Metrolink Director, Peter Cushing, The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Carl Austin-Behan, and TfGM Committee Chair, Councillor Fender, attend a Second City Crossing preview event ahead of passenger services launching Sunday 26 February.
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 along Cross Street to stops at Exchange Square and Victoria.
The new line will offer new links and more frequent trams through Manchester city centre, as well as improved service reliability and greater operational flexibility.
Greater Manchester Mayor, Tony Lloyd, said: “Metrolink is one of Greater Manchester’s great success stories, driving urban regeneration and now hosting some 37 million journeys a year across the city region.
“It’s testament to Greater Manchester’s drive and ability to work together that we’ve secured funding to treble the size of the tram network to become the largest in the UK. The Second City Crossing will play a key role in helping even more people get to work, shopping, leisure and culture destinations right across the 93-stop network.
“We’re now another step closer to our ambition of a world class transport network for Greater Manchester.”
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) owns the Metrolink network and has overseen the expansion works.
Chair of the TfGM Committee, Councillor Andrew Fender, said: “Having chaired a strategy group from 1982 – which developed the Metrolink concept – I am extremely proud, 35 years later, to see the completion of the Second City Crossing, and with it our phenomenal and multi-award winning ‘Phase 3’ expansion programme.
“It’s been a remarkable journey, one I’m privileged to have seen first-hand, and my thanks goes to all those who’ve worked so hard to turn those early dreams and ambitions into a reality and who have, ultimately, delivered a world-class transport system to the people of Greater Manchester.”
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, welcomed the completion of work, saying: “It’s with great pleasure that we welcome the Second City Crossing after more than three years of work. Not only will it make travel through the city easier but it also takes in some of the city’s most iconic landmarks along the way.
"The new line highlights the journey of our city, how much the city has changed in such a short space of time, and represents a major milestone in Manchester’s continuing development and growth.”
TfGM Metrolink Director, Peter Cushing, said: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved with our partners over the last eight years as we’ve expanded the Metrolink network to become the largest light rail system in the UK.
“The Second City Crossing opening will be the culmination of years of hard work to complete the Phase 3 big bang expansion, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of my team, contractors MPT and operator RATP Dev, helping to make this a reality.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved and I look forward to seeing our customers right across the tram network experiencing the benefits.”
Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Metrolink RATP Dev, said: “I am very proud to be part of the RATP Dev team delivering another landmark in Metrolink’s expansion programme.
“I would like to thank staff for all of the hard work that takes place behind the scenes to ensure the line is delivered to the highest standards of safety and operation for the customer.
“This opening of the Second City Crossing is the culmination of years of forward planning to ensure safety and quality of service to customers. This includes technical and project support, over 1200 hours driver training, development of a new timetable and staff rosters along with testing and commissioning of the new line.”
The first phase of the Second City Crossing opened from Victoria through to a new stop at Exchange Square in December 2015.
Fast-tracked thanks to the European Regional Development Fund, this section of the new line allowed a six-minute daytime service to run between Shaw and Crompton, Oldham and Exchange Square from Monday to Saturdays.
Manchester Airport services are now running beyond Cornbrook to the city centre Deansgate-Castlefield stop for the first time and, later this year, will continue to Victoria.
More trams are running through the city centre as services that currently terminate at Deansgate-Castlefield and Exchange Square continue across the city centre to Shaw and Crompton and East Didsbury.
Construction work is now under way on a new Metrolink line through Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre. Find out more at www.tfgm.com/metrolinktpl.