A VITAL new metro link between Manchester and the proposed 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium is falling dangerously behind schedule, designers warned this week.
Design consultant Kennedy & Donkin fears that unless work starts immediately on the £110M Ashton link it may not be finished in time to take spectators to the Games.
'If we don't get an announcement this week, we will be advising the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive that the project is starting to fall behind programme,' said K&D operations director Tony Mustard.
Following a public inquiry in June 1997 the inspector recommended that the scheme should proceed (NCE 11 September). But 13 months later final approval has still not been granted by the Government.
A spokeswoman for GMPTE said: 'Things are tight, but assuming that a decision is made in the next couple of weeks and we can secure the funding, we should be able to start work later this summer.' She added that any shortfall in funding would lead to a scaled-down version of the line running 2km to the Eastlands Commonwealth site in time for 2002 rather than the full 10km to Ashton.
Meanwhile, the capacity of the Commonwealth stadium itself is still being debated. Original plans for an 80,000 capacity stadium as part of Manchester's failed 2000 Olympic bid were scaled down last year to 60,000. But failure to secure adequate funding, and uncertainty as to who will take over the stadium after the games, lead to speculation last year that capacity may be down-sized yet again (NCE 27 November).
Manchester City Council sources confirmed the shortfall in funds and that Manchester City Football Club is still interested in taking over the stadium. Delicate negotiations on additional funding are taking place with the Government at the moment, and a decision is expected at the beginning of August.