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City's Jumbo Jet and United's Barge

Simon Binns pokes around the new transport options for fans of Blues or Reds

Written by . Published on August 8th 2011.

City's Jumbo Jet and United's Barge

WHEN I was a lad, Middlesbrough players used to get on the same buses as us.

Nowadays, Manchester City fans can fly to the Middle East on a branded jet and United supporters can take in a barge tour of the region's waterways before a guided trip around the club museum.

"The tour passes some of the city's more unloved buildings, replete with grafitti and smashed in windows - broken  teeth among the shiny new veneers of the recent property boom."

Last week, I went over to the airport to get up close and personal with the liveried Etihad A330 as the Abu Dhabi state airline and City sponsor unveiled a new line maintenance centre there - essentially, where they keep spare bits of plane.

Although not enough to build your own, before you get any ideas.

It was also the same day Etihad started its double daily service to Abu Dhabi, where Jeff Wilkinson, the airline's Stockport-born vice president for maintenance, said City were ramping up their commercial activity.

"Manchester has becomer an established route from Abu Dhabi now," he said. "There is a good mix of business and leisure travela nd we've seen huge growth on that route. The sponsorship deal with City gives us a big boost. United were the big show when I started working out here five years ago but City are doing the right things commercially.

"Their business model needed to change significantly, but they've captured lots of interest over there. They're catching United."

Airport boss Andrew Harrison also said Dubai had nudged in to the airport's top five most popular destinations. The most popular? Palma.

The United barge tourThe United barge tourA week later, I hopped on the inaugral Manchester Utd barge tour, which set sail from Castlefield and took us to Old Trafford via the Bridgewater and Manchester ship canals.

It's a good route if you want to see the differing rates of progress between Manchester, Salford and Trafford and as well as shiny new apartments, the tour passes some of the city's more unloved buildings, replete with grafitti and smashed in windows - broken  teeth among the shiny new veneers of the recent property boom.

The former Colgate factory, where Albert Scanlon used to work, is now being redeveloped as The Soapworks by Nikal and Abstract. 

Our barge, the Emmeline Pankhurst, also sailed past Pomona Dock, the city workers' former leisure escape, under the new £11m footbridge spewing out of the enormous Media City, connecting it to the Imperial War Museum North and the soon-to-be-built Coronation Street MkII.

After two and a half hours, we got to the stadium where the party disappeared into the Museum to look at endless walls of trophies, international caps and loads of other stuff I'll never see at Middlesbrough.

The barge tour costs £30 - they run as and when, but not on matchdays - and is a pleasing way of taking in the waterways and history of the city's industrial heritage.

We even saw a heron. I bet they don't have those in Abu Dhabi.


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