up speakers and guests at Edge Lane, before travelling to Droylsden town centre at 11 am. On board were Ashton MP David Heyes, transport leader Councillor Alan Whitehead, and Councillor Quinn among others.

Councillor Kieran Quinn, economic chief, said: “The jungle drums are beating madly on this and we’re all singing the same song: ‘Tameside needs Metrolink’. We are focusing on two key areas: Droylsden is the gateway to the borough and Ashton is the final stop. A great deal of work has already been done in both areas.”

On the way from Droylsden town centre, the bus called at St. Mary’s where a new school building — completed in October 2003 — made way for the Droylsden Metrolink stop.

The bus arrived at Camp Street car park in Ashton town centre at about noon for the final part of the rally.

Councillor Alan Whitehead introduced a number of speakers to drum up support before the event drew to a close.

6 September 2004: Decorated ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’ tram hits the tracks

decorated tram

Tram 1015 has been decorated from top to bottom on both sides with the message ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’. This tram which travels across the entire network to Bury, Altrincham and Eccles now features the eye catching Metrolink logo and a plea for people to register support at or by post.

Councillor Roger Jones, Chair of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority, joined Authority members today to take a look at newly decorated tram. He said: “This is the first time we’ve branded one of the trams so heavily and it will certainly catch people’s attention! It’s a great way to take our message to the heart of some of the areas affected by the government’s decision not to approve Metrolink Phase 3. It’s not just the future expansion of the Metrolink network that is affected by this decision — our plans to upgrade the Bury, Altrincham and Eccles lines and buy additional vehicles to cope with passenger demand are all up in the air now as well. Our trams have come to form an integral part of the landscape in Greater Manchester over the past decade and we hope this one will stand out as a reminder for people to take a few moments to write in to GMPTE and pledge their support.”

Decorated Tram picture by GMPTE.

8 September 2004: Banner blazes Metrolink message through to Whitehall

banner on GMPTE building

A huge banner was today unveiled at the offices of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) as the battle to get the Phase 3 Metrolink expansion programme ‘Back On Track’ stepped up another gear.

The banner, almost 45 metres wide and 7 metres high, adorns two floor levels of GMPTE’s Portland Street headquarters and gives details of how people can offer their support to the ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’ initiative. Unveiling the banner, GMPTE Director General Chris Mulligan said that there was an important message behind the eye–catching ‘building wrap’:

“This banner leaves no doubt as to our reaction to the decision by the Secretary of State not to approve the big bang Metrolink plans. The Metrolink network has become a much–relied on part of Greater Manchester’s transport infrastructure and has proved popular with commuters across the county. The ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’ initiative has already attracted the support of thousands of members of the public, visitors and local businesses. We want to make sure government is aware just how much this decision has disappointed Greater Manchester and the strong levels of public support.”

The public were invited to register support for Metrolink Phase 3 by email via the GMPTE website or by free postal mail to the GMPTE Head Office.

GMPTE building banner picture by GMPTE.

10 September 2004: Oldham, Rochdale and Manchester Rallies

Oldham Rally

Oldham Council organised a rally which took place on Friday 10 September in the Rotunda area of the Spindles and Town Square Shopping Centre between 13:30 to 14:30. Guest speakers outlined the case for bringing Metrolink to the Borough and said why bringing Metrolink to Oldham mattered to them. There was a petition to sign and displays showing the proposed route and the tram in Union Street.

Everyone’s support is vital. It must be made clear that residents, visitors and the business community will all benefit from a fast, clean, reliable and secure tram system linking the Borough to Manchester and Rochdale.

Rochdale Rally

This took place on later in the afternoon of Friday 10 September at The Butts, despite heavy rain.

Hundreds of balloons were set free, face painting was provided for youngsters while mums, dads and grandparents signed the petition to re–instate the trams scheme for Rochdale.

The rally involved MPs Lorna Fitzsimons, Jim Dobbin and Phil Woolas and political leaders on Rochdale Council. Major speeches were made by leading lights in the campaign.

North Manchester Chamber of Commerce, which represents hundreds of Rochdale companies, appealed to business men and women to write personal letters to their MPs to say how the decision to stop the trams coming to Rochdale will affect their trade.

Manchester Rally

This was held in Albert Square, outside the Town Hall, between 12:30 and 14:00 on Thursday 16 September. It featured music, celebrities and local politicians.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority also held fringe meetings on the importance of light rail systems at all three Political Party Conferences.

15 September 2004: Hope for Phase 3 extensions

On 15 September 2004, Greater Manchester MPs met Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. They agreed to set up a special working party, to start work within days, which will discuss the the costs of the scheme.

During the meeting the MPs again set out the very strong case for Metrolink and reminded the Prime Minister of his own commitment to the expansion of the successful Greater Manchester system.

Greater Manchester MPs and officials from the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive and the Department of Transport will be represented on the working party.

Withington MP Keith Bradley will represent the MPs on the working party. After the high–powered meeting Mr Bradley said that the government was in favour of light rail in principle and agreed that Metrolink had been a success, but were concerned about the cost.

Rochdale MP, Lorna Fitzsimons, said the group’s brief was to find a way to make Metrolink happen. The Prime Minister had been clear in saying that if there is a way, it will be found.

The Rochdale MP said she was now optimistic a solution could be found but despite the breakthrough it was very important to keep the Metrolink campaign on track.

Heywood and Middleton MP, Jim Dobbin, was at the TUC Congress with members of the GMPTA to host a fringe meeting about the Metrolink campaign and gain the support of unions.

17 September 2004: GMPTA welcome overwhelming support for Metrolink Phase 3

Members received a progress report on the ‘Get Our Metrolink Back On Track’ initiative. This will climax next week when a high–level delegation representing the public, the business community, the media and MPs presents all the comments, letters and pledges of support to the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

Councillor Roger Jones, Chair of the Authority, said: “First and foremost the Authority would like to thank everyone involved for their tremendous efforts to get Metrolink back on track over the past few months. This is possibly the most hostile reaction to a Government decision which I, for one, have witnessed during my political career and the support shown by local communities, the private and public sectors, local media, MPs and the travelling public has been overwhelming. Everyone who attended one of the recent Metrolink events or took the time to write in with their support has played an important part in showing Government how essential Metrolink is to Greater Manchester.”

Members were also updated on the revised analysis of the case for Metrolink, which will inform a further detailed submission to Government ministers and officials later this month. The revised Metrolink proposals will:

Councillor Jones added: “Metrolink is not only a proven success, but is the most cost effective way of achieving greatest modal shift, reducing congestion and, vitally, of underpinning and supporting widespread economic growth and social inclusion throughout Greater Manchester. I am confident that the revised submission will make the best possible case for extending the system. Taken together with the problems that will arise if we delay Metrolink Phase 3 any further, I am sure it will demonstrate the futility in not allowing the project to go ahead.”

30 September 2004: Determined delegation and meaningful meetings

On Thursday 23 September a high level delegation representing the public, the business community, the media and MPs travelled to Downing Street to take the ‘Get our Metrolink Back On Track’ message directly to the Prime Minister’s doorstep.

Bearing over 41,500 messages of support for the Metrolink Phase 3 expansion proposals — the delegation was determined that the levels of frustration felt at the recent government decision not to approve the scheme should be made clear to those at the top.

Councillor Roger Jones, Chair of GMPTA, said: “The support has been truly fantastic and will show the government that the initiative to get Phase 3 back on track is here to stay. I hope that the tide of popular opinion, combined with a revised analysis of the economic, social and environmental benefits of Metrolink Phase 3, will go some way towards convincing government of the essential need for an expanded Metrolink network.”

The GMPTA/E are working on a revised submission which will transfer some of Metrolink’s risks from the private to the public sector. Leasing rather than buying the trams will also be proposed.

From various meetings held during the Labour Party’s 2004 Conference it emerged:–

14 October 2004: A step forward in tram campaign

The special working party on Metrolink, agreed by the Prime Minister on 15 September, held its second meeting on Tuesday 12 October.

Transport minister Tony McNulty chaired the meeting which, for the first time, discussed revised proposals for the three new lines.

This is seen as a gentle step forward for the campaign, previously it was not known if government officials would be willing to help development of the new ideas. Starting the entire bid process again would set the project back by about three years.

Withington MP Keith Bradley, who represents Greater Manchester MPs on the working group, said the meeting was ‘productive’ and that ministers have agreed further work on affordability of the planned extensions with the options being considered over the next three weeks.

Chris Mulligan, GMPTA director general; Howard Mulligan, clerk to the authority; and Penny Boothman, head of transport at Manchester City Council also attended the meeting.

Transport leaders want the full three line scheme but are trying to reduce costs by leasing trams on longer contracts and transferring more of the ‘risk’ from the private to the public sector.

On 14 October local transport officials are due to meet MPs for an update on the campaign.

The Metrolink working party will meet again at the end of November or early in December.

24 October 2004: Metrolink on BBC Politics Show

Expansion of Manchester Metrolink was featured on the North West part of the BBC Politics Show.

Transport Minister Tony McNulty said that plans to shave millions off the bill for the proposed phase 3 expansion were being taken seriously.

He told the BBC Politics Show in the North West: “We are having very serious discussions with Manchester and I would say that they have been extremely fruitful and productive. We want to find a way out of the position we're in now.”

“The future of light rail isn’t completely dead in Manchester or elsewhere but there are serious questions we need to look at in terms of the various aspects of funding.”

Councillor Roger Jones, Chair of GMPTA, said: “I’m delighted with what the minister’s had to say but there’s a fair way to go yet.”

“What we need is his support to convince the Treasury that we can refund and repackage Metrolink.”

“It’s not just reducing costs, it’s changing the whole package so that the public sector and private sector share the cost of the scheme.”

10 November 2004: Parliament lobbied

The lobby, organised by the GMPTA, took a large delegation — representing the unions, transport bodies, local authorities, and businesses — to London by train, to lobby politicians about Metrolink.

During the afternoon they met Transport Minister Tony McNulty, who spoke to a packed room of delegates and for more than an hour answered questions from the lobby. Most of the MPs in Greater Manchester also attended.

GMPTE have submitted revised proposals, transferring some of the ‘risk’ from the private to the public sector and leasing trams on long term contracts both to reduce costs. Deloitte Touche consultants and financial advisors have been appointed by the Department for Transport (DfT) to look at the figures.

The next working party will take place on Wednesday 17 November with Keith Bradley MP for Withington representing Greater Manchester MPs.

Mr McNulty told the delegation: “I don’t care whether there are five, 10 or 20 meetings between now and Christmas. We will get to some resolution on this. There will be extensive analysis of the numbers and what we’ll get to at the end of the day will be something that does satisfy the transport needs of Greater Manchester.” He could make no promises on what the outcome would be.

The Christmas deadline was set because transport chiefs are concerned the two shortlisted consortia will be forced to pull out unless a decision is made soon.

Councillor Roger Jones, GMPTA chairman, said he was quietly confident the bid would be accepted by the Government, especially as the DfT had helped draft it. This bid is for all three lines, they are all vital to Greater Manchester’s transport plan. Council chiefs wants the lines to open on the same day in a transport ‘Big Bang’.

16 December 2004: Getting Back on Track

The government has announced that Metrolink extensions are back on track — but not at any price.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, told MPs that the original GBP520m budget for the three extensions was still on the table, subject to GMPTE developing a satisfactory plan.

Mr Darling said that Manchester would have to come up with an imaginative solution to fund any extra costs — including bidding for a share of a special transport innovation fund which will be worth up to GBP2 billion nation–wide.

GMPTE had wanted to continue with the current procurement for the three lines. They had confirmed that GBP600 million would be needed to build the Oldham–Rochdale and Ashton lines. Also that about GBP900 million would be needed for the original three lines over the next ten years. There is no guarantee this would not increase further.

The Transport Secretary told GMPTE that the current procurement should not be revived. Neither will he agree to GMPTE’s alternative of starting a new procurement to enable construction of the three lines to be phased over a longer period, which would not address the fundamental problem of cost escalation.

Councillor Roger Jones, GMPTA chairman, said he was pleased the government had performed a U–turn and thanked the Manchester Evening News and the people of Greater Manchester for the campaign to get the expansion plans back on track. He also said the re–tendering process would have to start all over again, which could mean work on the scheme being delayed for another two years.

17 December 2004: Getting Back on Track 2

On Friday 17 December, Metrolink campaigners and local politicians met Greater Manchester MPs to discuss transport secretary Alistair Darling’s announcement that GBP520m was being made available to expand the tram network. This funding is effectively that withdrawn in July 2004.

The GBP520m is an estimated GBP380m less than is now required for the new lines to Oldham and Rochdale, East Manchester and the airport.

Around GBP170m has already been spent, GBP130m of which came from local authorities not central Government.

GMPTA/E are seeking clarification of key issues from civil servants before submitting new integrated transport strategy proposals, which are due in by the end of March.

Speaking after the meeting Roger Jones, GMPTA chairman, confirmed: “There is still a commitment to three lines. Clearly some civil servants don’t agree, but we think light rail is the best option for us.”

Chris Mulligan, GMPTE director general, confirmed more money would also be sought from other sources, including Manchester Airport. But he warned the airport had already committed around GBP34m and was unlikely to give much more.

21 December 2004: Metrolink joint statement

Metrolink joint statement issued on Friday 17 December 2004 on behalf of:

Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA)
Councillor Richard Leese, Vice Chair of AGMA and Leader of Manchester City Council
Councillor Roger Jones, Chairman of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA).

“We have met with Greater Manchester MPs this afternoon to seek clarification on some of the points raised by the statement issued by the Transport Secretary yesterday regarding the funding of the proposed Metrolink expansion.”

“In principle, the statement seems to be a small step forward from where we were in July but there remain a number of issues to be resolved. We will, therefore, be seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State. A particular issue which we would wish to discuss with him is the funding for the upgrading of Metrolink Phases 1 and 2.”

“The Working Party has done a lot of work over the last three months and we would like to express our thanks to Keith Bradley MP who has represented Greater Manchester MPs during these meetings.”

“It was shown that the costs of Metrolink Phase 3 are not out of control. It was also shown that the bus and heavy rail alternatives to Metrolink along the three corridors were neither affordable nor sustainable.”

“It is also important to note that approval for GBP520m was given in December 2002 and that today this is equivalent to GBP645m which would enable us to build two and a half Metrolink lines.”

“Earlier today the AGMA Executive meeting looked at the Metrolink statement in the context of the wider LTP settlement and asked for a report on this for their next meeting.”

Back On Track Campaign: top of page

This page was written by Tony Williams, Manchester Area Officer, Light Rail Transit Association. Contact if you have any comments, ideas or suggestions about these pages.