Oldham and Rochdale Line
The Oldham and Rochdale Line (ORL) is a tram line of the Manchester Metrolink in Greater Manchester running from Manchester city centre to Rochdale town centre via Oldham, using most of the trackbed of the former Oldham Loop Line which closed in 2009. The line was re-opened in a modified form as a tram line between 2012 and 2014, as part of phase three of the system's expansion.
|Oldham and Rochdale Line|
|Locale||Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale|
Rochdale Town Centre
|Opened||13 June 2012 (Victoria to Oldham Mumps)|
16 December 2012 (Oldham Mumps to Shaw & Crompton)
28 February 2013 (Shaw & Crompton to Rochdale railway station)
27 January 2014 (Oldham town centre line)
31 March 2014 (Rochdale railway station to Rochdale Town Centre)
|Character||Converted railway line|
with street running sections.
|Line length||14 miles (22.5 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||750 volts DC overhead|
|Operating speed||50 mph (80km/h)|
The line runs from Manchester Victoria running north-east to Oldham before turning north and then north-west to Rochdale. The line mostly follows the trackbed of the former heavy rail Oldham Loop Line. However, it leaves the former railway trackbed at each edge of Oldham town centre, and runs through the town centre on a new street running route.
From Victoria, the line shares track with the Bury Line as far as Irk Valley Junction, where it diverges to the east, following the former Cheetham Hill loop line. Near the junction with the Bury Line a link runs into the Queens Road tram depot. The line then serves stops at Monsall and Central Park before crossing over the Calder Valley Line on a tram viaduct.
After passing over the viaduct, the line then re-joins the former railway trackbed. For a short distance, as far as just beyond Newton Heath and Moston, the line runs as a single track, the other track being used by freight trains to the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Depot. Double track running resumes beyond the stop, and the line continues north-east along the former railway trackbed as far as Oldham town centre, serving stops at Failsworth, Hollinwood, South Chadderton, and Freehold.
Beyond Freehold tram stop, at the edge of Oldham town centre, the line diverges from the former railway trackbed, and onto a mostly street running line through the town centre, serving stops at Westwood, Oldham King Street, Oldham Central and Oldham Mumps.
The line then rejoins the former railway trackbed at the eastern edge of the town centre, and runs north then north-west to Rochdale, serving stops at Derker, Shaw and Crompton, Newhey, Milnrow, Kingsway Business Park and Newbold. Rather than running directly into Rochdale railway station as the former railway did, the tram line now passes over the Calder Valley Line on a flyover and into a tram stop outside the railway station, it then continues on-street to the line's terminus at Rochdale Town Centre tram stop.
The route was originally a railway, the Oldham Loop Line, which was built in stages: The first railway to reach Oldham was a branch line which opened in March 1842, constructed by the Manchester and Leeds Railway (M&LR). This line ran from Middleton Junction, from the Manchester to Leeds line which had opened the previous year, to Oldham Werneth railway station: Oldham Werneth was located inconveniently from the town centre in the lower part of Oldham, so in 1847, the line was extended one mile to Oldham Mumps railway station. By this time the Manchester and Leeds Railway had become part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR).
In August 1863, a six-mile (10 km) extension was opened from Oldham Mumps to Rochdale, also connecting to the Manchester-Leeds line, effectively creating a loop from Middleton to Rochdale.
The line between Middleton Junction and Oldham was steeply inclined and therefore difficult to work; until 1854 the line had been cable-worked. In 1873, the LYR obtained an act to build a more direct, and less steeply inclined line between Oldham and Manchester, running via Failsworth, and joining the Manchester-Leeds line at Thorpes Bridge Junction. This line was opened in May 1880, therefore completing what became known as the Oldham Loop Line. The original line from Middleton Junction to Oldham closed in 1964.
The Oldham Loop Line was identified by transport planners in the 1980s, as one of the local railway lines in the Greater Manchester area, which was used mostly for local traffic, and could therefore be split off from the main line network and converted to light-rail operation. The network was however to be built in stages, and the Oldham line was not included in the first phase of the Metrolink in the early 1990s due to cost reasons. The Bury Line and Altrincham Line being chosen for conversion instead.
Several new features were to be included as part of the conversion:
- In order to better serve Oldham town centre, a new street running line was to be constructed, with four new stops at Westwood, Oldham King Street, Oldham Central and Oldham Mumps. This would allow a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) section of the old railway through the former Oldham Mumps railway station to be abandoned.
- In order to better serve Rochdale town centre, a short street-running line was to be constructed from Rochdale railway station to Rochdale Town Centre.
- In addition to these, several entirely new stops were to be added on the former railway sections at South Chadderton, Freehold, Kingsway Business Park and Newbold.
Railway operations ended on 3 October 2009, and the Oldham Loop Line was closed for conversion. The line was completely rebuilt, with all of the former infrastructure, including the former stations and station buildings demolished, and replaced, and overhead wiring added.
The line was re-opened in phases: Tram services started on 13 June 2012 between Manchester and Oldham Mumps: As a temporary measure, until the town centre line was completed, the former railway line through Oldham Mumps was retained, and a temporary tram stop constructed in place of the former railway station. A permanent stop called Oldham Mumps was later opened on the town centre line in a different location. Services were extended to Shaw and Crompton on 16 December 2012, and to Rochdale Railway Station on 28 February 2013. The Oldham town centre line opened on 27 January 2014, allowing the section of former railway line, and temporary stop at Oldham Mumps to be permanently closed. The Rochdale town centre line opened on 31 March 2014.
Proposed future developmentEdit
In January 2016, Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, proposed two loop extensions to the metrolink system around Oldham. The link would add a spur from Westwood tram stop to Middleton town centre, before joining the Bury Line near Bowker Vale, in line with the proposed Middleton extension.
The Ashton Loop would extend the line beyond Ashton town centre to Oldham Mumps. Both would connect Rochdale to its neighbouring towns without the need to travel in and out of Manchester city centre. Initial high level feasibility work was undertaken by officials at Transport for Greater Manchester which demonstrated the route is technically possible.
As of February 2018, the ORL forms the northern half of the Metrolink route 5 which runs as follows:
- During daytime hours Mondays to Saturdays, trams run every six minutes from East Didsbury in south Manchester, via Victoria and Oldham to Shaw and Crompton, half of these continue to Rochdale Town Centre every twelve minutes. On weekday evenings and Sundays the frequency is reduced to 12 minutes on the whole route and all trams run through to Rochdale Town Centre.
- "Manchester to Oldham and Rochdale". LRTA. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
- "Station Name:OLDHAM MUMPS". Disused stations.org. Disused Stations. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (1984). "Light Rapid Transit in Greater Manchester". GMPTE. - publicity brochure
- "Metrolink History 1". LRTA. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "Trams come to Oldham town centre". Railway Gazette. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "Jim's loop lines vision for trams". Oldham Chronicle. 27 January 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- "Transport for Greater Manchester tram times". TfGM. Retrieved 30 August 2016.