Urban Futures Salford Manchester. Research in the City

The Fallowfield Loopline

The Fallowfield Loopline is an urban rail trail, cycle track and bridle path used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It follows the eight mile route of the Fallowfield Loop railway line from Chorlton-Cum-Hardy to Debdale. 

The railway line, which opened in 1891-1892, had ceased to be used by the late 1980s and fell into an overgrown state. The Loopline - a curve rather than a loop - has been functioning as a route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders since the early part of the 21st Century.

The transformation sought to utilise a derelict railway and transform it into a community asset, a green corridor through heavily urbanised parts of the city. The Loopline cuts through and connects a variety of the city’s geography – from leafy Chorlton, to student Fallowfield, through the east of the city to Levenshulme, Gorton and Fairfield -  connecting roads and three parks to produce a ‘green-ish corridor’.

Details of exactly how the Loopline came to be established are vague, but in 1995, following the closure of the railway line, a group of cyclists explored the potential for a cycle route along the line. In 1998, the land was bought by Railway Paths Ltd. The Friends of the Fallowfield Loop group – constituted by local civic and community groups - was formalized in 2001 to promote the development and use of the line as a community resource. The path itself was created by Sustrans, a national charity enabling people to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, and was opened in 2003.

The purchase of the railway land was through Lottery funding. Sustrans, along with Manchester City Council, Sainsbury’s and others have funded the conversion of the route. This includes, for example, Manchester City Council supporting the strengthening of bridges, which in turn has leveraged national government funding.

Geographically the Loop is interesting in that it cuts across eight miles that include some of the more and less affluent areas of the city to construct a corridor park for multiple leisure uses. The Loop is also incorporated into the National Cycling Network.


An Alternative?


The Loopline is an attempt to fundamentally redefine the use of the physical spaces of the city. This is a significant effort to take an infrastructure corridor that is over a century old and use it in new ways - building new connections and a new identity for the route.

This was not the first attempt to find a new use for the line. There was some experimentation with a small section of the railway line in the 1980s as part of efforts to trial Manchester’s light railway system, that subsequently became Metrolink. The Loop ultimately did not find a role within the new system. There was, then, a period where the railway lines were removed and the Loop remained (formally) unused.

There was, though, social innovation through the development of the Friends group and its antecedents and the various ways in which funding was secured. This local innovation has also been incorporated within a national cycling network.

This alternative categorization and use of space required many years of building social networks, a plan and funding streams to subsequently to re-shape the space to a cycle path.



This article has been written using publically available sources


This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

Main image from Flickr user Duncan Hull, published here under a Creative Commons Licence.

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