Metrolink[note 1] is a light rail/tram system in Greater Manchester, England. The network consists of six lines which radiate from Manchester city centre and terminate at Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Didsbury, Eccles, and Rochdale. The system is owned by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and operated and maintained under contract by RATP Group. Also referred to as Manchester Metrolink, 25 million passenger journeys were made on the system in 2012/13.
A light rail system for Greater Manchester was born of Greater Manchester County Council's obligations to provide "an integrated and efficient system of public transport" under its structure plan and the Transport Act 1968. Greater Manchester's public transport network suffered from poor north – south connections, exacerbated by the location of Manchester's main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, which were unconnected and lay at opposing edges of central Manchester. Abandoning the monorail and underground options conceived in the 1960s and 1970s, light rail was proposed in 1982 as the best and most economical public transport solution for Manchester city centre and the surrounding Greater Manchester metropolitan area, and gathered support throughout the 1980s as an appropriate integrated commuter service. Government approval was granted in 1988 and the network began operating services between Bury Interchange and Victoria on 6 April 1992. This founded the United Kingdom's first modern street running rail system and its second operational public tram system; the 1885-built Blackpool tramway being the only heritage tram system in the UK which endured up to Metrolink's creation.
Metrolink has 76 stops along 47.7 miles (76.8 km) of standard gauge track which is routed through seven of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester. The system has a mix of designated light railway (segregated from other traffic) and on-street tramway (shared with pedestrians and motor vehicles). Its fleet of passenger vehicles is composed of Ansaldo Firema T-68As and Bombardier Flexity Swift M5000s. These were originally termed LRVs (light rail vehicles), but have become widely known as trams. Other changes include a yellow and silver branding and livery, which replaced the system's original grey and aquamarine identity in 2008.
Expansion of Metrolink has been a key strategy of transport planners in Greater Manchester, who have overseen its development in successive projects, known as Phases 1, 2, 3a, 3b and 2CC, which, upon completion of Phases 3b and 2CC in 2016/17, will make Metrolink the largest light rail network in the United Kingdom, with 60 miles (97 km) of track and 93 stops, handling an estimated 45 million passenger journeys a year. TfGM have endorsed further expansion with proposals for two new lines to Stockport and Port Salford.
- 1 History
- 2 Operator
- 3 Infrastructure
- 4 Travelling
- 5 Patronage
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
A light rail system for Greater Manchester was born of a desire by the Greater Manchester County Council to fulfil its obligations to provide "an integrated and efficient system of public transport" under its structure plan and the Transport Act 1968. Greater Manchester's public transport network suffered from poor north – south connections, exacerbated by the location of Manchester's main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, which were unconnected and located at opposing edges of its city centre. Piccadilly and Victoria were built in the 1840s by rival companies on cheaper land on the fringes of the city centre, resulting in poor integration and access to the central business zone. In as early as 1839, in anticipation of the stations being built, a connecting underground railway tunnel was proposed but abandoned on economic grounds, as was an overground suspended-monorail in 1966. SELNEC Passenger Transport Executive — the body tasked with improving public transport for Manchester and its surrounding municipalities in the 1960s – made draft proposals for a Picc-Vic tunnel, "a proposed rail route beneath the city centre" forming "the centrepiece of a new electrified railway network for the region". Despite investigatory tunnelling under the Manchester Arndale shopping centre, when the Greater Manchester County Council presented the project to the United Kingdom Government in 1974, it was unable to secure the necessary funding, and was abandoned on economic grounds when the County Council dropped the plans in 1977.
In 1982, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE; the successor to SELNEC PTE) concluded that an overground metropolitan light rail system to replace or complement the region's under-used heavy railways was the most economical solution to improving Greater Manchester's public transport network, which suffered from poor integration and outdated infrastructure; a Rail Study Group, composed of officials from British Rail, Greater Manchester County Council and GMPTE formally endorsed the scheme in 1984. Abstract proposals based on light rail systems in North America and continental Europe, and a draft 62-mile (100 km) network consisting of three lines were presented by the Rail Study Group to the UK Government for funding. Following route revisions in 1984 and 1987, and a trial on 9 February 1987 using Docklands Light Railway rolling stock on a freight-only line adjacent to Debdale Park, funding was granted by HM Treasury with the strict condition that the system be constructed in phases. Additional funding came from the European Regional Development Fund and bank lending.
Conversion of the East Lancashire Railway (Bury-to-Victoria) and Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (Altrincham-to-Piccadilly) heavy rail lines, and creation of a street-level tramway through Manchester city centre to unite the lines as a single 19.2-mile (30.9 km) network, was chosen for Phase 1 because the two heavy rail lines were primarily used for commuting to central Manchester, and would improve north – south links and access to the city centre. The required parliamentary authority to proceed with Phase 1 was obtained with two Acts of Parliament – the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Act 1988 and Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 2) Act 1988.
On 27 September 1989, following a two-stage tender exercise, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority awarded a contract to the GMA Group (a consortium composed of AMEC, GM Buses, John Mowlem and Company, and a General Electric Company plc subsidiary) who formed Greater Manchester Metrolink Limited to design, build, operate and maintain Phase 1 of Metrolink. The contract was approved by Michael Portillo on behalf of the Department for Transport on 24 October 1989, and formally signed on 6 June 1990.
The Bury line was closed in stages between 13 July 1991 and 17 August 1991, after which the 1200V DC third rail electrified line was adapted for a 750V DC overhead line operation. In Manchester city centre, a tramway – built with network expansion in mind – from Victoria to Piccadilly via Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens connected Bury to Altrincham via Manchester; The overhead structures and wiring of the Altrincham line were adapted for light rail. As well as upgrades to signalling and stations on the network, a combined headquarters, depot and control centre was built at Cheetham Hill on Queens Road, north of Victoria station, at a cost of £8 million (£14,500,000 as of 2014).
Initially projected to open in September 1991, then promised for 21 February 1992, Metrolink began operation on 6 April 1992 with a service between Victoria and Bury. Along with the Tyne and Wear Metro and Docklands Light Railway, it helped to reintroduce light rail to the United Kingdom. The network was expanded beyond Victoria to G-Mex Metrolink station on 27 April 1992; a service through to Altrincham joined the network on 15 June 1992, completing Phase 1 and enabling use of all 26 T-68 vehicles acquired for the operation. Elizabeth II declared Metrolink open at a ceremony in Manchester on 17 July 1992, adding that Metrolink would improve communication between northern and southern Greater Manchester. After the ceremony the Queen visited Manchester Town Hall and rode from St Peter's Square to Bury to visit Bury Town Hall.
Then costing £145 million (£254,100,000 as of 2014) Phase 1 was expected to carry 10 million passengers per year, but surpassed this figure by the 1993/94 fiscal year, and every year thereafter. In recognition of passenger demands and the decommissioning of the Arndale bus station after the 1996 Manchester bombing, adjustments were made to Phase 1 to the design of Manchester City Council's city centre masterplan, by modifying Market Street Metrolink station to handle two-way traffic, demolishing High Street Metrolink station in 1998 and creating a new stop for Shudehill Interchange in 2002. Sections of track in the city centre were relaid following damage to the road surface adjacent to the line. By 2003, Phase 1 was deemed a "long-term success" by GMPTE, and, with overcrowding at peak times, carried more than 15 million passengers per year.
Extension of the Metrolink network was intended to be continuous with successive expansion phases delivered in strict order of priority. GMPTE wanted to repeat its "success" with Phase 1 by converting other parts of Greater Manchester's under-utilised suburban rail network. However, changes in circumstances and new opportunities, combined with a shift in government policy following the early 1990s recession stalled the immediate expansion of Metrolink after Phase 1. Phase 1a, a proposed east – west route from Eastlands to Dumplington via Salford Quays was muted by uncertainty surrounding the Manchester bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, the (unbuilt) Trafford Centre, and regeneration of Manchester Docks respectively. Nevertheless, throughout the 1990s, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority continued to acquire rights to construct Metrolink lines under the Transport and Works Act 1992.
During the 1990s, Salford Quays became a business district specifically redeveloped for commerce, leisure, culture and tourism with a high density of business units and modern housing, complemented by a cinema complex, office blocks, and waterfront promenade. As it had poor public transport integration and no rail provision, it was earmarked for a potential Metrolink line as early as 1986 and legal authority to construct the line through the Quays was acquired in 1990. The Quays received millions of pounds of investment and a public consultation and public inquiry resulted in government endorsement in 1994. In autumn 1995 a 4-mile (6.4 km) Metrolink line branching from Cornbrook Metrolink station to Eccles via Salford Quays capitalising on the regenerated Quayside was confirmed as Phase 2 of Metrolink. No funding came from central government and money was raised from the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA), the European Regional Development Fund and private developers. In April 1997 Altram, a consortium of the Serco Group plc, Gio. Ansaldo & C. and John Laing plc was appointed to construct the Eccles Line; Serco, responsible for the Sheffield Supertram would operate the whole network under contract; Ansaldo provided six additional vehicles — T-68As – and signalling equipment. Construction work officially began on 17 July 1997.
The Eccles Line was officially opened as far as Broadway Metrolink station on 6 December 1999 by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who praised Metrolink as "exactly the type of scheme needed to solve the transport problems of the metropolitan areas of the country"; a service to Eccles Interchange joined the network on 21 July 2000, and was officially declared open by Anne, Princess Royal at a ceremony on 9 January 2001. On completion, Phases 1 and 2 gave Metrolink a total route length of 24 miles (39 km). Phase 2 was predominantly privately funded and cost £160,000,000 (£228,020,000 as of 2014). Salford City Council considered Phase 2 "an important contribution to Salford's public transport network, providing a fast and frequent service between Eccles, Salford Quays and Manchester city centre". But, in competition with comparatively quicker and cheaper buses, the line navigated the Quays on a slow and meandering route, and failed to reach its initial passenger targets. Patronage increased during the 2000s as the Eccles Line steadily increased in popularity in keeping with a rise in passenger numbers across the whole Metrolink system and was beginning to become overcrowded by the end of the decade.
In 2000, officials and transport planners in Greater Manchester considered Metrolink to be a "phenomenal success". The system was exceeding patronage targets and reducing traffic congestion on roads running parallel to its lines. Consequently, when the Transport Act 2000 required passenger transport executives to produce local transport plans, GMPTE's top public transport priority was a third phase of Metrolink expansion, which would create four new lines along key transport corridors in Greater Manchester: the Oldham and Rochdale Line (routed northeast to Oldham and Rochdale), the East Manchester Line (routed east to East Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne), the South Manchester Line (routed southeast to Chorlton-cum-Hardy and East Didsbury), and the Airport Line (routed south to Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport). The East Manchester Line would capitalise on serving the City of Manchester Stadium, a host venue of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Satisfied it would deliver a key policy commitment with faster expansion and greater value from economies of scale, GMPTE and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) lobbied central government to provide partial funding to upgrade the current network with a new depot, passenger information displays, and construct four new lines in a single Phase 3 contract (dubbed the "Big Bang") worth £489,000,000 (£696,900,000 as of 2014).
Conceding that it would be "very difficult" to bring Metrolink to the City of Manchester Stadium by 2002, the Government accepted its importance to Greater Manchester and the Commonwealth Games on 22 March 2000, with an announcement from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that a £289,000,000 government contribution to fund Phase 3 would make Metrolink "the envy of Europe". The remaining £200,000,000 was assembled from the private sector by July 2000. Following the announcement, preparatory work such as legal costs, land acquisition and construction of rail bridges over the River Medlock was actioned. However, Metrolink made a loss in 2002 and failed to reduce traffic congestion in Manchester city centre. Costs for Phase 3 implementation were revised in the December after the 2002 Commonwealth Games, totalling £820,000,000 (£1,129,400,000 as of 2014), meaning Metrolink required a Government contribution of at least £520,000,000. With costs predicted to rise further, and concerns raised over light rail procurement nationally, on 20 July 2004, Alistair Darling (the Secretary of State for Transport) announced the Government had withdrawn its share of funding Metrolink due to excessive costs.
In response, highlighting the legal costs and demolition of homes, schools and offices in anticipation of the new lines, the Get Our Metrolink Back on Track (or Back on Track ) campaign spearheaded by the Manchester Evening News and Members of Parliament from Greater Manchester was organised to lobby the Department for Transport to fund Phase 3. On 16 December 2004 Alistair Darling announced that the government would fund Phase 3 – but not at any price, capping its investment for Metrolink enhancements at £520,000,000. An initial £102,000,000 funding package was granted by the Government in July 2005 for Phase 3 preparatory work, and a Carillion-led track renewal programme for 12 miles (19 km) of Phase 1 line – still using original British Rail track – that was causing damage to vehicles and discomfort for passengers. Following negotiations between central government and GMPTE and AGMA, Phase 3 funding was confirmed by Douglas Alexander on 6 July 2006, albeit with adjustments (such as axing the Wythenshawe Loop) and splitting the project into two stages: Phase 3a, elements of expansion funded by government investment; and Phase 3b, elements requiring an alternative funding source. The MPact-Thales consortium, composed of Laing O'Rourke, VolkerRail and the Thales Group, was appointed to design, build and maintain the 20 miles (32 km) of new line plus a new depot at Old Trafford. A 0.25-mile (0.40 km) spur off the Eccles Line to the new MediaCityUK development at Salford Quays, funded separately by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWRDA), would also fall to Mpact-Thales.
Phase 3a, dubbed the "Mini Bang", or "Little Bang", was an extension scheme approved by the government on 6 July 2006, with final sign off and release of Treasury funds in May 2008. In addition to the separately NWRDA-funded spur from the Eccles Line to MediaCityUK, Phase 3a involved converting the 14-mile (23 km) Oldham Loop heavy rail line from Victoria to Rochdale via Oldham, building a new 1.7-mile (2.7 km) South Manchester Line from Trafford Bar to St Werburgh's Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy (on a closed section of Cheshire Lines Committee railway), and construction of a new 4-mile (6.4 km) East Manchester Line from Piccadilly to Droylsden. The Oldham and Rochdale and South Manchester lines were funded by a £244,000,000 lump sum from the government. The East Manchester Line to Droylsden was funded by borrowings by GMPTE that would be repaid over 30 years using fare revenue from Metrolink.
The Oldham Loop Line, subsidised by GMPTE and used for suburban commuting, closed on 3 October 2009 allowing work to convert the line from heavy rail to Metrolink, although preparatory work on Central Park Metrolink station and a flyover at Newton Heath over the heavy Caldervale Line commenced in 2005. Conversion of the Oldham Loop for Metrolink allowed for the addition of new stops along the line, including Monsall, South Chadderton, and Newbold; Kingsway Business Park Metrolink station was authorised at a late stage of planning in July 2011 once the Phase 3b-Drake Street Metrolink station was abandoned (on technical and economic grounds) and additional funding was procured from Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council and Kingsway Business Park's private developer Wilson Bowden.
The planned opening of Phase 3a services was initially delayed on each line by months due to faults with a new £22,000,000 digital signalling and control system known as the Tram Management System, or TMS, designed by the Thales Group. Services on the spur from the Eccles Line to MediaCityUK Metrolink station were expected to commence during Summer 2010, and began on 20 September 2010, serving MediaCityUK, a 200-acre (81 ha) development for creative and digital mass media organisations, and The Lowry, a combined theatre-gallery and Greater Manchester's most visited tourist attraction. On its inauguration, TMS experienced several faults on the expanded Eccles Line, causing "chaos" at MediaCityUK, and 24 service delays on the network between September 2010 and February 2011. On the South Manchester Line, services to St Werburgh's Road Metrolink station were expected to commence in Spring 2011, but delayed until 7 July 2011, due to problems with TMS. On the Oldham and Rochdale Line, services from Manchester to Central Park and Oldham Mumps were expected to open in spring 2011 and autumn 2011 respectively, but problems with TMS and the need to renew structures delayed services until 13 June 2012, when 7.1 miles (11.4 km) of the line from Victoria to Oldham Mumps Metrolink station opened in a single stage. After three months in operation, Metrolink services to Oldham were hailed a "huge success" by TfGM, with 250,000 passengers on the line between June and September, strengthening TfGM's position that Phase 3a would raise daily ridership on Metrolink to 90,000. Originally planned to open in spring 2012, then delayed to autumn 2012, a service on the Oldham and Rochdale Line from Oldham Mumps as far as Shaw and Crompton Metrolink station began on 16 December 2012. In January 2013, a contract dispute between TfGM and Thales Group over missed deadlines and poor performance of TMS resulted in TfGM withholding payments for unfulfilled construction targets. Services to Rochdale and Droylsden were scheduled for a spring 2012 opening date, but delayed by months because of problems with the implementation of TMS, prompting outrage from Members of Parliament representing these areas. The East Manchester Line to Droylsden opened to selected residents of Manchester and Tameside on 8 February 2013, and to the general public on 11 February 2013. On 28 February 2013, passenger services expanded along the 4.6-mile (7.4 km) stretch of the Oldham and Rochdale Line between Shaw and Crompton and Rochdale railway station, completing Phase 3a, and giving Metrolink a total network length of 43 miles (69 km). On 9 May 2013, TMS was successfully implemented in the City Zone, providing real-time passenger information displays at all stops in Manchester city centre.
Phase 3b was revealed in July 2006 when Phase 3 was split into two smaller phases. A range of motivators pushed transport planners to pursue Phase 3b, including attracting new passengers, value to the economy, reduction of road traffic congestion, regeneration, and improved access to town centres, business districts and labour markets. Under Phase 3b plans, Metrolink will extend the East Manchester Line by 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne; extend the South Manchester Line by 2.7 miles (4.3 km) from St Werburgh's Road to Didsbury; and create a new 9-mile (14 km) Airport Line to Manchester Airport from a junction at St Werburgh's Road. Phase 3b will enact plans first drawn up in 1983, laid before Parliament in 1988, and approved by the government in 1991 to re-route and extend the Oldham and Rochdale Line at a cost of £124,500,000 with a street running route through Oldham and Rochdale town centres, both of which are poorly served by using the outlying Oldham Mumps and Rochdale railway stations alone.
Tasked with procuring funds for Phase 3b from sources other than central Government, in July 2007 GMPTE and AGMA submitted a bid to the Transport Innovation Fund, which would release a multi-million pound sum for public transport improvements linked to viable anti-road traffic congestion strategies. A referendum on the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund was held in Greater Manchester on 19 December 2008, in which 79% of voters rejected plans for public transport improvements linked to a peak-time weekday-only Greater Manchester congestion charge. In May 2009, Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (formerly GMPTA) and AGMA agreed to create the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, £1.5billion raised from a combination of a levy on council tax in Greater Manchester, government grants, contributions from the Manchester Airports Group, Metrolink fares and third-party funding for "major transport schemes" in the region. Phase 3b was approved with funding on a line-by-line basis between March and August 2010. Construction work for all Phase 3b lines began in March 2011. On the Airport Line, a 580-tonne steel bridge was erected in Wythenshawe over the M56 motorway on 25 November 2012. Following the closure of Mosley Street Metrolink station on 17 May 2013, the 2.7-mile (4.3 km) route of the South Manchester Line from St Werburgh's Road to East Didsbury Metrolink station was the first section of Phase 3b line to open on 23 May 2013 - three months ahead of schedule. The East Manchester Line was completed on 9 October 2013 with a new service routed 2.1 miles (3.4 km) between Droylsden and Ashton-under-Lyne Metrolink station, taking the total system length to 47.7 miles (76.8 km). TfGM forecasts that more than 45 million passenger journeys per year will be made on the 59-mile (95 km) Metrolink system once Phase 3b is completed in 2016.
The Second City Crossing (also known as 2CC) is a second Metrolink route across Manchester city centre, first proposed in 2011 as a means to improve capacity, flexibility and reliability as the rest of the system expands due to phases 3a and 3b. Funded by the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, its 0.8-mile (1.3 km) route will begin at a rebuilt St Peter's Square Metrolink station, and run along Princess Street, Cross Street and Corporation Street to rejoin the existing Metrolink line by Victoria station. Following the submission of a planning document under the Transport and Works Act 1992, and a public inquiry held throughout 2013, the Second City Crossing was granted approval on 8 October 2013 by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, and signed off on 28 October 2013 by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Construction is to commence in 2014, with Exchange Square Metrolink station joining the network as a new stop on the crossing; a Shaw and Crompton-to-Exchange Square service is to join the network in 2015 with completion of the scheme expected in 2016/17.
Metrolink is run as a public-private partnership between TfGM and private transport firms. Between 1992 and 2007 Metrolink was operated and maintained as a concession by Serco. From 2007 until 2011 it was operated and maintained by Stagecoach Metrolink – part of the Stagecoach Group. Metrolink RATP Dev, a part of the French state-owned RATP Group which operates the Paris Métro, bought the Metrolink contract from Stagecoach on 1 August 2011.
Metrolink is headed by Peter Cushing, the Metrolink Director at TfGM. Appointed by TfGM and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Cushing began his post on 4 February 2013, having previously been the Operations Director of Central Trains. Cushing replaced Philip Purdy, who joined Metrolink in May 2008, having previously overseen the expansion of the Melbourne tramway network with Yarra Trams.
Branding and public relations
The name Metrolink and a system-wide aquamarine, black and grey corporate branding and vehicle livery was devised by Fitch RS and Design Triangle, and first revealed at a press launch in June 1988. Previously, during the planning and promotional stages, the system was known as Project Light Rail, and borrowed an orange and brown identity used by Greater Manchester Transport and GM Buses. In August 1991, in partnership with BBC Manchester, Metrolink ran a "Nickname Metrolink" competition to find an affectionate short name for the system, comparable to "The Tube" for London Underground and "The L" for the Chicago elevated transit system. Most submissions were inspired by textile manufacturing, Greater Manchester's historic staple industry, using names such as "The Thread" and "The Shuttle", but the winning entry was "The Met". In 2008, a distinctive yellow and metallic silver vehicle livery, and corresponding yellow system-wide corporate re-branding was introduced by Manchester-based Hemisphere Design and Marketing Consultancy, designed in partnership with Peter Saville, Dalton Maag and Design Triangle. Yellow was chosen by Hemisphere for its high visibility and to reflect Greater Manchester's culture of confidence and optimism.
Metrolink has been a "Football Development Partner" with the Manchester Football Association since August 2010, meaning it is the association's Official Travel Partner, and supports grassroots association football in Greater Manchester by selecting a "Team of the Month". Metrolink is a sponsor of the annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival. On 6 December 2010, to celebrate the soap opera's 50th anniversary, Coronation Street featured a storyline with an explosion which caused a crash on the Metrolink system at Weatherfield. Although a fictitious event, at least six calls were made to GMPTE asking if services had been affected.
Transport planners in Greater Manchester describe Metrolink as both "an icon of Greater Manchester", and "an integral part of the landscape in Greater Manchester". The Guardian describes Metrolink as "Manchester's efficient and much-loved tram system". Under ownership of the Guardian Media Group, the Manchester Evening News spearheaded the Get Our Metrolink Back on Track campaign in 2004–05. Under Trinity Mirror ownership, the Manchester Evening News used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to reveal that Metrolink received over 10,000 complaints between May 2011 and May 2012.
In 2013, Manchester City F.C. manager Roberto Mancini and players Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and James Milner recorded special stop announcements to be used on Metrolink's East Manchester Line on dates when Manchester City play at home at the City of Manchester Stadium (served by the Etihad Campus Metrolink station). The announcements were first used on 17 February 2013, for Manchester City's Fifth Round Proper tie against Leeds United A.F.C. in the 2012–13 FA Cup.
Stations and lines
As of November 2013, Metrolink has a network length of 47.7 miles (76.8 km), and 76 stations – known as stops — along six lines which radiate from a "central triangular junction at Piccadilly Gardens which forms the hub of the Metrolink system" in the City Zone. The lines are: the Altrincham Line (which terminates in Altrincham), the Bury Line (which terminates in Bury), the East Manchester Line (which terminates in Ashton-under-Lyne), the South Manchester Line (which terminates in East Didsbury), the Eccles Line (which terminates in Eccles), and the Oldham and Rochdale Line (which terminates in Rochdale). Some stops, such as Cornbrook, are shared between lines, and may be used as interchange stations; others, such as Altrincham Interchange, are transport hubs which integrate with heavy rail and bus stations. Each station has at least one high-floor platform measuring a minimum of 2 metres (6.6 ft) wide, accessed by ramp, stairs, escalator, lift or combination thereof. Low-floor platforms commonly used for light rail throughout the world were ruled out for Metrolink because the system inherited 90-centimetre (35 in) high-floor platforms from British Rail on lines formerly used for heavy rail. Shelters and canopies at stations were supplied by JCDecaux, and ticket vending machines by Scheidt & Bachmann. There are up to five ticket vending machines at each stop. Each line has track with standard gauge specification, powering vehicles electrically from 750 V DC overhead lines. Between 1992 and 2007, electricity for the Metrolink system was procured by the operator, based on price only. In 2007, GMPTE changed the contractual requirements to ensure that sustainable power would be factored into choosing an energy supplier, and in July 2007, Metrolink became the first light rail network in the UK with electricity supplied entirely from sustainable energy via hydropower.
|Line name||Inaugural service||Number of
|Altrincham Line||15 June 1992||10||7.6 miles (12.2 km)|
|Bury Line||6 April 1992||10||9.9 miles (15.9 km)|
|City Zone||27 April 1992||8||1.5 miles (2.4 km)|
|East Manchester Line||11 February 2013[note 2]||11||6 miles (9.7 km)|
|Eccles Line||6 December 1999||11||4 miles (6.4 km)|
|Oldham and Rochdale Line||13 June 2012||18||14 miles (23 km)|
|South Manchester Line||7 July 2011||8||4.4 miles (7.1 km)|
For passenger services, Metrolink uses a fleet of specially designed articulated vehicles composed of Ansaldo Firema T-68As and Bombardier Flexity Swift M5000s. They were originally termed LRVs (light rail vehicles), but are now widely known as trams. Both varieties are bi-directional, designed to be driven by a single driver from either end in a cab separate from passengers.
The T-68s were Metrolink's original passenger fleet. They were 29 metres (95 ft) in length by 2.65 metres (8.7 ft) wide, weigh 48 long tons (54 short tons) and had a top speed of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h). The nominal capacity of each T-68 was 201 passengers, of whom 86 were seated; the maximum crush load capacity was 270 passengers. Each unit was given a number from 1001 through to 1026; number 1000 was given to a half length mockup displayed to the public before opening, and now exhibited at the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport. Each T-68 was also to have a nickname referencing the personalities, history and culture of Greater Manchester as chosen by the public. The names chosen in 1987 were Sylvia Pankhurst, Sir Matt Busby, Ben Brierley, The Lancashire Fusilier, Sir John Barbirolli, Pat Seed, John Greenwood, Squire Clark, Our Gracie, and C. P. Scott. Despite assurances they would all be applied, few were ever used, with a sponsorship naming scheme (to provide additional income for Metrolink) taking preference (for example, vehicle 1002 was named the "Manchester Arndale Voyager" to promote Manchester Arndale and its Voyager food court). The last three T68s, 1007, 1016 and 1022 were taken out of service for the final time on 10 February 2014. Only two T68As remain available for passenger service and are expected to be retired before the end of 2014. 
In 1999, Metrolink's passenger fleet was bolstered by six new vehicles to run on the Eccles Line. Numbered 2001 through to 2006, these T-68A vehicles were based on the original T-68s, but had modifications replacing destination rollblinds with dot matrix displays, and retractable couplers and covered bogies necessary for the high proportion of on-street running close to motor traffic. Three of the earlier T-68 fleet were similarly equipped. Initially only these vehicles were permitted to operate the Eccles line but the entire fleet was modified in 2008/09 for universal running.
Built by Bombardier Transportation and Vossloh Kiepe, and costing £2,000,000 each, the M5000 vehicles were introduced to Metrolink in December 2009, driven by increased passenger demand. They are part of the Flexity Swift range of light rail vehicles, and have a design similar to the K5000 vehicle used on the Cologne Stadtbahn, in a yellow and silver livery. Originally eight M5000s were planned to provide additional capacity, which increased to 12 with the approval of the spur to MediaCityUK. A total of 94 M5000s were procured by TfGM for the phase 3 extensions and fleet replacement. They will be given fleet numbers from 3001 to 3094. Built to the requirements of the 2010 Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations, the nominal capacity of each M5000 is 206 passengers, of whom 52–60 are seated. In July 2012, TfGM announced that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority had agreed that all T-68s and T-68As would be retired and replaced by M5000 vehicles, which are lighter, quieter, more energy-efficient and four times more reliable than the older T-68 models. Replacement will provide Metrolink with a uniform fleet by 2014. In October 2013, the authority agreed to procure a further ten M5000s in 2014 to facilitate the construction of the proposed Trafford Park line, while in the interim supporting a service between MediaCityUK and Manchester city centre. A press release from Bombardier, dated December 20, 2013, stated that Bombardier had an order for a further ten vehicles. The press release stated 77 vehicles had been delivered, and that the recent order for ten more vehicles brought the number of vehicles ordered but not yet delivered to 27, for a total of 104. Metrolink has one Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) from 1991. It is numbered 1027 and its wagon numbered 1028. It is a bespoke diesel-powered vehicle with a crane, inspection platform, mobile workshop, and capacity for a driver and three passengers. It was designed to assist with vehicle recovery and track and line repairs.
Metrolink House at Queens Road in Cheetham Hill is the headquarters of Metrolink. Constructed during Phase 1, it served jointly as a control centre, HQ, office space, and depot for the storage, maintenance and repair of vehicles. Under the original proposals, Metrolink House was much larger, with a design which would support network expansion, but this design did not obtain the necessary planning permission from Manchester City Council. Consequently, Metrolink House was scaled down to a 4-hectare (9.9-acre) £8,000,000 site with finite capacity, and, in light of Phase 3a network expansion, Metrolink built a second depot at Elsinore Road in Old Trafford in 2011. This second depot occupies the site of a former warehouse, and can house up to 96 vehicles. On 7 May 2013 Metrolink completed the transfer of its main operational functions from Cheetham Hill to Old Trafford, meaning its control room – known as the Network Management Centre – is housed jointly with the Customer Services team by its newer depot.
In July 2013, the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee announced that it planned to enhance the experience of travelling on Metrolink by tapping in to Manchester City Council's grant from the UK Urban Broadband Fund and using it to provide Metrolink passengers with free Wi-Fi when on board. The scheme began with a trial on a single tram - number 3054 - connected to the FreeBeeMcr broadband network with the intention of rolling it out across the whole Metrolink network by Spring 2015.
Proposed changes and expansion
|Buckley Wells||Buckley Wells Metrolink station has been proposed to provide better passenger access in southern Bury, and would be located on the Bury Line between Bury Interchange and Radcliffe Metrolink station.|
|Middleton extension||As of 2013, Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council aspires to link Middleton to the Metrolink network by constructing a branch off the Bury Line routed from Bowker Vale Metrolink station to Middleton town centre. Rochdale Council first proposed this extension of Metrolink to Middleton in 2008, and priced the scheme at £80,000,000.|
|Salford expansion||In its 2004–2016 unitary development plan, Salford City Council proposed expansion of Metrolink beyond Eccles Interchange along the A57 road to Barton-upon-Irwell and then across the Manchester Ship Canal to the Trafford Centre. The council endorsed re-opening the Tyldesley Loopline from Eccles to Little Hulton via Walkden with Metrolink services. The council also endorsed the exploration of tram-train provision between Manchester and Wigan via Salford, as proposed by the Regional Spatial Strategy for North West England.|
|Stalybridge extension||As of 2011, Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council aspires to extend the East Manchester Line from Ashton-under-Lyne to Stalybridge.|
|Stockport extension||A Metrolink line running from Manchester city centre to Stockport is "a priority major scheme for Greater Manchester". An application to construct this line via East Didsbury Metrolink station was submitted in 2001, but did not reach conclusion at the Department for Transport. TfGM has committed to bringing Metrolink to Stockport by extending the South Manchester Line from East Didsbury, and plans to investigate funding possibilities after the completion of Phase 3b.|
|Trafford Park line||TfGM holds powers to commission a new line from Pomona Metrolink station to Port Salford via Trafford Park and the Trafford Centre, and committed to procuring a funding mechanism for its construction in 2011. Drawing on proposals made by Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council in 1984, TfGM made this a strategic priority in each of its local transport plans since the Transport Act 2000, attesting that Metrolink provision will improve public access to key attractions, support the development of business and freight zones, and reduce traffic congestion on the M60 motorway. In 2004, Peel Holdings raised concerns that the lack of Metrolink provision to the Trafford Centre may impact on its Chill Factore development, and offered to contribute towards its cost. In summer 2013, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership announced it may fund the construction of the line as far as a stop at the Trafford Centre using the Earnback mechanism of the Greater Manchester City Deal; with an extension to Port Salford and Eccles to be developed and costed separately. TfGM estimated that it would require £350,000,000 to open this route to passengers by its target of 2018/19 (subject to a satisfactory business case, Transport and Works Act Order and public consultation).|
|Tram-trains||Metrolink and the TfGM Committee have prepared five costed proposals for extending Metrolink using tram-train technology over the existing heavy rail network in the region; along the Mid-Cheshire Line (between Stockport and Hale), the Hope Valley Line (between Manchester and Marple), the Glossop Line (between Manchester and the dual termini at Hadfield and Glossop), the Manchester to Sheffield Line (between Manchester and Hazel Grove), and along the Manchester to Southport Line (between Manchester and Wigan via Atherton), with an estimated total funding requirement of £870 million as of 2013. TfGM intend to proceed to the identification of potential rail industry funding options, subject to a review of lessons from a tram-train pilot scheme in Sheffield.|
|Wythenshawe Loop||Although axed in 2005 to control costs, the Wythenshawe Loop on the Airport Line remains an aspiration of TfGM. It would create a loop from Roundthorn Metrolink station to the University Hospital of South Manchester and Newall Green and back to Roundthorn, and improve access between Wythenshawe and Manchester city centre on a route which is physically impaired by the River Mersey and M60 motorway.|
Service and hours of operation
Before inauguration, GMPTE's original concept was for Metrolink's operator to provide a service every ten minutes from Bury-to-Piccadilly and Altrincham-to-Piccadilly 6 a.m.–Midnight, Monday to Saturday. Greater Manchester Metrolink Limited, the system's original operator, argued for adjustments, citing the need to provide an efficient and commercially viable operation in line with vehicle running times and passenger demand. Due to power limitations, this pattern was modified to a twelve-minute service throughout the day, doubling to a six-minute service in peak periods, resulting in a "ten trams per hour" service pattern on routes running from Altrincham and Bury to Manchester every six minutes. Operators are required to provide this level of service at least 98% of the time, or incur a financial penalty charge. This six-minute service pattern has been adopted on the rest of the network as the system has grown. Heavy snowfall during the winter of 2009/10 impaired Metrolink services and the operator was criticised for failing to have cold weather procedures. This prompted a program to improve reliability and performance of the system in freezing conditions. Metrolink operated icebreaker-style vehicles at night during snowfall in January 2013 to provide normal services.
A survey in 2012 revealed that passengers who used Metrolink everyday for commuting rated service levels as poor and/or unreliable, with those respondents particularly frustrated by delays and disruptions. TfGM recognised that the older vehicles in its fleet – the T68/T68As — are outdated and the cause of much disruption, and agreed to replace them with M5000s by 2014. Among those who used Metrolink less regularly, the system scored far better in the survey.
|Metrolink service routes|
|Altrincham – Bury||Altrincham – Piccadilly||Bury – Ashton-under-Lyne|
|East Didsbury – Rochdale Railway Station||Eccles – Piccadilly||MediaCityUK – Cornbrook|
- Altrincham – Bury: every 12 minutes (daytime only)
- Altrincham – Piccadilly: every 12 minutes
- Bury – Ashton-under-Lyne: every 12 minutes
- Eccles – Piccadilly: every 12 minutes
- MediaCityUK – Piccadilly: every 12 minutes (daytime only – evening journeys provided by Eccles services)
- East Didsbury – Rochdale Railway Station: every 12 minutes
The combined Monday-Saturday daytime frequency on the Bury and Altrincham routes is every 6 minutes.
- Altrincham – Piccadilly: every 12 minutes 10 a.m.–5 p.m., every 15 minutes at other times
- Bury – Ashton-under-Lyne: every 12 minutes 10 a.m.–5 p.m., every 15 minutes at other times
- Eccles – Piccadilly via MediaCityUK: every 12 minutes 10 a.m.–5 p.m., every 15 minutes at other times
- East Didsbury – Rochdale Railway Station: every 12 minutes 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., every 15 minutes at other times
Metrolink fares were originally set by the system's operator, but are now set by the TfGM Committee at levels that cover both the running costs and the cost of borrowing that has part-funded the expansion of the system; Metrolink receives no public subsidy. Fares typically rise each January above the rate of inflation. The fare tariff is based on a division of the network's stations into fare zones. Persons under 16 years of age, persons of pensionable age, and people with disabilities qualify for concessionary fares, some of which are mandatory and others discretionary, as determined by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority permits reduced fares for persons under 16 years of age, and free or reduced fares on Metrolink after 9:30 a.m. for pensioners. In normal circumstances, tickets cannot be purchased on board Metrolink vehicles, and must be purchased from a ticket vending machine before boarding the vehicle. Fare evasion in 2006 was estimated at 2–6% of all users, and in 2012 at 2.5% of all users. Checking tickets and passes and issuing penalty fares is the responsibility of Metrolink's Passenger Services Representatives (PSRs), who provide security and assistance on the network; between 1992 and 2008, Greater Manchester Police had a dedicated Metrolink unit responsible for policing the system. The original ticket vending machines were designed by Thorn EMI. In 2005 GMPTE announced that rail passengers travelling from within Greater Manchester into Manchester city centre can use the Metrolink service between the eight City Zone stations for free. Passengers must present a valid rail ticket, correctly dated with Manchester Ctlz as the destination. In 2007 TfGM rolled out new ticket vending machines, designed to accept credit/debit card payments and permit the purchase of multiple tickets in a single transaction. These were replaced in 2009 with touchscreen machines, designed with the Scheidt & Bachmann Ticket XPress system. In October 2012, TfGM announced it was devising a simpler zonal fare system, comparable to London fare zones, and preparing to introduce the region's new contactless smartcard for use on all public transport modes in Greater Manchester, including Metrolink.
According to TfGM, more than 21 million passenger journeys were made in 2011, and the Department for Transport placed passenger journeys for the 2011/12 fiscal year at 21.8 million. Patronage has risen steadily since its opening, from a start-point of 8.1 million in the 1992/93 fiscal year. Travel increased from 18.2 million journeys in 2001/02 to 20 million journeys in 2008/09; numbers fell to 18.7 million in 2009 while parts of the system were closed for upgrades, but recovered to 19.6 million for the 2009/10 fiscal year. Metrolink revised its method for calculating passenger boardings in 2010/11, meaning figures are not directly comparable with previous years. TfGM predicts around 22 million passenger journeys on Metrolink in 2012, and an increase of 46% by 2026.
|Estimated passenger journeys made on Metrolink per fiscal year|
|Year||Passenger journeys||Year||Passenger journeys||Year||Passenger journeys|
|Estimates provided by TfGM to the Department for Transport, based on sales from ticket machines.[note 3]|
A survey in 2012 revealed that 12%, or around one in 10 people in Greater Manchester use Metrolink to travel to work, and 8% use the system every day. The system is most commonly used by 21 to 30-year olds, and was used most markedly by residents of the Metropolitan Borough of Bury — accounting for around a third of their commuter journeys.
|Part of a series of articles on|
- List of tram and light-rail transit systems
- Manchester Corporation Tramways
- Transport in Manchester
- List of town tramway systems in England
- List of town tramway systems in the United Kingdom
- The system is branded Metrolink. The Department for Transport refers to the system as Manchester Metrolink, an alternative unofficial name. It is defined in Acts of Parliament and Byelaws as the Greater Manchester Light Rapid Transit System; and sometimes (unofficially) called Greater Manchester Metrolink.
- The East Manchester Line opened to the general public on 11 February 2013. It opened to invited residents of Tameside and Manchester along the route of the track on 8 February 2013 with free travel as a "gesture of thanks" for patience shown during disruptive construction works.
- Estimates excludes free travel such as Concessionary Bus Pass for pensioners and tickets sold through other vendors.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Manchester Metrolink.|
- www.metrolink.co.uk, the official Metrolink website
- www.tfgm.com, the official website of Transport for Greater Manchester
- www.lrta.org/manchester, a historical account of Metrolink from the Light Rail Transit Association