Manchester considers rail tunnels idea

Underground tunnels could be built beneath Manchester city centre to carry rail based passenger transport services in years to come, it has been revealed this week.

The proposal is included in the new Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040, developed by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) on behalf of the city region’s Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership. A 12 week public consultation on the strategy was launched on Monday.

The document highlights a requirement to accommodate around 68,000 additional commuter trips in the city centre during the morning peak period by 2040. However Manchester’s existing road network and Metrolink tram routes are nearing capacity and scope for new provision is limited.

“It will be a challenge for us to find space for further at-surface crossings of the city centre,” said TfGM’s strategy director Simon Warburton. As a result TfGM proposes that, in the long term, significant additional cross-city transport capacity may be best delivered through the construction of new rail tunnels beneath the city centre. 

Provision of a tunnelled metro service would enable the authority to deliver faster journey times and improved connectivity to the centre without taking up further road space, explained Simon.

“But there is a lot more work we need to do before delivering something like this,” he added. The strategy commits TfGM to explore the feasibility of the proposal, with construction potentially ready to start by 2040. 

In the medium term TfGM is also looking at other rapid transit options, including the possible introduction of tram trains which could travel on both street tramway and railway lines.

The strategy also includes plans for improved walking and cycling networks, integrated smart ticketing for public transport and the redevelopment of Piccadilly station to integrate High Speed 2, Metrolink and other rail services. 

Simon Warburton commented on the importance of developing a long term strategy. “Providing a clear indication of what infrastructure we are aiming to deliver over the next 25 years gives confidence to business and encourages investment in the city region.”

Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd added: “The Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 is about creating long term plans to help build a successful, resilient Greater Manchester, ready for future challenges and opportunities. 

“We’re now handing over to the public and I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to have their say on these proposals and help to shape the future of transport in our region.”

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce marketing & policy director Chris Fletcher said: “Our members will welcome this next phase of consultation from TfGM, which takes forward previous work and fleshes this out with a mix of radical ideas and some that have been top of the list of demands for action for some time.”

To view the consultation click here.