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THREE NEW METROLINK LINES MAY BE BUILT years ahead of schedule, if a plan to speed up the speed up the planning and construction process goes ahead. Originally the new routes were to be developed separately, but now there is a proposal to combine the job into one "mega-tender" giving operators bulk discounts on purchases, e.g. trams, and the possibility of obtaining increased government grants.

Work is currently in progress on the extension to Eccles, running via Salford Quays and Regent Road. Planning permission has already been obtained for the route to Ashton via Piccadilly, the 2002 stadium, Clayton, Droylsden and Audenshaw. Further extensions to the system can be obtained by converting existing Oldham and Rochdale rail lines to Metrolink lines. There's also the proposed route across Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre, plus another along part of the disused south Manchester "loop line" through Stretford and Chorlton, then heading south on a new route through Wythenshawe, finishing at the Airport. Here's one of my stereoscopic pictures of a Metrolink tram on Lower Mosley Street.

It sounds fantastic, and now that Deputy PM and Transport Minister John Prescott is fully behind the idea, it looks like it will go ahead. I love cars and trams in equal measure, and anything that helps to get people onto public transport and free up the roads is a good thing. In Germany they have more cars, but use them less than we do, as public transport is better there. Why did we ever get rid of trams in the first place is a question I often ask myself.

METROLINK FARES WERE INCREASED today - or to use the word often seen on buses - "revised" - but some passengers will be paying less. Those who cross seven zones, going say from Bury to Altrincham, will pay £1.50 less for a peak time return ticket. A short hop in the city centre rises by 20p to £1 single (expensive!), and by 30p to £1.75 for a return. There will be a one day "MetroMax" ticket valid on the entire Metrolink network (well, I'd hardly call it that yet) after 9.30am for £3.

DRIVING UP CATEATON ST today, I caught a glimpse of the newly unveiled Old Wellington Inn, part of The Shambles now standing on its new location 200 yards away from where it stood for hundreds of years (left) until it was dismantled last year. It's reported the pubs will form a gateway to the city's medieval quarter - but I didn't know we had one! Most of Manchester's medieval buildings were pulled down during the 19th century. Those around the Cathedral all date from, or were reconstructed during, the late Victorian period. (See Reader Messages!) I suppose Manchester has a "medieval quarter" in the same way it has a "Roman Fort" - the only genuine bit being a single slab of stone unearthed about 50 years ago. Talking of interesting discoveries, I noticed some old tramlines which had been uncovered as part of resurfacing work on St Mary's Gate. Ironic that while we're busy re-inventing the tram for the 21st century, we're digging up tram tracks originally put down at the end of the 19th. And a contributor to the Letters page reports that there's the remains of a Roman quarry in Collyhurst, not far from the railway bridge - interesting!

SOME HIGH-PROFILE WOMEN were visiting Manchester on Thursday. Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, was at an anti-racist fashion show at the Berlin bar on Canal St. Monica Lewinsky (you know who she is) was at the Trafford Centre and the Reform Club, and Germaine Greer, feminist author (I'm tempted to use the word "veteran") signed copies of her new book "The Whole Woman" at Waterstones bookshop. In her talk, she urged women to "get angry again".

A BRITISH-FILIPINO FAMILY whose home is in Crumpsall are being prevented from living together due to immigration rules, Tania Brannigan reports in Tuesday's MEN. After two years of marriage to British husband Brian Scallon, Norma Scallon returned home to the Philippines. They agreed their two children would stay here. Since then the couple have reconciled, and Norma wants to return, but the Home Office won't allow her to have permanent residence visa as officials in the Philippines aren't letting her come to the UK. The reason for this is because she doesn't have permanent residency - a Catch 22 situation. The couple had only lived in the UK for seven months before they split. 12 months is the minimum period for her to obtain residency. Norma's 13 year old daughter Michelle Ricablanca may be forced to leave the UK, and the uncertainty is causing great stress. The family have the full support of Blackley MP Graham Stringer, as well as staff and pupils at Michelle's school, Our Lady's High School, Blackley, where I taught for one term 15 years ago.

MANCHESTER INNER CITY SCHOOLS are to get extra help from the government under their "Excellence in Schools" scheme. Measures include extra tuition for the brightest 10 per cent of the pupils and university summer schools for 16-17 year olds. Predictably, teachers unions have criticised the plan, for departing from the egalitarian ideals of the comprehensive system. But surely, any extra assistance is welcome. I know what a hard job secondary teachers do, I did it myself for one year (and will never forget 2Y at Our Lady's High School). Summer schools are are a good idea too - I taught youngsters at the British Council in Hong Kong, and found it gave them lots of confidence. Here's one of the buildings of my old school Xaverian, since 1977 a mixed sixth form college. I sat at the back of class 3A (69-70) at the upper left window.

IT'S SIX YEARS since an IRA bomb exploded in the centre of Warrington, killing three-year-old Jonathan Ball and 12 year old Tim Parry, and injuring many others. On Saturday, Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam came to the town to cut the first turf at a 2.5m Peace Centre on Sankey Way. The Centre will help to further the ideals of peace, and will offer leisure and educational facilities, including meeting rooms, a games room an IT studio, and residential accommodation. The centre is planned to open next year. More info on the website at

MANCHESTER IS PREPARED for any future terrorist outrage, thanks to an emergency evacuation plan developed by Manchester City Council: Should a danger arise, emergency services will use a variety of communication methods to move people to safety and deal with the problem. They've used a lot of the experience gained in dealing with the 1996 IRA bomb. "Pager Alert" and "Business Watch" will be launched tomorrow at a Security 2000 event. More info available on this phone number: 01905 727711.

ALLEGEDLY HARMFUL RADIO EMISSIONS from mobile phones, as well as mobile phone transmitters mounted on buildings, are causing controversy at the moment. Last week parents and children from St Margaret's Primary School, Whalley Range, protested at the Town Hall, asking for the removal of a transmitter mast mounted on their school. Now parents of children at Guardian Angels RC Primary school, Bury fear that a mast to be put up opposite the school will be damaging to the health of the children. There's no evidence that the transmitters are harmful, and owners of a property where a mast is set up can receive several thousand pounds or more per year from the mobile phone companies, but it seems parents would rather not take any chances at all with their children's health. Transmitters are everywhere to be seen nowadays, often mounted on old buildings, such as this one on City Rd East, overlooking the River Medlock in Knott Mill.

SALFORD RESIDENTS are petitioning for a change in the law to allow the "naming and shaming" of child criminals. They've asked Salford MP Hazel Blears to raise the issues in the House of Commons. Currently, we hear the phrase "The 16 year old, who cannot be named for legal reasons..." whenever a suspect or offender below the age of 18 is referred to. Talking of offensiveness, I heard some extremely foul language being used by a group of youngsters in the Arndale Centre on Saturday. Nowadays people seem too timid to criticise bad behaviour in young people. Groups of youngsters have been banned from the Trafford Centre - there are plenty of red-coated staff to enforce the rule. Upstairs at the back of the bus is another place where some youngsters like to f and blind - writing it all in felt tip on the back of the seat for good measure.

THE JURORS IN THE JAMIE LAVIS trial, currently in progress at Manchester Crown Court, today visited the locations where murdered 8 year old Jamie Lavis spent his last hours, including Ashton Bus Station, Ogden Lane in Higher Openshaw (close to the location below) and the spot in Reddish Vale where his remains were discovered. Last Friday, witness Robert Jones, a convicted paedophile, told the court that Darren Vickers had admitted to murdering the child. Vickers denies abducting and murdering Jamie Lavis. The trial continues.

A 216 bus operated by Dennis is on its way along Manchester Rd Droylsden to Ashton. A Mayne-operated double decker is coming in the opposite direction Following requests from Claytonites, here's nearby Stanton Street in Clayton, with Cross Parish Church, and the Bradford gasholder beyond it.

Clayton is in Manchester, Droylsden is in Tameside:
The border runs along the aptly named Edge Lane.
More photos of this district coming soon

IAN BATES returned home from holiday last year and was told by police at Manchester Airport that his ex-wife and children had been bludgeoned to death at their home in Egerton by her jealous boyfriend Peter Hall. After committing the triple murder, he went to a nearby pub and boasted. "I'll be famous tomorrow". Last Friday, Peter Hall was jailed for life after pleading guilty. Outside the court, Ian Bates told the Granada Tonight reporter of his agony. "There's no future for me" he said. I've had some e-mail correspondence with people close to the case, providing an insight you don't normally get when you read about it in the paper.

THE WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT of Stefan Kiszko - from Rochdale of Ukrainian descent - for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed is one of the best known miscarriages of justice involving a local person. The dramatisation of his life was one of the most powerful pieces of tv drama I've ever seen. Eccentric and mild-mannered Stefan Kiszko spent 16 years in prison and was finally freed in 1992. He died in 1993, and his mother followed him to the grave six months later. The book "Innocents" is the story of his life, and was co-written by MEN journalist Steve Panter, who provides a detailed account of the story in Friday's MEN.

In "Innocents", convicted paedophile Raymond Hewlett is named as the prime suspect. The book details how he fled to the Irish Republic after giving the police an alibi which later turned out to be false. Now relatives of Lesley Molseed are to bring a private prosecution against Raymond Hewlett. Let's hope justice is finally done after this double tragedy.

TRIPE AND ONIONS used to be a familiar local dish, and there were UCP tripe houses all over the north - nowadays the yellow M of McDonalds is a ubiquitous sight. But what of UCP, which used to advertise many years ago in the MEN, and had a shop on Mersey Square Stockport which I remember? You may be surprised to know that they are still going, but their regional empire of 146 tripe shops restaurants, restaurants and supper bars has shrunk down to just one outlet - at the Poultry Hall Abattoir, Riverpark Road, Philip's Park. An article by David Harrison in Saturday's MEN tells all.

IT'S REASSURING to see that McVities are going strong - I love the sweet smell that wafts across Stockport Rd whenever I'm down that way. And now they're having great success with their new Chocolate Digestive Caramel Biscuit, so much so they've taken on new staff and set up an extra-long production line. Other food & drink products made in Manchester include Kelloggs Cornflakes in Trafford Park, Chinese ginseng beer -available from the Chinese supermarket and made, I think in M21, and not forgetting Boddington's. Can you think of any more? I've taken this meat pie out of the Eyewitness in Manchester freezer just to tempt you - fancy a bite? (See Reader Messages!)

MELANIE SYKES, the stunningly attractive "Boddington's Babe", currently the voice on "Tunes" tv ad, presented a documentary entitled "Southall Stories" on Saturday evening, in which she investigated Britain's Asian community - she's half Indian half English and was brought up in Mossley. Here she, is as pictured in a previous EWM. The location is the Seven Oaks pub on Nicholas St in Chinatown.

CONCERTS THIS WEEK HAVE INCLUDED Celtic Flame, Catatonia and Orbital at the Apollo, the Halle and the BBC Phil at the Bridgewater Hall, the Yggdrasil String Quartet at the RNCM.
You'll be pleased to hear that Steps are playing an extra concert at the MEN Arena on the afternoon of Sunday 31 October, in addition to shows on Saturday and Sunday evening. B*Witched are at the MEN Arena 20 November - bet you can't wait!

OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS: The Northern Ideal Homes and Leisure Exhibition is at GMEX from the 2nd to the 5th of April. More info on the GMEX website Infotec writer David Gordon reports that the Business Computer Systems Show, which should have taken place in January, but didn't due to insufficient support from exhibitors, is to be relaunched as the Business Systems Show on 28 and 29 of September. Also in Infotec: In2net In2active, who recently added me to their list, are to put their business directory on CD-ROM.

THE ELK MILL in Royton is already being demolished. Last week I reported that it was to be torn down to make way for an extension to the trading estate in front of it. I managed to get these photographs - soon it will be gone for ever. Did you work here, or know someone who did? I wonder if, in years to come, people will think back nostalgically to happy times spent working at the DIY warehouse, the carpet centre or the fast food outlet?

MANCHESTER UNITED drew one all on Wednesday with Inter Milan, and achieved victory on aggregate, entering the quarter finals of the European Championship. Other sports results: Colchester-0 Man City-1, Stockport County-0 Tranmere-0, Rochdale-0 Barnet-0, Northampton-0 Macclesfield-2, Sunderland-3 Bolton Wanderers-1, Manchester United-3 Everton-1; Ice Hockey London-0 Manchester Storm-4, Manchester Storm-4 Bracknell-0,

IT'S BEEN MISTY AND drizzly today and over the weekend - I'd like some more of those blue skies we had last week. The daffodils are out - but won't be for long - I'm waiting for a return of the sunshine to capture some bright yellow splashes of colour. Let's hope they haven't withered away by the time it arrives again! The current EWM temperature is 10.5 celsuis, 61 fahrenheit.

Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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