Manchester City Centre Transport and Infrastructure Walks

Tuesday, 12th September 2017

Birthplace and engine of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester also led the way in transport infrastructure. The original ‘Northern Powerhouse’ had the UK’s first modern canal (the Bridgewater in 1763) and the world’s largest navigational canal (Manchester Ship in 1794). This was followed by the world’s first passenger railway and station, built in 1830, then the Victorian era of ‘railway mania’.

The nineteenth century was also a time of phenomenal growth, with Manchester’s population growing from 90,000 to around 700,000. Today, more and more people are moving to Manchester (the city centre has trebled in size over the past 20 years). Manchester’s population increased by 17% to 520,000 between 2004 and 2014, double the UK average, and is forecast to rise by over 100,000 in the next 20 years.

The rise in business investment is just as impressive. According to the 2017 Deloitte Crane Survey, there are almost 7,000 residential units under construction in the city centre and a staggering increase in hotel construction (up 63%) and office construction (up 76%) in the past year alone.

Accommodating this booming population and stimulating the economic growth needed to sustain it requires significant investment in our infrastructure. Manchester’s political leaders have recognised this for some time now and we’ve seen significant investment in our tram, railway and cycle network, our public spaces and cultural infrastructure. This year the Metrolink’s Second City Crossing opened with its unique architect-designed tram stops. We’ve seen the fantastic St Peter’s Square finished and the magnificent Ordsall Chord network arch bridge in place, a world’s first in its design.

I’ve been fortunate to work on these projects, as well as Piccadilly Station and the iconic Factory Arts Venue, since moving to Manchester in 2011 to join WSP.  And along with my colleague Ed Wellard, we’ve had the opportunity to take pro-Manchester members around the city centre in a series of Transport and Infrastructure walking tours. So far, around 80 members have attended, and there have been no shortage of sights to share: We’ve stood on the site of the proposed HS2 terminus at Piccadilly. We’ve been down to the city boundary with Salford at River Irwell and seen the incredible amount of development underway. And we’ve seen the emerging city quarters of NOMA, St John’s and First Street.

The most enjoyable part of a tour for me is spending time with the people on it and the walks have become more interactive with members actively participating and sharing their knowledge. Feedback has been really positive and people seem to enjoy the combination of seeing new places, networking and socialising after the walks.

We’ve got a couple more city centre walks in the diary for this year. They have tended to sell out pretty quickly, so please keep an eye out for announcements on the pro-manchester website and by signing up to the email updates.

Laurie Mentiplay is an Associate Director with WSP. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @lauriementiplay