Transport in Manchester
The transport infrastructure of Manchester is built up of numerous transport modes and forms an integral part of the structure of Greater Manchester and North West England - the most populated region outside of South East England. Its position as a national city of commerce, education and cultural importance means the city has one of the largest and most thorough transport infrastructures which is heavily relied upon by its 2.5 million inhabitants in the Greater Manchester conurbation and further afield in the North West region. Public transport comes under the jurisdiction of Transport for Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester has a higher percentage of the motorway network than any other county. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it has the most traffic lanes side by side (17), spread across several parallel carriageways - the M61 at Linnyshaw Moss, Greater Manchester, close to the M60 interchange (the M60 is one of only two motorways in the UK designated as an 'Orbital Motorway, (the other being the M25 around London).
Greater Manchester still has an extensive citywide railway network with two mainline termini (Victoria and Piccadilly) and four through mainline railway stations in the central area (Deansgate, Salford Central, Salford Crescent and Oxford Road). Its central location means the city acts as a key bypass for rail to cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Ultimately Manchester sits at a rail bottleneck, and it is hoped investment in the proposed £560 million Northern Hub from 2013 to 2019 by Network Rail will alleviate this. Upgrades include electrification of three lines radiating from Manchester, a new rail line linking all stations in the Manchester station group and a new role for Manchester Victoria station.
Manchester Airport is the busiest airport outside the London region and has double the annual passenger figures of its nearest rival, making the airport the third busiest overall in the United Kingdom after Heathrow and Gatwick. The city also has an extensive network of canal systems which converge into Manchester. The Manchester Ship Canal, built in 1894, is the 8th largest ship canal in the world and is incomparable to any other canal in the United Kingdom which are mostly built for narrowboats and barges.
It was the first city in the United Kingdom to re-introduce trams to the streets with the 1992 opening of Manchester Metrolink, which is currently undergoing a major revamp and by 2016 the system will be the largest in the UK with at least 99 stops (72 more than in 2010) with 4 new lines currently being constructed and another line to the Trafford Centre envisaged. No underground system exists in Manchester, however this was proposed on numerous occasions before the Metrolink tram system was built.
Air - Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport, formerly Manchester (Ringway) Airport, is the busiest airport outside of London by a considerable margin with over double the passengers of its nearest non-London rival, Edinburgh Airport. With over 200 destinations, the Airport serves the most destinations of any airport in the United Kingdom and is viewed as the international flight hub for the whole of Northern England. In 2008 the airport handled 22.4 million passengers but was badly affected by the Great Recession. The Airport gradually recovered and had become the fastest growing major airport in the United Kingdom by 2014 with 20.7 million passengers.
Long haul scheduled destinations served directly include New York ( JFK and Newark), Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Barbados. Asian destinations include Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Singapore. There are also firm plans for direct services to Beijing, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Many European and domestic destinations are served. Manchester to London is one of the highest density airline routes within the UK and is one of the busiest domestic sectors in Europe, but is now experiencing serious competition from the improved railway link.
It is served by a dedicated railway station and will be a served by a dedicated Metrolink line by the end of 2016.
Greater Manchester and Greater London are the only two UK conurbations with a separately numbered orbital motorway (though it is possible to circumnavigate Birmingham via several differently numbered motorways). The Manchester ring road is called the M60. Unlike London's M25, the M60 actually runs within the Greater Manchester conurbation providing good inter-suburban links, rather than around the outside of the conurbation. The M60 has 27 junctions, numbered clockwise from Junction 1 at Stockport in the south-east.
The M60 between junction 16 (Pendlebury/Kearsley) and junction 17 (Prestwich/Whitefield) is the second busiest section of road in the UK, after the M25 at junctions 13 & 14 (Heathrow). Research in 2008 suggested that Manchester is the fourth most congested city in Europe. In 2010, it was decided that ramp metering would be used at numerous junctions on the M60 in an attempt to cut queues.
The city also has an inner ring road. Part of this is the A57/A57(M) (known as Mancunian Way), which runs south of the city centre, linking the western M602 (which spurs from the M60) to the eastern M60 and M67.
The other main motorways serving Manchester are the M56 (to the airport, Chester and the M6 southbound to Birmingham), the M61 (to Bolton, Preston and the M6 northbound to Wigan and Lancaster), the M62 (west to Liverpool and east to Leeds and Kingston upon Hull), the M66 (to Bury) and the M67, which was originally planned as a route to Sheffield but never completed. All of these motorways connect with the M60.
Manchester holds a pivotal position in railway history as a birthplace of passenger rail travel on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which opened in 1830. Railway links to London were established by 1842. By the turn of the 20th century, the city centre was encircled by large termini stations, which included:
- Manchester London Road (now Manchester Piccadilly)
- Manchester Victoria
- Manchester Central
- Manchester Mayfield
- Manchester Exchange
Cutbacks followed the Beeching Report in the 1960s, with Manchester Central, Manchester Mayfield and Manchester Exchange closing to passengers. All rail services in the city centre were then mainly concentrated on Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly as well as the smaller Oxford Road and Deansgate railway stations. Manchester Piccadilly was the busiest railway station in England outside London in terms of passengers in 2005–2006.
Greater Manchester still has an extensive citywide railway network with two mainline termini (Victoria and Piccadilly) and four through mainline railway stations in the central area (Deansgate, Salford Central, Salford Crescent and Oxford Road). Rail use by passengers in Greater Manchester has nearly doubled in the ten years from 2001 to 2011 and is predicted it will rise by a further 54% from 2011 to 2020. Its central location means the city acts as a key bypass for rail to cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The TransPennine Express service centres on Manchester as the main hub and other services which operate hourly to and from Manchester include CrossCountry trains, Arriva Trains Wales, East Midlands Trains, Northern Rail and Virgin Trains. Ultimately Manchester sits at a rail bottleneck, and it is hoped investment in the proposed £560 million Northern Hub scheme by Network Rail will alleviate this.
High speed trains to London are run from Manchester Piccadilly by Virgin Trains, journey time typically takes around 2 hr 7 mins. The record journey time is 1 hr 53 mins. There are several smaller stations around the city centre, including Oxford Road and Deansgate (formerly Knott Mill), and Salford Central across the Irwell in the City of Salford.
Piccadilly and Victoria are now linked by the city's Metrolink tram system. The urban and suburban areas are covered by a sizeable network of railway lines, including to Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Stockport and Wigan. Full timetables are from National Rail Enquiries. The commuter rail network within Greater Manchester (which numbers 101 stations) is the third most extensive (after Glasgow) outside Greater London and the South East.
In recent years, upgrades have been made to existing rail infrastructure in and around Manchester. Manchester Piccadilly was renovated prior to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and has been rated as one of the best large stations in the country. From 1998 to 2008, the West Coast Main Line linking Manchester to Glasgow, Birmingham and London was upgraded reducing journey times but fell short of the targeted 155mph top speed.
The 'Manchester hub' report was published in 2010 by Network Rail, examining possibilities of how the rail network in Manchester could be improved amid large passenger growth to and from Manchester. Network Rail proposed a £560 million which would alleviate rail bottlenecks across northern England in 2011. Full funding for the project was confirmed in July 2012, as part of the Government's High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for the rail industry for 2014–2019.
New through platforms will be added at Manchester Piccadilly. At present there are twelve terminating platforms but just two through platforms. Congestion is common at peak times and trains often incur delays for following trains down the line at Oxford Road.
Manchester Victoria station will undergo a series of upgrades from 2013 to 2019. The station was rated as the worst in the UK following a 2009 study and plans for a new roof have been in place since 1996. Work will start in March 2013 and it is a planned a new ETFE roof will be in place by spring 2014.
Manchester has a light rail system called Metrolink. Operated by Stagecoach, Metrolink links the city centre to Altrincham, Eccles, Bury, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, and East Didsbury. It is a high-frequency service, with trams running every 6–12 minutes. It carries nearly 20 million passengers each year.
Trams first appeared on the streets of Manchester in 1877 and by 1901 were taken over and electrified by Manchester Corporation Tramways. The system grew to the third largest in the UK but was abandoned in 1949. Proposals for a light rail system in the city grew from a 1970s proposal by SELNEC to build three rapid transit lines. This idea was superseded by the Picc-Vic project but light-rail was resurrected again in the 1980s; it was these proposals which led the birth of the Metrolink, the first routes of which were opened in 1992.
Plans to extend Metrolink were reinstated after an election-time u-turn by the Labour Government which had rejected the plans months earlier, despite years of support. The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE), responsible for public transport in Greater Manchester, led the fight to ensure that the extensions be built, with significant support from local councils and communities and Manchester City Council. In July 2006 the government announced a major extension to the Metrolink system, which is intended to form the first phase of the so-called 'big bang' expansion. If the eventual desired system is completed, passenger numbers are predicted to more than double to an estimated 50 million per year.
Since the initial approval of the system from the public, local and national government, and environmental groups, Metrolink has become something of a victim of its own popularity. Many routes are extremely busy, especially at peak times, and prices have risen at far above the rate of inflation. The network has also gained reputation for being unreliable. In 2011, Stagecoach Manchester who operated the Metrolink under contract from TfGM, relinquished duties giving no apparent reason with French consortium, RATP Group taking over duties.
Buses are operated by companies including First Greater Manchester, Stagecoach Manchester (incorporating the lower-cost Magic Bus), Arriva North West, Finglands, Bluebird and JPT. Until 22 December 2006, when their services were suspended by the North-west Traffic Commissioner, UK North (also trading as GM Buses) also operated buses in Manchester.
The major routes, with high passenger volumes, include Oxford Road/Wilmslow Road, one of the busiest bus routes in Europe, bringing large numbers of students and commuters from the South Manchester suburbs of Rusholme, Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury to the university buildings and the city centre. Tickets for some services on this route are cheaper than on most other commercial routes and special week passengers can be bought only for services on this corridor. Tickets on other routes that are not as commercially attractive, with smaller passenger volumes, and which are less well provided for, have significantly higher prices for single, daily and weekly tickets. Further major bus corridors include Rochdale Road between Manchester and Middleton, Oldham Road between Manchester and Failsworth, Hyde Road between Manchester and Gorton, Princess Road towards Wythenshawe and the A6 corridor in Salford.
The majority of bus services in South Manchester are provided by Stagecoach Manchester including the 192 service which connects Manchester and Stockport, which is reputed to be the busiest bus route in the country. Stagecoach also provides services from Manchester city centre to the Airport. This includes the 43 service, the only 24 hour bus service in Greater Manchester, which also serves the Oxford Road/Wilmslow Road corridor.
First Manchester is the main operator in the North of Manchester. It operates free Metroshuttle services that link important points in the city centre such as Manchester Victoria, Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations with Chinatown, Deansgate, Salford Central, and Albert Square. These services are very successful and therefore often busy. There are three routes, numbered 1, 2 and 3, coloured orange, green and purple respectively. They run every 5–10 minutes and complement the Metrolink and National Rail services. Those arriving at Manchester Piccadilly Bus Station and needing to take a train from Manchester Piccadilly, less than half a mile (500 meters) away, can choose either Metrolink or the free Metroshuttle, or walk.
First Manchester also operates a number of 'overground' services, high frequency colour-coded services connecting Manchester with many large towns around the conurbation including Bolton, Bury, Oldham and Rochdale. A high frequency bendy bus route on the Bury-Manchester 135 service, which operates every six to ten minutes is the competing bus route with the Bury metrolink line. Manchester's principal bus station used mainly for services on the south side of the city is at Piccadilly Gardens, which is served primarily by Stagecoach Manchester and also by Metrolink. Shudehill Interchange caters for routes mainly on the north side of the city, which is within walking distance of Victoria station is mainly used by First Manchester. Long-distance coaches, operated mainly by National Express, serve the Manchester Central Coach Station at Chorlton Street, opened in March 2002 replacing the old one on the same site.
Greater Manchester bus stops were replaced over a five-year period. The older bus stop flags were based on a nationally adopted design featuring a single decker bus and were used over the entire country with the exception of London. Following bus deregulation there was no compulsion to use the national symbol and several PTEs like West Yorkshires Metro and Merseyside adopted a new bus stop flag design featuring their capital M logo. GMPTE inherited their own M shaped logo and also began to use it on the glass back of bus shelters from the late 1990s. They have subsequently introduced this to a new design for bus stop flags - firstly used in 2002 on high priority routes - and now being erected across the entire GMPTE area. In 2011, with a change of name and remit of the transport authority, these are being replaced by a modified "M" design.
One legacy of the industrial revolution is an extensive network of canals: the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal, Rochdale Canal, Bridgewater Canal, Ashton Canal, and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Most of these canals were constructed for transporting commodities such as coal and iron at a time when vehicular transport was not present. Most of these canals are now used for recreation.
The Manchester Ship Canal is the only purpose built ship canal in the United Kingdom, and upon opening in 1894 was the largest ship navigation canal in the world allowing for ships with a length of up to 600 feet to navigate its 36 mile route. The deteriorating state of the Irwell Mersey Navigation and the excessive dues charged by the Port of Liverpool fuelled influential Mancunian businessmen such as Daniel Adamson to find a solution, and consequently the idea of a ship canal was formed. The ship canal never became the success its patrons had wished, and traffic peaked in the 1960s. The canal fell into a state of disrepair, but since the 1990s there has been renewed efforts to use the canal more as a transport route. Freight is once again being carried on the Ship Canal. The ship canal is also used for leisure, and a scheme to use the Manchester Ship Canal and River Irwell as a waterway to transport commuters has also been envisaged. A trip from MediaCityUK at Salford Quays to Spinningfields in Manchester city centre it is hoped would take 15 to 20 minutes. Manchester Water Taxis Ltd. are heading the proposals and aim to start operations by 2013 as the MediaCityUK move starts to take shape.
An underground system does not exist in Manchester but there was a proposal to create an underground system in the 1970s. The Picc-Vic tunnel was proposed to link Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria with a number of stations between both. The proposal was shelved due to cost and was deemed impractical with Manchester's network of tunnels and building basements from the Victorian era creating construction difficulties. The Guardian exchange which doubles up as a nuclear bunker also has a series of interconnected tunnels running underground Manchester total over a six miles in length and 60 metres (180 feet) deep in certain areas.
Excavation work under the Manchester Arndale for this project began in the 1970s, but was soon abandoned due to costs and rumours of 'subterranean obstacles'. Other abandoned tunnels hidden for decades have recently been discovered including a 460-metre canal tunnel from the River Irwell to the canal system 
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