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Manchester 'Big Bang' go-ahead

Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram system was today given government cash backing for a massive expansion plan. Known as the 'Big Bang' the plan is to build 30 miles of new lines to Oldham and Rochdale, to east Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne and to Wythenshawe and the airport in one contract to give considerable savings compared to the previous piecemeal approach. This follows an eight-month campaign by the Manchester Evening News and local transport planners to persuade the Government to back the plan. Success came as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was due to visit the city today to announce GBP 289m of aid to guarantee the expansion and make Metrolink 'the envy of Europe'. This leaves a funding gap of GBP 200m of which local officials are confident of raising from the private sector. It is hoped to get the Ashton route built as far as Eastlands in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2002. It is hoped to increase the capacity of the existing lines which are sometimes overcrowded by ordering trams for the extensions in advance.

The M.E.N. reports the Deputy Prime Minister as saying "I have never been in any doubt of the value of Manchester’s case. It is a very big, happening city and we have declared it a centre of excellence." and "It is a world leader for us and a good example of how to put heavy and light rail together with imagination. And it has been proved that people leave their cars at home."

22 March 2000

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