Town Centre Link Due for 27 January Opening

Union Street section on verge of opening

3071 on test outside Central station, Oldham.
Seen here is 3071, on test outside Central station, Oldham on the 13 December 2013.

After a series of test runs, the Union Street section of Oldham’s Metrolink line will be open on the 27 January.

Since services began on June 2012, trams have called at a temporary Oldham Mumps station along the former Loop Line. From the 27 January, a new line via Union Street will call at four new stations.

The permanent Oldham Mumps station will be closer to Mumps itself. There will be seamless transfer between tram, bus, taxi and private car. In short, a real improvement on the walk from Rhodes Bank and the footbridge across Oldham Way.

Its next stop, Oldham Central, will offer seamless connections with Union Street Jobcentre Plus, Gallery Oldham, Oldham Central Library, Sainsburys and T.K. Maxx. The Town Square shopping centre is a short walk away. Just off Clegg Street, it is close to the original Oldham Central closed in 1966 by British Railways.

Ideally placed for Oldham Sixth Form College is the King Street stop. Had Metrolink been around thirty years ago with orange and white trams, it would have been ideal for Butterflies and Shopping Giant. Today, passengers from Shaw or Hollinwood bound for Ashton could transfer onto the 409 service.

The final new stop is Westwood, which more or less replaces the former Oldham Werneth station. From King Street, trams will negotiate the Oldham Way roundabout and reach Westwood by means of a stop on the side of Middleton Road. From there, it rejoins the former Loop Line.

From the 18 – 26 January, the Oldham Rochdale line will be closed, with fully timetabled test runs prior to opening. The trackbed between Oldham Mumps and Oldham Werneth will fall into disuse, possibly redeveloped for future retail or industrial uses. (Unless we see plans to reopen the Lees line up to Greenfield, thus restoring Oldham’s heavy rail connection).

S.V., 10 January 2014.

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17 thoughts on “Town Centre Link Due for 27 January Opening

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  1. I like (!) the fact that it isn’t even open yet and already appears to be strewn with litter in parts. Will be good to see the Metrolink in Oldham town centre at past though after what seems like years and years of disruption.

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    1. Hi Mark,

      It tends to give a sense of ‘establishment’, even if ‘brand spanking new’ is a little ‘shop soiled’! I too cannot wait for its arrival on Union Street, plus being able to transfer between modes without a lengthy walk (referring to Oldham Mumps).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. I understand the Metroshuttle 400 bus service that has helped matters will finally end its days once the new town centre Metrolink route is fully operational. The old Oldham Mumps station both in days of heavy rail and light rail was not really what you would call well-placed for visiting the town centre main shopping complex. and that Metroshuttle at least was of help to visitors.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for reminding me about the Metroshuttle 400 service’s withdrawal on opening. I too remember how bad the original Oldham Mumps station was for the town centre. No doubt this was exacerbated by the opening of Oldham Way and subway access at Mumps Bridge, either towards Greenacres or the Mumps Bridge bus terminus. It was a most awful setting, midday or midnight.

      If Beeching chose to close Oldham Mumps instead of Oldham Central, a different story again. Also as per County Borough of Oldham’s 1948 plan to move Tommyfield Market to Mumps Bridge with the Civic Centre in its place. Town centre penetration would have improved, but passengers would have had to negotiate a footbridge over Oldham Way.

      As for the present link, with town centre penetration, pretty obvious!

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  3. I always thought it would be beneficial for everyone north of Oldham to have a more express route to Manchester, i.e using the current bit of line through Oldham but without Mumps station. The trams could terminate alternately between Oldham and Rochdale, at least reducing some of the peak time overcrowding that will be a problem I feel. Cue the complaints from Oldhamers that they cannot get aboard a tram in the morning because they are already full.

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    1. In the days of the heavy-rail services, Shaw (situated between Oldham and Rochdale) was a terminal station for certain services.

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      1. Hello again Paul,

        I remember that arrangement. Between Shaw and Manchester Victoria, there was four trains per hour. Two per hour would be the all-stations service to Wigan Wallgate.

        Then the other two was the limited stop service. From Manchester Victoria, straight to Oldham Mumps, then Shaw, New Hey, Milnrow and Rochdale. Some would terminate at the bay platform in Rochdale, whereas some would return to Victoria, later calling at Castleton, Mills Hill and Moston. From Manchester Victoria, some would continue to – if my memory serves me right – Bolton or Blackpool North.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

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    2. Hi Ady,

      There is probably scope for this at Shaw station, which is built with three platforms. A third line terminates there, so it could be possible to have an all-stations from Shaw to East Didsbury and a limited stop tram from Rochdale (all-stations to Shaw again to East Didsbury or MediaCityUK even).

      With a limited stop tram option, you would need a different coloured companion line to the present ORL on the maps, and a flashing ‘tram passing – do not board’ message (as seen at Stalybridge station for example) on the real time information board at stations not catered for by limited stop journeys.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  4. Hi James,

    This somehow falls into place. Present frequencies on the ORL are every 12 minutes, thus meaning – as you said, a 6 minute frequency – between Shaw and Cornbrook. Therefore, another year till the trams offer a more frequent Shaw – Manchester connection than the train ever did, and the daytime service of the 58/59 buses (at present, every 7 minutes between Rushcroft and Middleton before 7pm).

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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  5. Hi Stuart,

    I very much agree with Ady regarding the retention of current route once the new section opens. Even if ridership does not warrant express services in the short term its retention would add some service resilience in the event of disruption in Oldham centre. However every announcement that I’ve read suggests abandonment of the route. Have any other uses for the old route been suggested?

    Re your comment

    “Unless we see plans to reopen the Lees line up to Greenfield, thus restoring Oldham’s heavy rail connection”

    has this been muted in the past or is this a personal aspiration?

    Regards,

    Mark

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    1. Hi Mark,

      The retention of the ‘temporary’ route could come into its own as a diversionary route – something which the Metrolink system lacks at present. You are right in stating the lack of alternatives. Some sources I’ve read and heard suggest structural problems with the Central and Werneth tunnels. The Metrolink website also stated ‘decommissioning’ of the temporary Oldham line once the town centre section has opened.

      There hasn’t been a single plan to reopen the Oldham Glodwick Road to Greenfield (via Lees) line since its closure to all traffic in 1966, so a flight of fancy on my part. You would have a bottleneck between tram and heavy rail lines with one line allocated to Metrolink and another line to Network Rail. Plus, you would be looking at rather sharp curves and flyovers which would mean additional expense and civil engineering gymnastics on Featherstall Road.

      However, if in the (highly unlikely event) we see the Lees line reopened, we have scope for train-tram operation. The terminal stump at Greenfield on the Huddersfield platform could be reopened, with the tram line autonomous from NR metals and signalling. The most expensive part would probably be the reopening of Lydgate tunnel, then stations at Grotton, Lees and Glodwick, before joining the town centre section. Then you could serve Chadderton town centre and go for full-on train-tram operation between Middleton Junction and Manchester Victoria. Train-trams could call at Moston then rejoin Metrolink metals at Victoria.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. Your thinking of the ‘temporary’ line being retained is, sadly, incorrect.

        I’ve been told that the OHLE is going to the Airport line, and the track being sold. Possibly to heritage tram lines. The track in the road, however, will stay.

        I think Oldham would be a good place for tram-train operations, from Greenfield to Manchester. The only thing is, Greenfield doesn’t have any bay platforms so terminating would require traffic to be stopped in both ways. Another possibility is that trams from Victoria or Piccadilly, when the ‘new’ stop is opened, going to Greenfield via Stalybridge, on the heavy rail lines using tram-train. However, if costs are a problem, as they most likely are, I’d say terminate at Stalybridge, but Ashton is only a 10minute bus ride away, so it’d be rather pointless. I think going to Greenfield would benefit passengers; especially in peaks; more.

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  6. Hi Joe,

    I wondered where the temporary line’s OLE would be going to, so thanks for clarifying that. Could some of the old Metrolink track be going to another Mancunian tramway (Heaton Park)?

    Before the Beeching Cuts, Greenfield railway station did have a bay platform on the up line. This was used for local services and, before you disembark for Greenfield or any other points in Saddleworth, you will pass the former bay platform, albeit obscured by undergrowth. If you look closely on Google Maps, you can just about see the platform edges. There was also a Coal Depot, entrance from Shaw Hall Bank Road. Prior to 1999, Greenfield also had its own signal box.

    If you go on to Old-Maps.co.uk, do a search for ‘Greenfield’ and click on the link which reads ‘Greenfield Lancashire/Furness’ (this refers to the Ordnance Survey map area, though Greenfield comes under the pre-1974 West Riding of Yorkshire). On the right hand side of the main window, select any O.S. Map (ideally 1932) and zoom in on the area around Greenfield railway station. Prepare to be surprised.

    As for Oldham train-tram and your Stalybridge terminus idea, trams would have to reverse at Greenfield before joining NR metals. An eastern terminal platform would be needed at Stalybridge railway station. However, there is potential for another Oldham loop, along the lines of:

    • Manchester Victoria – Middleton Junction;
    • Middleton Junction – Chadderton – Westwood;
    • Westwood – Oldham Central – Oldham Mumps;
    • Oldham Mumps – Lees – Greenfield (reversing at bay platform);
    • Greenfield – Stalybridge;
    • Stalybridge – Manchester Victoria.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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    1. I think Heaton Park are interested heavily in the purchase of the rails. Not sure where else it could go, unless Nottingham NET is interested in it for their Phase 2, or they might recycle it for Airport use.

      I’ve always wondered what that fenced off bit of land was for, now I know! If they ‘uncovered’ that bay platform and rebuilt it, it could be a nice little terminus for trams. Trams typically have quite a long stay over at termini so the timetabling of trams into that bay platform would have to be quite specific. Unlike Altrincham, where there are two platforms – the latter available for use if one is occupied or if one line is occupied by a tram after Navigation Road, there would have to be some sort of ‘Metrolink’ only part of the line where trams can be held not in the mainline until the tram occupying the platform has departed and left ‘station limits’, even though most lines have been converted to Line of Sight operations.

      I’m not quite sure what the status of TMS is on the Network Rail section, so I’m not sure what they’re doing with the Alt-Nav Rd bit of line – which is Network Rail owned and signalled. If they’re trying to interface TMS to NR, or somehow ‘teaching’ TMS how to operate on Network Rail bits of lines, I’m not too sure. There’s been a long standing temporary speed restriction on that bit of line because trams have been known to ‘disappear’ from signallers screens on the ‘handover’ – so I’ve heard. Someone feel free to correct me here.

      Stalybridge has a bay platform which I guess could be converted to Metrolink use, however I still think it’s rather pointless. With Ashton being a 10-minute 348 ride away. If it went to Greenfield, or even Huddersfield, then there might be a business case for it. Greenfield is quite busy in the morning peak, so having a regular 12-minute headway service would be a huge benefit to the people who’ve had a bad start to the day! And not an hour’s wait for the next train west to Victoria.

      I hope something comes of the tram-train plans in the Glossop area, but I don’t know what demand for rail services are like in that area, so I don’t know about the benefits of semi-converting the line.

      Another problem, which could turn out to be a nightmare, is that the Victoria-Huddersfield line is being converted to be able to handle electric trains, which run at way way higher power than the 750v trams. So I don’t know how the OHL real-estate will work out. If trams are fitted with a transformer able to handle thousands of volts, I’m not quite sure. Unless the railways are widened to fit two more tracks, which I don’t think will be really that feasible.

      After the Ashton line opened, trams going to Piccadilly from Bury were extended to Ashton. But the Piccadilly – Altrincham line wasn’t extended to Ashton. So, to create a 6-minute service on the EML, I think they could extend the Piccadilly bound trams from Altrincham to Ashton. However, because TfGM and MRDL don’t like the T68’s and are complaining there’s not enough trams available to make doubles in peaks, there might be a long wait involved.

      However, during the Victoria works – when it’s reduced to one-track passthrough – I think trams are planned to be sent to Eccles from Ashton. Forming an Ashton-Eccles service, with passengers changing at St Peters Square for trams to Bury. As the Eccles line terminus is Piccadilly, it does makes sense.

      I also don’t quite know what the plans are about using Cornbrook as a terminus for a service, I forget which one it is. However, Cornbrook had a bay platform, which they removed and put a little driver ‘hangout’ hut in its place. So if they did make Cornbrook a terminus for something, they’ll have to orchestrate it pretty well. As soon as one tram leaves theres typically another one behind it already ready to set off.

      Joe

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      1. Hi Joe,

        Thanks for your lengthy reply regarding the Metrolink and possible future developments. Unfortunately, I cannot shed any light on the future of TMS on the Altrincham – Skelton Junction section of NR and Metrolink lines. One other issue with converting NR metals onto tram-train is the line’s usage by goods trains. The NR line is used by weekly workings of the Tunstead – Peak Forest train, and any unreliability from the trams could delay our precious Class 66 with 30 wagons in tow, or vice versa.

        As for Metrolink services in Stalybridge, one idea I’ve held is a circular section between Ashton and Stalybridge. Instead of a direct line along the L&YR branch or Stamford Street, it entails going via Tameside Hospital, Stalybridge rail and bus stations, then Dukinfield via the Albion Hotel (up line via Jeffreys Drive, down line via Foundry Street), then back to Ashton via Stamford Street and Warrington Street, rejoining the present terminus.

        I strongly agree with the idea of a Greenfield extension, even if all it is is a short line via Lees with connections to Huddersfield. Likewise with your views of the potential ballache of switching from the 25kV a.c. system to the 750V d.c. system used by Metrolink. Tram-train would only work in Greenfield and Mossley if the Stalybridge – Diggle line via Micklehurst was reopened, for the sole use of Transpennine Express services.

        I too have a funny feeling that the other 12 minute service from Ashton could be Eccles via MediaCityUK. For some passengers, it is likely to remind them of the good old days when you could get a bus from Peel Green to Ashton-under-Lyne (the 64 and 66 from 1970 to 1978 – east of Manchester section is today’s 219 service). However, with plans to terminate the all-stations Liverpool Lime Street at Manchester Victoria instead of Stalybridge, the Metrolink connection to Eccles will come into its own (changing trains would still be a faster alternative).

        Still, all will be revealed, and it shouldn’t be too long before the Rochdale town centre section is ready!

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

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