‘The trams are much nicer’: Fun and felony as Metrolink’s Chorlton line opens.

“It’s real then.”

With those weary, witty words did Manchester-based blogger Chris Paul herald on his Twitter account on July 7 the opening of Metrolink’s new Chorlton line.

"It's real then," Manchester blogger Chris Paul writes with weary understatement of Metrolink's new Chorlton line. Click image to visit Chris's yfrog photostream.

Well might south Manchester commuters rejoice, as the three-station extension to St. Werburgh’s Road finally opened with a 12-minute rush hour service after years of funding delays to the system’s £1.4 billion “big bang” expansion across Greater Manchester.
Final opening of the new line was then delayed from spring to late June until last week by computer glitches (see this Feb. 3 post, for example).

“Getting the bus from Chorlton to town isn’t the most pleasant experience,” Town planner Matt Whiteley told the Manchester Evening News for a July 7 story. “But the trams are much nicer.”

Indeed, that MEN story, aptly titled “On track at last: Commuters travel on new Metrolink tram service to south Manchester for first time,” was replete with anecdotes from riders who said the line would improve their commutes compared with buses and even driving. According to MEN, the route “gives commuters a 15-minute link from Chorlton to St Peter’s Square in the city centre with a ticket costing £2.50 for an adult single from Chorlton to Piccadilly Gardens.”

Fate being what it is, the line was temporarily closed to passengers just 24 hours after it opened, thanks to that other scourge plaguing railways the world over, an attempted cable theft. Problems on the Chorlton line were caused by thieves who cut a cable, Philip Purdy, Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink Director, told MEN. And, the paper reported, that problem was compounded by a failed tram at Cornbrook Interchange, halting journeys on both the Altrincham and Chorlton lines during rush hour.

Overall, however, the line seems to be welcomed by riders, media and of course the broad enthusiast fraternity. I’ve been following the developments with interest from across the Atlantic via several sources.

In addition to his newspaper reports, Manchester Evening News transport, environment and technology reporter Dean Kirby tweeted the most interesting developments on opening day. He also offered this thoughtful July 10 blog post, “Why Metrolink expansion is worth the wait,” which offers an overview of the “big bang” initiative through its expected completion in 2016.

Dean also tweeted on several interesting angles, including “the new London Underground-style Metrolink map,” a flickr collection of vintage Manchester tram photos from Manchester Archivesand this witty quip from Twitter user Lela Rose Keighley: “Oow! Apparently the tram next to my house has opened! So thats what that noise was!”

Here are BBC Manchester’s account of the opening and the attempted cable theft. Railnews.co.uk, meanwhile, noted that the “quiet opening” was “delayed by IT bugs.”

The Manchester Transport blog served up two interesting posts. “After Chorlton, what next for Metrolink?” blogger James McCollom asked rhetorically on July 9, offering a timeline of developments expected through summer 2012. This July 7 post by Martin Bryant, meanwhile, includes photos and video from the first day.

And finally, here is British Trams Online’s news account of the opening.

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