TfGM prefers Marple over Mid Cheshire Tram-Train ….

Posted on November 3rd, 2013, by The Chairman

Recent reports placed in the public domain for the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee Capital Projects and Policy Sub Committee on 8 November 2013 include the proposed Tram-Train Strategy for Greater Manchester under Item 8.

The item starts on p.41.

Extension to Hale is costed at £81m and to Knutsford at £160m. Seems a huge amount.

The preferred first option is to Marple at £170m for 5 trams per hour, or £200m for 10 tph.

We wonder if this is assuming Altrincham to Knutsford would have to be electrified rather than using hybrid tram-trains as in Kassel, Germany.

Dual mode diesel-electric tram-train in the centre of Kassel running on electric power - (c) John Murray

If hybrid’s were used, extension to Northwich would come at a lower extra cost, and with possible consideration of street-running into the middle of Northwich.

Please leave a comment

  1. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    I think there could be an issue with vehicles containing diesel fuel not being allowed into Piccadilly Undercoft for safety reasons but of course the service wouldn’t necessarily have to terminate in Piccadilly Undercroft.

  2. Jen Says:

    I would have thought tram-trains from the Mid-Cheshire line going to Victoria would be the best option.

    The report mentions looking at alternative heavy rail options for the Mid-Cheshire line. Maybe a heavy rail link from Mobberley to the end of the Airport spur which Network Rail proposed as a possible scheme to look at between 2019 and 2024.

  3. Mike Battman Says:

    It may make more sense to have any future tram-train running Marple to Knutsford, then it would be one set of vehicles covering both services.

    I suspect if the western airport link is built it will be done at the same time as HS2, because from Ashley to the Airport it is on a similar alignment (ie following the M56)

  4. Edd Says:

    I remember one of the property developers saying they envisaged a tram-train stop/station serving the Parkgate area of Knutsford. With this now looking unlikely is there any scope for an ordinary station instead? Given the distance from Knutsford station to Longridge and Knutsford Business Park, on top of the already very healthy rail patronage in Knutsford I would have thought the business case for a second station in Knutsford should be very good.

  5. Jen Says:

    Just looking at the figures in Appendix 1 again. The cost for Knutsford is shown as £160m for 3tph and shown as Poor value for money, while Glossop is shown as £210m for 5tph and shown as Medium value for money. I’d assume the 5tph for Glossop would not be in addition to the current 2tph meaning it’s only an extra 3tph. So I don’t understand how £50m extra for Glossop compared to Knutsford is supposed to give better value for money. The only thing I can think of is that the entire Glossop line benefits from heavily subsided PTE fares so maybe TfGM think with a more attractive service that can lower the subsidy for that line?

  6. Mike Battman Says:

    I wonder if the ‘value for money’ is due to the extra stations it brings into the ‘Metrolink’ system?
    Knutsford adds 4 new stations 2 of which have relatively low footfall; Glossop adds 10+ stations, although I’m not sure where it comes down to street level

  7. Edd Says:

    The GMPTE report on tram-trains on the Mid-Cheshire line posted previously on here mentioned relocating Mobberley station to be better placed. I wonder if that was included or excluded in the costings.

    I suspect the report does assume full electrification, given that the cost for tram-trains to run all Altrincham Metrolink services is £46M but to extend half of them to Hale is given as £81M. I also note the prices given are what TfGM estimate things will cost in 2020 opposed to the current day prices. Maybe they should have included how much they think the Oldham Loop conversion would have costed in 2020 as a comparison rather than just quoting a load of figures which most people are going to look and think “That’s a lot!”

  8. The Chairman Says:

    At the 8 November meeting, the members have backed the strategy with Marple via Bredbury chosen as the first tram-train line to be developed for the region –

    I hear electrifying from Leeds through Harrogate comes out at £94m for 37 miles. I’ve still no clue how 7 miles from Navigation Road to Knutsford can come out at £160m.

  9. Jen Says:

    Given TfGM quote £46m for 10 tram-trains per hour to Altrincham, I’m assuming £46m is the projected cost of new tram-trains to allow 10 tram-trains per hour to Altrincham plus infrastructure work between Altrincham and Deansgate Junction which makes Altrincham to Knutsford £114m.

    Looking back at the 2007 GMPTE report, at that time they allowed for additional signalling to be put in, a freight loop at Mobberley and a relocation of Mobberley station with a 100 space car park. They also allowed for CCTV, ticket machines, help points, lighting improvements, real time information, a PA system and additional car parking.

  10. The Chairman Says:

    Here’s an article from late 2010 in English about Mulhouse Tram-Train –

    It makes that £160m for the 7 miles from Navigation Road to Knutsford look very expensive indeed.

    Thanks to David Miller for spotting this.

  11. Mike Battman Says:

    “Given TfGM quote £46m for 10 tram-trains per hour to Altrincham, I’m assuming £46m is the projected cost of new tram-trains to allow 10 tram-trains per hour to Altrincham plus infrastructure work between Altrincham and Deansgate Junction which makes Altrincham to Knutsford £114m.”

    When TfGM say 10 tram trains per hour to Altrincham, that is the current number of trams. So, I would presume that Bury-Altrincham becomes tram-train, which seems very wasteful as only the last few miles to Knutsford need the new vehicles. Are they planning to run all 10 to Knutsford, I would have thought every other one? Also what happens to the mid Cheshire diesels, will they continue to run?
    Although, I assume that the infrastructure work will involve doing away with the separate systems between Deansgate Junction and Navigation Road.

  12. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    As I understand it, the plan would be to run 10 tph from Marple to Altrincham. If the section from Deansgate Junction to Altrincham were to be converted to tram-train (i.e. double track working reinstated) then any trams from the Manchester direction would need to terminate at Timperley. So an Altrincham-Bury service would not be possible (also the entire 10 tph Altrincham line service would run to and from Marple).


  13. Jen Says:

    In response to Mike Battman’s question I’ve just noticed on the last page the two options actually are:
    1. 10tph to Altrincham, 5tph to Hale
    2. 12ph to Altrincham, 6tph to Hale, 3tph to Knutsford

    So for option 2 Altrincham would get a tram-train every 5 minutes instead of a tram every 6 and the proposal would allow for Hale to get more services than Knutsford so Hale would need a turn back facility under both options.

    The Mid-Cheshire diesels have to still run as the tram-train would only duplicate a small section of the diesel service. I would, however, assume:
    1. Ashley and Mobberley wouldn’t get 4 services in each direction per hour.
    2. The proposed additional Greenbank-Stockport services wouldn’t go ahead as well as tram-trains. (Stockport-Altrincham tram-trains are listed as another option under consideration.) Although, given tram-trains have been dismissed at the current time I think at the moment additional Greenbank-Stockport services are more likely to go ahead.

    One thing it doesn’t even talk about is integrated ticketing for stations outside the Greater Manchester boundary.

  14. Mike Battman Says:

    Are you suggesting a Timperley to Bury service as well as an Altrincham to Marple service?

    There are currently 10tph to Altrincham; I would imagine (even with the second city crossing in place) there may not be enough paths available from Cornbrook/Trafford Bar to increase to 12tph.

  15. Jen Says:

    Mike – I think you might have just indirectly suggested another reason for the cost being so high. The proposal costing £160m states 12tph between Manchester and Altrincham, so maybe that includes adding more space for additional capacity between Trafford Bar and Deansgate-Castlefield?

  16. The Chairman Says:

    The following has appeared on the front page of today’s Knutsford Guardian –

  17. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    No, I was merely stating that it would not be possible to run an Altrincham-Bury service with the existing M5000 trams if the line became tram-train south of Deansgate Junction. Any trams which did run from Manchester towards Altrincham would have to terminate at Timperley.


  18. Mike Battman Says:

    Thanks Andrew.
    Though I’m not sure I understand why?? Are you saying it is a capacity issue or a physical / technical reasons that the M5000s couldn’t continue to run to Altrincham?

  19. Watcherzero Says:

    Few points in regards to comments:
    Firstly costing is in todays prices not 2020’s prices, they do however estimate demand based on all lines opening in 2020 (only a theoretical date for forecasting not a practical date).
    Each scheme proposal is costed individually, therefore there could be savings from joint procurement. The costs include not just electrification but additional stations and trackwork and the refurbishment of existing stations.

    As regards to business cases ‘poor’ is a Benefit Cost Ratio of under 1.0, low is a BCR of 1.0-1.5, medium 1.5-2.0 and high is greater than 2.0. Nominally the Dft will only agree for schemes in excess of 1.5 to go ahead and they prefer schemes in excess of 2.0.

    I too think that a new heavy rail line via the Airport would offer the best improvement for the Cheshire lines, though if that resulted in a couple of stations south of Altrincham being cut off then they would have to extend the Metrolink to compensate, would be political suicide for central government if the stations were closed completely.

  20. Edd Says:

    In response to Mike Battman’s comment:
    If Navigation Road was made so that Metrolink and National Rail shared track and platforms, opposed to being single track and single platform for both, then it would mean standard trams could not serve Navigation Road as they do need meet the minimum crash standards for National Rail. If that happened all standard Metrolink services to Altrincham would have to switch to tram-trains. However, it would still be possible to run M5000s on match days provided they did not run on to the shared track i.e. they started/terminated at Timperley.

    In response to Watcherzero’s comments:
    Yes combing projects improves the BCR. This was a point made in the Middlewich line feasibility study that the BCR for a service between Stockport and Crewe via Middlewich would be stronger if it was looked at alongside new stations at Baguley and Cheadle.

    Building an Airport line wouldn’t need to spell the end to a Chester to Stockport service but I could see it terminating at Stockport and the peak time extras going if there was also a Chester to Knutsford to Manchester Airport to Manchester service. Network Rail would only build an Airport line if there to be regional services operating on it as well, possibly something like North Wales to Bradford/Leeds via Northwich and the Airport or Liverpool to Sheffield via Runcorn, Northwich and the Airport. This would then put Northwich and Knutsford in a similar position to Widnes, Birchwood or Stalybridge whereby if demand is high enough the regional trains can stop as well as the locals.

  21. Mike Battman Says:

    Thanks Edd; I hadn’t thought about the differing standards, I suppose ‘Heavy’ and ‘Light’ Rail should have given me a clue!
    It therefore makes me wonder if it would then make more sense to leave the systems separate from Deansgate Junction. That way there can be three services through Altrincham; an all tram Altrincham to Bury, a tram-train Knutsford to Marple and a heavy rail train Chester to Stockport/Manchester. It would also then make sense to use Platform 2, rather than 1, at Altrincham for the trams so that passengers can stand on Platform 2/3 and jump on whichever is leaving first. The Manchester bound Knutsford tram-train could then cross over to the light rail tracks soon after leaving Altrincham, enabling Navigation Road to still enjoy its regular service.

    It also leads to asking, what are they going to do with the spare M5000s displaced by Tram-Train. The Trafford Centre will need some, but only a few compared with what will be displaced.

  22. Simon Barber Says:

    I find it hard to understand how the Altrincham-Marple tram train idea can have a positive cost-benefit figure. It doesn’t provide any new journey opportunities for all the money spent. Altrincham already has a frequent tram service. Marple has a surprisingly frequent train service and I doubt there is sufficient population on that route to merit 10 services per hour to/from Marple, so where does the benefit come from? True benefit comes from new services and/or faster services, but this seems to offer neither.

    For the mid-Cheshire line I agree with earlier comments saying that the Mobberley spur idea is the best answer – unfortunately, although it’s short it comes at high cost because of the need to tunnel under the airport runways. But the route for it at the airport has been protected (it’s not near the HS2 route, in fact) and it is the reason for the slightly odd alignment of platform 3 at the airport (that’s where the spur would start). I would expect the service pattern initially to be hourly semi-fast Chester-Manchester via the airport and the existing stopping service retained but possibly terminating at Stockport. A large part of any case for the airport spur actually comes from North Wales (for which Manchester is the ‘local’ airport!) so one would expect through trains from the North Wales coast and/or Wrexham via mid-Cheshire to the airport, too (in fact if it is ever built, I’d expect funding contribution from the Welsh Assembly).

  23. Jen Says:

    Marple trains are heavily subsided by TfGM and the off-peak frequency is high and off-peak loadings are low (except on the services which continue to Sheffield) so I imagine TfGM see the £200m required as good value for money because they’ll expect to reduce the amount they spend in subsides significantly, as was the case with the Oldham Loop conversion.

  24. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    I prefer the term “grant aid” to “subsidy”. Of course the main reason that financial support to local rail services is so high is the way that the railways were privatised. Another way to reduce the grant aid is to change the structure of the industry. Conversion of the Marple line to tram-train will mean that the service will probably be able to be run without grant aid but “you get what you pay for”. So we are talking about higher Metrolink-type fares, unstaffed stations and only one member of staff (the driver) on board the vehicles with consequences for passenger security.

  25. The Chairman Says:

    A Chester perspective, as covered in the Chester Chronicle –

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