Metrolink: 25 years and counting

Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), celebrates the network’s 25-year anniversary, which comes packed with expansion promises to further improve connections in the region.

In Metrolink’s Silver Jubilee year, I am proud to say that we now boast a network that spans over 60 miles, 120 trams and serves 93 stops at key destinations across the city region. Since 1992 when it first opened, Metrolink has become the largest light rail system in the UK – and that is no mean feat when we consider that when Metrolink started, we had a fleet of just 26 trams that ran to 20 stops along 31km of track between Altrincham and Bury via Manchester city centre.

In 2017, we are continuing to expand the Metrolink network. The Second City Crossing was completed earlier this year and offers new links and more frequent services, as well as improved service reliability and greater operational flexibility across the whole network.

Our ‘big bang’ expansion programme has helped us realise our aspirations for Metrolink – to have world-class light rail infrastructure that will serve the city of Manchester for years to come – and I am very much looking forward to the developments we are making across the network with the highly anticipated Trafford Park line construction, which is progressing well. 

Trafford Park line 2020

The 5.5km Trafford Park line, due for completion in 2020, is being built from the existing Pomona Metrolink stop on the edge of the city centre through the Trafford Park business district to intu Trafford Centre. It is a key part of our infrastructure programme, and this £350m investment will improve access by public transport to popular visitor destinations, maximise employment opportunities and connect the Trafford Park area to the wider Metrolink network.

Trafford Park was the first-ever planned industrial estate and remains one of Europe’s largest, with more than 1,300 businesses employing over 33,000 people, many of whom currently travel to work by car. It is a popular retail and leisure destination in the area which includes intu Trafford Centre, which attracts over 30 million people a year, and Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. It also has easy access to MediaCityUK, the Lowry Theatre and Outlet shopping centre and Salford Quays.

Six tram stops are planned for the line to serve these popular destinations, one of which will include Parkway at the existing Parkway Circle roundabout. The stop will include a park & ride with spaces for approximately 200 vehicles.

Prior to and during the construction of the line, we have engaged with a number of businesses and other key stakeholders in the area, and they often tell us how excited they are to see the new line being built. We also understand their concerns as we carry out significant work on the local roads and work closely with them to minimise that disruption where we can. Trafford Park is a unique area to work in, in many ways.

The new line is a key part of Greater Manchester’s plans to make travel easier and support local regeneration and economic growth. I am looking forward to seeing it completed and the benefits it will bring more widely to the local businesses and communities surrounding Trafford Park.

Overcoming challenges

Here at Metrolink, we know that when delivering projects of this scale there are always challenges. We are working within very tight constraints as we adapt local roads to keep general traffic running alongside where the new tram line is being built. The route will include building new structures such as the Pomona Viaduct and the Bridgewater Canal crossing, which presents different challenges to those we have faced on previous projects in the city centre.

We are also taking on engineering challenges which have included decommissioning a high-pressure gas main as part of a complicated and extensive utilities programme through the heart of Trafford Park, while managing ever-changing traffic flows round a very busy industrial area.

However, we do have a major milestone to look forward to at the end of the year when we plan to lay the first piece of track for the Trafford Park line.

This will be a great achievement for the project and an indication of how well it’s progressing forward given the challenging environment we are working in.

Crumpsall stop

In addition, we are transforming Crumpsall Metrolink stop on the Bury line. The popular tram stop will undergo a significant upgrade in readiness for the new £350m Trafford Park line, and work is currently underway.

Work will include providing a larger platform for Manchester-bound services, and passenger access will also be improved with a new track level pedestrian crossing. The first phase of work is due to be completed in 2018. The final phase of work will take place before the new Trafford Park line opens in 2020.

One of the reasons we are able to carry out our work so effectively is because of the close working collaboration with our partners, M-Pact Thales (a consortium of VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales), Trafford Council, and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff as TfGM’s delivery partner.

The scheme is the first major project to benefit from the GM devolution deal, signed by Greater Manchester leaders and central government in November 2014. The project budget is approximately £350m, including a £20m contribution from Trafford Council.

The future is Metrolink 

With a new operator on board in KeolisAmey Metrolink, which signed a contract with us earlier this year to operate and maintain the network this summer with the commitment to create more than 300 new jobs – including drivers, apprenticeships and traineeship – there simply couldn’t be a better time to celebrate our impressive history 

The future looks very promising, and something I am both excited and proud to be part of in the next chapter of Metrolink’s journey.



Ratters   02/11/2017 at 18:38

When is north-west Greater Manchester going to get a tram line?

Andrew Gwilt   03/11/2017 at 06:58

Good point. Not forgetting the Metrolink extension to Stockport.

George   05/11/2017 at 22:40

@Ratters and @Andrew Gwilt Sorry if you're both aware of all this but just in case: Stockport seems to be the one out of the two that will be added to the network first. Bosses seem to be waiting to see the outcome of Sheffield's tram-train project. If they're satisfied that the concept works properly then I believe they will be looking into using the same sort of thing. North-west GM (Wigan and Bolton) is often dismissed by politicians and transport bosses as far as a Metrolink extension is concerned due to the greater distance required to travel out into those areas from Manchester, Wigan in particular. Again, a tram-train solution has been proposed on numerous occasions which would see Metrolink trams running on the Manchester-Southport heavy rail line via Atherton to serve Wigan. Whether they want to completely replace heavy rail on that line or run trams with heavy rail I'm not sure. No timeline has been given (at least not to my knowledge) but I wouldn't hold my breath on seeing trams to Wigan/Bolton within the next ten years. Resources seem to currently be focussed on the upcoming Trafford Park extension. Once the line through Bolton is electrified and Manchester-Scotland services return to that line, TfGM arguably have fewer reasons to extend the Metrolink to Bolton as it should have better electric rail connections from mid-2018.

Andrew Gwilt   08/11/2017 at 03:42

I agree George.

Not A Parody, Honest   08/11/2017 at 11:19

I also agree, George.

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