A proposal to re-route the Trans Pennine Trail up and over a road bridge by using steps rather than ramps has been heavily criticised by user groups including Sustrans.
The Trail runs for 215 miles coast-to-coast from Southport on the Irish Sea to Hornsea on the North Sea.
The work is necessary as Manchester’s Metrolink tram system is being extended to East Didsbury using the disused railway bed upon which the Trail is currently sited. The Trail will in future run alongside the new line, but where it passes underneath a road bridge there is insufficient space for both to get through.
The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive’s (GMPTE) solution is to build steps from the Trail up to the roadway and down the other side at a cost of £850,000. That solution is four or five times cheaper than a ramp system, they claim.
UPDATE: A GMPTE spokesman has issued us with following statement on costings.
"The cost of installing steps over Sandhurst Bridge would be in the region of £850,000. Providing ramps would cost between four and five times as much.
"Each ramp would have to be 120m long either side of the bridge (so 240m in total from one side to the other). Subject to the designs being finalised, the steps would be 14m long on one side and under 30m long on the other.
"The indicative prices for providing ramps at this bridge are based on the cost of providing the same facilities elsewhere on the expanding Metrolink network. As such, they are based on contract prices that have been assessed by quantity surveyors. "
So if the ramp option cost five times the steps proposal, the spend would be £4.25m or almost £18000 per metre of ramp.
Sustrans, however, say that it should be possible to build a ramp relatively cheaply using the existing cutting sides simply by contouring into them as has been done elsewhere.
By proposing a structure with steps rather than ramps, campaigners say the GMPTE plan will at the very least inconvenience and at worst exclude cyclists, wheelchair users and those pushing prams from using it.
Catherine Thomson, from Manchester Friends of the Earth, told the Manchester Evening News: “We support the extension of the Metrolink tram system, but this should not be at the expense of existing popular walking and cycling routes.
“Metrolink and Manchester city council have a duty to ensure that this popular trail remains accessible to all.”
Philip Purdy, GMPTE’s Metrolink Director, said: “We have carefully considered the plans for this section of the route and providing steps over the bridge at this location would be the most cost-effective way of maintaining the trail within the corridor, compared to the significant cost of providing ramps.
“An on-street diversion to the trail has been in place for more than a year now and will continue to be in place throughout construction of the line. Like other parts of the trail, we believe this would offer an alternative for people unable to use steps through this section. The detailed designs are being reviewed and will be finalised in due course.”
Campaigners including Sustrans, Love Your Bike, Friends of the Earth and Manchester Disabled People’s Action Group have suggested that GMPTE is obliged by law to ensure that any structure associated with the new Metrolink line is accessible to the disabled. This, they say, would mean the provision of ramped rather than stepped access.