British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Transport Minister Lord Macdonald launched Manchester Metrolink light rail services to Broadway in Salford Quays on December 6. The first half of a 7 km extension to Eccles due to be completed next year, the Salford Quays line is being built by a consortium of Ansaldo Trasporti, Laing and Serco (RG 12.98 p875).

During his visit, Blair told local representatives that Greater Manchester PTE’s light rail expansion proposals were ’exactly the type of infrastructure project we need.’ The £500m package would see extensions to Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton under Lyne and Manchester Airport, adding 48 km to the 31 km initial network. A public enquiry began on November 23 for the proposed Metrolink extension to the Trafford Centre shopping complex, which would be largely funded by the promotors of the development.

Announcing plans for an ’ú80bn’ transport investment programme over the next 10 years on December 13, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott finally gave the go-ahead for the Tyne & Wear Metro extension to Sunderland (RG 12.99 p817). The government will provide £35m for the project, with Railtrack contributing £40m, local PTE Nexus £8m and the European Regional Development Fund the remaining £15m.