ELECTRIC TRAMS that transform into diesel trains could be the key to integrating Manchester's Metrolink network with heavy rail lines in the area, NCE has learned.
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive is considering linking the Metrolink at Bury with the East Lancashire railway to create a through service from Rawtenstall to Manchester. Under the proposal, a new rail link would be built from the East Lancs line north of Bury and linked to the Metrolink at Buckley Wells station.
The line would be serviced by a hybrid diesel/electric vehicle that takes power from overhead lines when running as a tram but uses diesel power when it switches to heavy rail.
Metrolink's director of planning and passenger services Keith Howcroft said GMPTE was launching a feasibility study into tram/trains or alternatively linking the East Lancs line, which terminates at Bury, with rail services running into Manchester Victoria from Castleton Junction.
He said: 'We've seen tram/ trains developed by Bombardier work very well in Saarbruken in Germany.'
Howcroft confirmed that in the long term GMPTE will look into tram/train links to connect Manchester with Bolton and Wigan.
'We've started to identify potential extensions using tram/ trains with Bolton and Wigan, ' he said. 'They have very good heavy rail links with Manchester but with tram/trains linking with the Metrolink network we could get more passengers attracted by a more comfortable and seamless journey.'
GMPTE is already co-ordinating a £570M programme of Metro extensions in Manchester; planning a guided busway in Leigh and looking at 200 potential park and ride sites, said Howcroft.