Metrolink’s phenomenal expansion programme has been one of the largest and most ambitious transport projects to be delivered in the UK and 2017 is set to be a milestone year in its history. It marks Metrolink’s Silver Jubilee year, the completion of the Second City Crossing – a brand new line through the heart of Manchester – and work will progress on the much-anticipated Trafford Park Line.
A good transport system is the lifeblood of any city and the Second City Crossing, which officially opened on 26 February, will play a vital role in providing the necessary capacity, flexibility and reliability for the future tram network to operate. This project is the final piece in the Metrolink ‘big-bang’ expansion jigsaw.
In December 2009, work began on a new tram line to East Didsbury, marking the start of a £1.5bn expansion programme that has seen the Greater Manchester Metrolink light rail network grow to three times its original size.
New lines to MediaCityUK, Rochdale via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Airport followed and, eight years later, Metrolink is now the largest light rail system in the UK.
The latest 1.3km stretch of track through the city centre links together a network now some 93 stops strong, with over 60 miles of track and a record-breaking 37 million passengers a year.
The Second City Crossing runs from the transformed Deansgate-Castlefield stop to a major [new stop at St Peter’s Square-http://www.transformationinformation.co.uk/transforming/st-peters-square] along Cross Street to stops at Exchange Square and Victoria.
In addition to the completion of the Second City Crossing, preliminary work and utility work is now under way on the £350 million Trafford Park Line extension. This project will increase the size of the Metrolink network to 64 miles (103km) served by 99 stops.
Public support for the Trafford Park line was established at a major public consultation in summer 2014, where 89% of respondents were in favour.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is continuing its award-winning collaboration with Mpact-Thales (MPT) and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff to deliver the line. This partnership has already successfully delivered extensions to MediaCityUK, Manchester Airport, Ashton, East Didsbury, Oldham and Rochdale and the Second City Crossing.
Once the line opens in approximately four years’ time, the Trafford Park Line will offer fast and frequent connections to jobs, leisure, shopping and cultural destinations along the 5.5km route. The six stop line will run from the existing Pomona Metrolink stop through the Trafford Park business district – Europe’s largest industrial estate – to the intu Trafford Centre.
As the largest major employment zone in Greater Manchester outside the city centre, Trafford Park is home to over 1,300 businesses and more than 33,000 jobs – with employees travelling from across Greater Manchester and further afield.
Metrolink is also a strong catalyst for further investment and economic growth, helping to deliver regeneration in the areas it serves, with places like MediaCityUK, Oldham and Wythenshawe town centre prime examples.
Metrolink continues to shine bright as a symbol of Greater Manchester’s ardent ambition and appetite for growth, and a driving force in the Northern Powerhouse agenda. It is apt that this particularly significant year will also see a series of celebrations to mark Metrolink’s 25th birthday.
On 17 July 1992, Manchester had the great pleasure of welcoming Her Majesty The Queen to officially open the Metrolink network, which, at that time, saw a fleet of 26 trams running to 26 stops along 30km of track running between Altrincham and Bury via Manchester city centre.
Now, Metrolink has grown to become the largest light rail system in the country thanks to a remarkable – and multi-award winning – programme of expansion that is the envy of operators and owners around the globe. Patronage has rocketed from circa 8 million journeys in its first year to more than 37 million journeys a year in 2016.
For more information on Metrolink services visit www.metrolink.co.uk, call Metrolink Customer Services on 0161 205 2000 or follow @MCRMetrolink for live travel updates.