Metrolink second city crossing 'vital' for Manchester

Artist impression of a proposed new tram stop in Exchange Square
Image caption Plans include a new tram stop in Exchange Square

Business leaders in Manchester have said plans for a new cross-city tram link are "vital", despite concerns that small businesses could be hit hard.

Transport bosses want to build an alternative Metrolink route called the Second City Crossing (2CC) by 2016.

As consultation gets under way, companies have been warned they could face years of "major disruption".

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is urging small businesses to find out how the proposals will affect them.

Richard Critchley, the chamber's policy manager for transport, agreed congestion was a major problem for struggling businesses.

But he said the construction of a second city crossing was "vital for the future expansion of Metrolink".

"There will be a huge disruption during the construction phase - that's inevitable with any major project like this," he said.

"There will be a number of permanent road closures and they will impact on businesses in the long term so people need to look at these plans now."

If approved, construction of the 2CC scheme would begin in 2013 with the extension up and running by late 2016.

The proposed tram link would take passengers on a new line from St Peter's Square to Victoria Station via Princess Street and Cross Street.

The existing tram stop in St Peter's Square would be moved and a new stop would be created at Exchange Square.

Cut in two

But a section of Princess Street would be closed to all traffic except buses and taxis, effectively cutting the city in two and blocking off an east-west through route via Bridge Street and John Dalton Street.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) acknowledged the difficulties facing small businesses but said its strategy was to support a "strong and prosperous economy".

Image caption Passenger numbers on Metrolink are forecast to rise from 6,000 to 20,000 in the next decade

However, it said that with passenger numbers set to to treble by 2021, an alternative city centre route was "essential" to cope with increased demand created by expansion of the Metrolink network.

A new line to MediaCityUK has recently opened and Metrolink extensions to Chorlton, Droylsden, Oldham and Rochdale will open during 2011 and 2012.

In addition, Metrolink extensions are under way from Chorlton to East Didsbury, from Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne town centre, through Oldham and Rochdale town centres and to Manchester Airport.

TfGM is also working with Manchester City Council to accommodate the new tram link with plans to pedestrianise St Peter's Square and relocate the Cenotaph to a position close to the Town Hall.

Public consultation on the crossing and Cenotaph plans will continue until 9 September, details of which can be found on the TfGM website.

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