Metrolink: lead­ing by ex­am­ple

Rail (UK) - - Feature Light Rail -

As well as be­ing the UK’s big­gest light rail net­work, it is also one its best fi­nan­cial­lyper­form­ing sys­tems, ar­gues Head of Metrolink Danny Vaughan.

Fig­ures re­leased in June 2015 by the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) pointed to record an­nual rev­enue of £ 56.8 mil­lion, which equated to £1.82 per jour­ney, based on 31.2 mil­lion jour­neys be­ing made in 2014. In June 2016 that had in­creased to a rev­enue of £ 62.4m, based on 34.3 mil­lion jour­neys be­ing recorded in 2015 (see panel, op­po­site). Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of Metrolink’s Phase 3 ex­pan­sion, rid­er­ship in­creased to 37 mil­lion jour­neys in 2016, with the lat­est DfT fi­nan­cial fig­ures due out soon.

With the ex­cep­tion of Dock­lands Light Rail­way (£162m), this places Metrolink at the top of the rank­ings for rev­enue earned by Eng­land’s eight light rail sys­tems, and means it re­quires zero sub­sidy from govern­ment for op­er­a­tional ex­pen­di­ture.

“Manch­ester is a good case study for light rail in the UK,” says Vaughan. “That’s be­cause we op­er­ate with­out sub­sidy, which is im­por­tant in the UK. France, on the other hand, has a na­tional pol­icy of hav­ing light rail in cities with more than a cou­ple of hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple, and a pol­icy that sup­ports a na­tional in­dus­try where you have some ma­jor play­ers in in­fras­truc­ture and rolling stock. You’d be hard pressed to find many of those net­works that op­er­ate with­out sub­sidy like Manch­ester does.”

De­part­ing Metrolink Direc­tor Peter Cush­ing adds: “We’re proud that Metrolink op­er­ates with­out sub­sidy and pays back any bor­row­ings for de­vel­op­ment, so it’s a deeply im­pres­sive story.

“Look at the other cities who would like a net­work like ours, but build­ing a busi­ness case for them is of­ten dif­fi­cult. What we’ve done well is get­ting the routes to fol­low where the pop­u­la­tion is, and tak­ing them to places where there are jobs and leisure. Look at a map of Manch­ester and it con­nects ev­ery­thing that peo­ple want – ed­u­ca­tion, where peo­ple live, work and leisure ac­tiv­ity.

“We host peo­ple from around the world on a reg­u­lar ba­sis who come to see what we’ve done and how’ve done it and what it’s done for the city. It’s be­come a real icon.”

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