Imagine Manchester with the Germans in charge …

Actor Peter Ustinov once famously likened Toronto to New York run by the Swiss, in praise of its cool, clean efficiency — a moniker which has been replaced by some with “Cleveland run by Canadians” as various urban ills have begun to tarnish some of the city’s lustre.

I couldn’t help think of this after reading yesterday’s column by Eamonn O’Neal of the Manchester Evening News. He muses that in the wake of the week’s tram disruptions the city could “do with a dose of Asian ambition and Teutonic efficiency.” 

Mr. O’Neal indulges in a bit of grass-is-always-greener fantasy by pontifcating about comprehensive, efficient public transport of the sort seen in Kuala Lumpur and Bremen, but who can blame him? I’ve never been to either of those places, though the quality of their transportation networks is legendary. Germany’s tramway prowess is a hard act to follow, and even Manchester’s new Bombardier trams came by way of Germany and Austria.

Now Manchester I have visited, and I found the Metrolink system generally well run — but crowding at peak hours did seem a bit problematic and some of the stations, as Mr. O’Neal alluded to, were less than welcoming.

And I was there before the new trams arrived. His hypothesis that the M5000s have too few seats to handle rush hour on the Altrincham line, if true, sounds like a potentially costly engineering snafu.

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