Second City Crossing on its way

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 16

Peter Cushing, Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM’s) Metrolink director, gives RTM an update on the Second City Crossing project.

September saw a major milestone for Greater Manchester Metrolink as we laid the final stretch of track for the new ‘Second City Crossing’. The £165m new line through the heart of Manchester city centre is due to open early next year, and will play a crucial role in allowing Metrolink to run more frequent, reliable and flexible tram services. 

The Metrolink network is now the largest in the UK, spanning nearly 62 miles, calling at some 93 stops and hosting more than 35 million journeys a year. Metrolink’s continuing success, which is now treble its original, made a pressing case for a new line through the city centre. 

The convergence of seven tram lines in the city meant that an additional route would be crucial to offer more capacity and allow the network to achieve its full potential. Metrolink expansion contractor M-Pact Thales (MPT) began work on the new line in early 2014. 

Of course, before we could lay any tram track, major utilities had to be upgraded, from water and sewage pipes to telephone and electricity lines. Collectively United Utilities, Electricity North West, National Grid and Openreach laid more than 61,000 metres of new sewer, cable, duct or mains – that’s longer than the M60 motorway or 500+ football pitches. 

New-look stops 

The Second City Crossing package has also included major expansions of several current city centre stops to allow them to handle more services. New-look stops at Deansgate-Castlefield, Victoria Station and Market Street were recently joined by a brand new expanded stop in St Peter’s Square, which opened in August. 

Thanks to a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, we opened the first phase of the Second City Crossing, from Victoria Station through to a new stop at Exchange Square, in December 2015. 

Demanding work 

Construction work on the new line itself has, at times, been demanding. Building a 21st century transport system in a predominantly Victorian city has thrown up some unexpected challenges. While building along the route and in St Peter’s Square we’ve coped with a collapsed Victorian sewer, discovered a former cemetery and engineered the line over a former church crypt. 

Working with archaeologists, careful excavation work on Cross Street revealed double the number of anticipated exhumations, as remains in a Victorian cemetery were sensitively reinterred elsewhere. Further along the line in St Peter’s Square, the need to build a tram line over the old St Peter’s Church Crypt posed a special challenge for engineers. The church was demolished and built over in 1907 and the crypt had lain undisturbed for over a century. Working with archaeologists to first record and preserve what was found in the crypt, we’ve specially reinforced the crypt walls to make sure they can withstand the weight of overhead trams. 

Despite these challenges, MPT has worked closely with utility companies and TfGM to ensure the line is on track to be finished in early 2017, through collaborative management and mitigation of the construction work. 

All major civil engineering works – including installing overhead lines to power the trams along the route – are expected to be completed by the end of the year. It means the city will be free of Metrolink construction work in time for the busy festive period, when Christmas markets attract millions of visitors to the city. A thorough testing and commissioning programme will resume in early 2017 before the first passenger services can launch. 

The scale of the venture has been impressive and the new line will mean we can continue supporting the demand to travel from workers, residents and visitors to our ever-growing city – connecting people with jobs, days out, family and friends. 



Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]



Andrew Gwilt   23/11/2016 at 23:24

Further extensions that is planned for Metrolink that is to get the go ahead would be the extended to Port Salford, Stockport and Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe.

Tram Watcher   29/11/2016 at 16:59

Airport line already in service Andrew

Andrew Gwilt   29/11/2016 at 23:49

In that case. Thanks.

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