Grayling gives green light to Manchester tram extension

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has approved plans to for a five-and-a-half kilometre extension to Manchester's Metrolink tram system, despite concerns that noise from the line's proposed route could interfere with production work at ITV's Trafford Wharf studios.

Manchester: tram extension approved
Manchester: tram extension approved

In a decision letter on Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) proposals for a new double-tracked line linking the network's Pomona stop with the Trafford Centre to its west, Grayling said he was satisfied there was a "compelling case" for the new line.

The letter added that the route had clear benefits over a previous proposal that was part of an extension authorised by the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Act 1992, but which passed further from the site of the ITV studios.

Grayling based his advice on a report by planning inspector Martin Whitehead, whose inquiry into the proposals ran over 12 days in July and August last year.

A total of 41 formal objections were lodged to the TfGM plan at the start of the hearings, but negotiations saw the number whittled down to 28. Whitehead’s report on the inquiry recommended TfGM be granted a works order for the line, subject to conditions.

A principal concern had been over the impact of noise from tram wheels on production work for the soap opera Coronation Street, which is filmed at Trafford Wharf.

ITV had flagged fears over the effects of "wheel squeal" from trams negotiating a tight bend near the studios, as well as ground-borne noise from vibrations, and of noise during the construction phase.

However the decision letter on behalf of Grayling indicated he was confident mitigation measures could counter any problems for the TV firm and that the proposed Trafford Park Line (TPL) had wider benefits to the whole community it served than its predecessor.

It said: "The benefits of the alignment now proposed would include a more attractive location for a tram stop to serve the Imperial War Museum, better connectivity to the redevelopment area along the Manchester Ship Canal, alternative tram access to MediaCity UK and a new connection between existing cycleways.

"The secretary of state is therefore satisfied that the route of the TPL in this application should be pursued in preference to the previous approved alignment."

Granting the order for permitting the line’s construction, the decision letter said the secretary of state agreed there was a "compelling case in the public interest" for the go-ahead, based on "clear evidence that the substantial public benefit which the TPL would achieve in terms of transport improvements and economic development would outweigh the harm due to private losses".

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