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Manchester Metrolink ‘big bang’ expansion complete as second city tram line opens

The Metrolink ‘big-bang’ expansion is now complete after the new Second City Crossing line, through the heart of Manchester city centre, opened on 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.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Metrolink director, Peter Cushing, added: “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 is 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.”

The ‘big-bang’ expansion contract has been delivered by MPT, a consortium of VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales.

Bryan Glass, MPT director said: “The MPT team has worked closely with TfGM to deliver the expansion of the Metrolink network, and we’re proud to have completed the latest phase of this vital transport artery for Manchester.

“We are particularly proud that many passers-by took the time to compliment us on the quality of the works we’ve delivered. Everyone in the team has had to work in a very exposed city centre environment and they’ve done a fabulous job.”