London is renowned for its world famous tube and the notorious tube map. This is not the only British city with an underground rail network, a notable example being the Clockwork Orange in Glasgow. Underground systems appear to be the vestige of capital or prominent cities especially abroad. So what about other methods of transport that decide not to take to the subterranean to transport the commuting public around?
Of course there are buses. Unrestrained from the need to use a rail system these can operate anywhere on the road network. The first buses were horse drawn carriages designed to carry multiple passengers. This was followed by steam buses in the 1830’s and electric trolley buses in the 1880’s. Eventually the first combustion engine propelled buses were developed in the late 1890’s. Recently, a further development of this staple of public transport has led to electric, fuel cell and hybrid buses on our roads.
But back to the rail systems… developed slightly earlier, the first trams were horse drawn with the first line located in South Wales. Methods of propulsion varied from horse drawn, steam and electric tram systems. On the Isle of Man in Douglas, horse drawn trams still run in the summer months. In the late 19th century, just as the combustion engine bus was gracing the streets, electric trams were coming on the scene and the earlier propulsion methods were phased out. Regrettably the advent of personal motor vehicles and the improvements in motorized buses caused the rapid disappearance of the tram from most western and Asian countries by the end of the 1950s.
Manchester was one of the first cities to abandon its tram system completely by 1949. The buses reliability improvements made them a serious competitor to the trams which, in comparison, required costly infrastructure to run. Trams almost disappeared entirely from the UK (Blackpool being the only city to keep its tram), Ireland, France, Denmark and Spain.
On the rise again? Trams have been having something of a resurgence. The favour given to personal automobiles led to a loss in quality of life as smog and traffic congestion increased. Government authorities, recognising this, sought to reinvent the public transport systems, and the tram has seen a comeback in many cities across Europe – Manchester being a notable example. Not only has the Manchester Tram network increased in popularity and had an effect on house prices it is subject to further expansion.
Work to deliver a second Metrolink line through the heart of Manchester city centre is underway. The Second City Crossing aims to increase the capacity, flexibility and reliability of the network. The second crossing will span from St. Peter’s square down Princess Street, Cross and Corporation Street before re-joining the existing MetroLink line at Victoria Train Station.
This is part of a wider transformation of the city that will see an improved public transport system created across Manchester which includes the new tram line, bus priority scheme and dedicated cycle lanes to accommodate the growth in the city. The work also supports the transformation of some of our public spaces and the new homes, offices and hotels that are being built.
Manchester therefore is an exciting place to be currently, with a lot of development and public improvement works planned for the future and the cities expansion as it tries to cement its place as the country’s second city behind London.