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Manchester set to get first privately funded metro

GO-AHEAD FOR Britain's first totally privately funded metro line extension could be given later this week if talks between a major developer and the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive are successful.

Trafford Park shopping centre developer Peel Holdings claims a pounds73M extension of GMPTE's Metrolink to the just opened centre can be funded 'entirely by private sector funds already secured'. Construction could start early next year, said a Peel Holdings spokesman, and could run in parallel with the GMPTE's already planned next extension to Oldham and Rochdale.

The five stop, 4km Trafford Park link would help the developer achieve its target of a quarter of the 30M annual visitors to the shopping centre arriving by public transport. 'We already have planning permission for the line and the money is there,' the spokesman added.

But Peel Holding's claim that its major funder, current Metrolink operator Altram, would provide up to pounds50M is described by Altram as 'not the case'. Altram construction manager Ian Bradshaw told NCE: 'We have had general talks with the developer but no discussion on funding. Any support would hang on the value of the operating concession and we are a long way from any deals.'

The GMPTE would have 'no objections in principle' to the line going ahead immediately, 'so long as it has no call on local public sector funds and does not interfere with our planned pounds200M Rochdale extension,' said project accountant Chris Sales.

He is optimistic of receiving the required pounds200M plus government funding for the 28km Rochdale line. It is hoped to solicit design, build, finance, operate-style tenders early next year.

David Hayward

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