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Metrolink Introduction > City South: updated 15 September 2012
Segregated sections from Deansgate–Castlefield to Trafford Bar and Chorlton
See City Centre for a description of Victoria, Piccadilly, Deansgate–Castlefield and the lines between them. The diagram shows open metrolink lines in green and under construction phase 3b Airport and Didsbury extensions in orange.
The CLC Viaduct from Manchester Central Station to Cornbrook Junction was originally built as a two track viaduct then later widened to carry five tracks. Central Station closed in 1969 and the viaduct was unused, except for business premises in the arches, until repaired and converted for Metrolink which opened in 1992.
Repairs included pointing some 70,000 square metres of brickwork and replacing many thousands of spalled and missing bricks. Metal widenings were strengthened by concrete encapsulation and local plating repairs where required. After the structural repairs had been completed the metalwork was grit blasted and painted to protect it. Corrosion damage caused by breakdown of the waterproofing system was repaired. Where needed main girder ends were encapsulated in a reinforced concrete diaphragm beam supported on new bearings. Other bearings were freed by drilling and injecting grease.
The entire structure of Castlefield Bridge was lifted by 75mm as part of the work on its bearings. This improved headroom makes provision for 25kV electrification. Network Rail are now electrifying line from the railway Castlefield Junction, near Deansgate Station, to Ordsall Lane Junction.
For the first section from Deansgate–Castlefield stop, Metrolink uses the older two track southern viaduct. This has three wrought iron bridges connected to short sections of brick arches and was in much better condition than the later three track steel built viaduct. To achieve design speeds (80km/h) and meet vehicle separation requirements, reinforced concrete slab track is used over this narrower section.
In the next section towards Cornbrook Road the viaduct is 18m wide, it carried five tracks when this was a railway. There is space for the overhead line equipment, Metrolink tracks and Cornbrook stop.
During the August 2009 blockade, the outbound track was moved away from the inbound track allowing a new double–ended ‘pocket turnback’ siding to be installed between them. It is shown purple in the diagram and will probably be brought into use when Line of Sight working starts.
Viaduct modifications were required in 1999 before Cornbrook stop could be built. Surrounding arches were supported to prevent collapse. The eastern most part of the arch was rebuilt first and the Altrincham bound tram track was moved onto it. Then the second part of the arch was rebuilt. The lift shaft, staircase and the rest of the island platform stop were constructed. In August 2009 track was removed from the narrow north end bay platform, passengers only used this during the 2007 Altrincham line track upgrades.
Cornbrook Road railway bridge had a three track western/northern span on which track positions could not be changed. This was replaced, before Metrolink opened, by a new half–through steel box girder deck bridge to carry both Altrincham line tracks.
During construction work for the Eccles line the eastern/southern two track span was modified and strengthened, it now carries the outbound track.
Cornbrook stop was used as an interchange between Altrincham and Eccles lines from 6 December 1999. Following improvements at street level, the stop opened fully on 3 September 2005. Until the Pomona area is redeveloped, street access is towards Bridgewater Way and Chester Road.
Just south of Cornbrook Road British Rail (BR) built the underpass which segregates Metrolink from the Manchester–Warrington–Liverpool line. It takes Metrolink from the CLC viaduct onto the MSJA alignment a little south of the former railway Cornbrook Junction.
The eastern abutment of the future Eccles line bridge over the Bridgewater Canal was built with the underpass. On this isolated small site it would have been difficult and very expensive to do it later.
The Altrincham line dives beneath the Eccles outbound and railway lines, giving a non–conflicting tram junction.
Bridgewater Way is alongside the Warrington line and at about the same level where it crosses above Metrolink. It was built after Metrolink and part of it uses a short length of the former MSJA alignment.
The line continues to Trafford Bar stop, the name derives from Chester Road having had a toll bar here at one time. A minimum of alterations were done for the 1992 conversion to Metrolink. Then in 2001 a new concrete stairway was provided between Elsinore Road and the Altrincham bound platform. In 2004 the Manchester bound platform pedestrian ramp had its slope reduced and new double hand rails were installed. A new concrete stairway from the platform to the upper end of the ramp was opened. The former booking office lobby was taken out of use and the old railway stairs to the platforms have been removed.
This is between the Altrincham and Chorlton lines with Ayres Road as the southern boundary. The portion of Elsinore Road within the depot site and the bridge which carried it over the CLC line have been removed. Trams are now using the Chorlton line depot connection. The Altrincham line connections have still to be commissioned. This depot has tracks, a washing plant, workshop and offices. Major work on trams will be done at Queen’s Road Deopt.
When construction was nearly complete; in mid November 2010 the first tests, known as gauge runs, took place. A 1992 T68 then a new M5000 were pushed and pulled along the line by a diesel locomotive; this enabled checking of things like gauge and platform clearance. The OHLE along this line and in the new Trafford Depot are now energised. Powered tests out to St. Werburgh’s Road took place in early January 2011. A five trams per hour service to Victoria started on 7 July 2011.
The route uses three kilometres of the former CLC railway to Chorlton; where the track bed was in a cutting which passed under the Altrincham line and several roads. The last passenger train ran on 2 January 1967, although there was a freight line here until the late 1980s. Clearance work started on 2 October 2008. GMPTE worked closely with Natural England to protect wildlife along the new route. They also pledged to plant at least five young trees for every tree they needed to remove.
Alongside the depot towards Ayres Road, the cutting has been partially filled with hardcore (crushed concrete from former building floors and hard standing areas on the depot site) to the Altrincham line level. Part of Elsinore Road has also been removed to this level for the outbound line. A piled diaphragm wall between outbound and inbound lines allows a grade–separated junction; with the inbound line passing under the Altrincham line and joining it at Trafford Bar stop.
Beyond the depot connection the line descends to former rail level and crosses under Ayres Road just to the east of Brixham Road. It is then east of and parallel with Royston Road, before crossing under Rye Bank Road to Firswood stop; which is between The St. John Vianney School and Firs Avenue. A short path leads to a new footbridge over the line with stairways and lifts to both platforms. Ramps at the south end of the stop lead to a foot track level crossing.
Next the line crosses under Manchester Road between Cheltenham Road and Clarendon Road West. Then it continues between buildings on Albany Road and Buckingham Road, passing under Brantingham Road.
Chorlton is a two side platform stop adjacent to the Morrisons supermarket on the north side of Wilbraham Road (A6010). The outbound platform has both a stairway and lift from pavement level to platform; the inbound has a stairway from pavement level to platform and a ramp to the south–eastern corner of the supermarket. Additionally there are ramps from the north end of both platforms to a track level foot crossing.
After passing under Wilbraham Road the line continues behind the houses on south–western side of Egerton Road South to St. Werburgh’s Road.
From Manchester to Didsbury the railway was double track. At Chorlton Junction, immediately east of St. Werburgh’s Road, a double track line diverged towards Guide Bridge. This is now the Fallowfield Loop footpath/cycleway.
The old railway companies acquired enough land for four track lines. Widening the cutting, within existing boundaries on both sides of St. Werburgh’s Road, has allowed footpath/cycleway to be diverted through the previously unused northern bridge span. Metrolink tracks go through the southern bridge span.
A footpath track crossing has been provided at the foot of the ramp from Sidbury Road. A pedestrian access ramp has been built north of the diverted path and west of St. Werburgh’s Road. On the east side, a lift and steps have been provided between road and diverted footpath/cycleway levels.
St. Werburgh’s Road stop is the second in Chorlton. To the east of the road, it has an island platform with ramps down to footpath level, also outbound line track level foot crossings at both ends of the stop. Tracks continue a short distance to the east of the stop with a trailing crossover providing a turnback siding. Immediately after the trailing crossover junction points for the Airport line have been installed but not commissioned. Cycle parking is provided alongside the diverted footpath/cycleway.
This section opened on 7 July 2011, with a five trams per hour service to Victoria. On 13 June 2012 the five trams per hour service was extended from Victoria to Oldham Mumps temporary stop.
The eventual services will run from Rochdale railway station or Shaw and Crompton to Chorlton. On weekdays there will be a six minute interval service, in both directions, between Manchester City Centre and Chorlton. During early mornings and in the evenings, this will reduce to a tram every twelve minutes. At weekends, the six minute service will run for a shorter period each day; on Sundays the off peak service will offer one tram every fifteen minutes.
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This page was written and illustrated by Tony Williams, Manchester Area Officer, Light Rail Transit Association. Contact email@example.com if you have any comments, ideas or suggestions about these pages.