Metrolink: leading by example
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.”