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Manchester Metrolink

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Greater Manchester Metrolink - tram 3009A.jpg
M5000 at Exchange Quay tram stop in August 2011
Manchester Metrolink - Schemaplan.png
Schematic map of Metrolink.
Owner Transport for Greater Manchester
Locale Greater Manchester
Transit type Tram/Light rail[1]
Number of lines 7
Number of stations 93
Annual ridership 34.3 million (2015/16)
Headquarters Trafford Depot
Warwick Road South
Old Trafford
Began operation 6 April 1992 (1992-04-06)
Operator(s) RATP Group
Number of vehicles 120 M5000s
Train length 28.4 metres (93 ft)
System length 57 miles (92 km)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Minimum radius of curvature 25 m (82 ft)
Electrification Overhead line (750 V DC)
Top speed 50 miles per hour (80 km/h)

Metrolink (also known as Manchester Metrolink)[note 1] is a tram/light rail system in Greater Manchester, England.[1] The system is owned by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and operated and maintained under contract by RATP Group.[9][10] In 2015–16, 34.3 million passenger journeys were made on the system.[5]

The network consists of seven lines which radiate from Manchester city centre to termini at Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, East Didsbury, Eccles, Manchester Airport and Rochdale. Metrolink has 93 stops along 57 miles (92 km) of standard-gauge track[11] making it the largest light rail system in the United Kingdom.[12] It consists of a mixture of on-street track shared with other traffic; reserved track sections, segregated from other traffic, and converted former railway lines.[13] It is operated by a fleet of Bombardier Flexity Swift M5000s.

A light rail system for Greater Manchester emerged from the failure of the 1970s Picc-Vic tunnel scheme to obtain central government funding. A light-rail scheme was proposed in 1982 as the least expensive rail-based transport solution for Manchester city centre and the surrounding Greater Manchester metropolitan area. Government approval was granted in 1988 and the network began operating services between Bury Interchange and Victoria on 6 April 1992, becoming the United Kingdom's first modern street-running rail system; the 1885-built Blackpool tramway being the only heritage tram system in the UK that had survived up to Metrolink's creation.[14]

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.[15][16] A second line through Manchester city centre to eliminate the current bottleneck will be operational from early 2017 and work on the Trafford Park Line extension from Pomona to the Trafford Centre commenced in early 2017 with an estimated operational date of 2020/21.[17][18] Furthermore, TfGM have endorsed more speculative expansion proposals for new lines to Stockport, a loop around Wythenshawe, and the addition of tram-train technology.



Manchester's first tram age had begun in 1877 with the first horse trams of Manchester Suburban Tramways Company and ceased as early as in 1949, when the last line of the municipal Manchester Corporation Tramways was displaced by motor buses. That company had managed most of the electrification of the trams, executed 1901 to 1903. Since 1938, some trams had been displaced by trolleybuses. Electric traction on tyres in the streets of Manchester ended in 1966.[19]


See also: Picc-Vic tunnel

A light rail system for Greater Manchester was born of the failure to obtain central government funding for the Picc-Vic scheme linking the existing railway systems north and south of the city centre via a tunnel. Greater Manchester's railway network suffered from poor north – south connections, exacerbated by the location of Manchester's main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria,[2][20] which were unconnected and located at opposing edges of its city centre.[21][20] 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.[22] Connections between the two relied on buses through the city centre by means of the Centrelink bus service. As early as 1839, in anticipation of the stations being built, a connecting underground railway tunnel was proposed but abandoned on economic grounds,[2][22] as was an overground suspended-monorail in 1966.[23] 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,[24] "a proposed rail route beneath the city centre" forming "the centrepiece of a new electrified railway network for the region".[25] Despite investigatory tunnelling under the Manchester Arndale shopping centre,[25] when the Greater Manchester County Council presented the project to the United Kingdom Government in 1974,[26] it was unable to secure the necessary funding,[27] and was abandoned on economic grounds when the County Council dropped the plans in 1977.[24][26]

In 1982, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE; the successor to SELNEC PTE) concluded that a street-level light rail system to replace or complement the region's under-used heavy railways was the cheapest solution to improving Greater Manchester's rail transport network. A Rail Study Group, composed of officials from British Rail, Greater Manchester County Council and GMPTE formally endorsed the scheme in 1984.[21] Abstract proposals based on light rail systems in North America and continental Europe,[28] and a draft 62-mile (100 km) network consisting of three lines were presented by the Rail Study Group to the UK Government for taxpayer funding.[24] Following route revisions in 1984 and 1987,[24][29] and a trial on 9 February 1987 using Docklands Light Railway rolling stock on a freight-only line adjacent to Debdale Park,[30] funding was granted by HM Treasury with the strict condition that the system be constructed in phases.[24] Additional taxpayer funding came from the European Regional Development Fund and bank lending.[31] 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.[32]

Phase 1: Bury, Altrincham and Manchester city centre[edit]

Phase 1 involved the conversion of the Bury Line (Bury-to-Victoria) and Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (Altrincham-to-Piccadilly) heavy rail lines, to light rail, to be linked together by the creation of a street-level tramway through Manchester city centre, including a branch to Piccadilly, to unite the lines as a single 19.2-mile (30.9 km) network,[33] These lines were 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.[34][35][36][37][33]

Metrolink after Phase 1 (1992)

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 & Company, and a General Electric Company subsidiary)[38] who formed Greater Manchester Metro Limited to design, build, operate and maintain Phase 1 of Metrolink.[39] 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.[39]

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 750 V DC overhead line operation.[40] The overhead structures and wiring of the Altrincham Line were adapted for light rail.[40] 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,[40] at a cost of £8 million (£15,500,000 as of 2017[41]).[42] In Manchester city centre, a three-way street tramway – built with network expansion in mind,[43] was designed to link Victoria and Piccadilly stations, as well as integrating the Bury and Altrincham Lines into a single network.[44] It comprised a 1.9 mile (3.1 km) street-running route from Victoria, via Market Street to G-Mex (now known as Deansgate-Castlefield) where it joins the line to Altrincham: This is now known as the first city crossing (1CC). Also a 0.4 mile (0.7 km) branch to Piccadilly, which diverges at a three-way junction (known as a 'delta junction') at Piccadilly Gardens.[45]

Two T-68 trams near Manchester Piccadilly station in 1994, this was part of the original system opened as part of Phase 1.

Initially projected to open in September 1991, then promised for 21 February 1992,[46] Metrolink began operation on 6 April 1992 with a service between Victoria and Bury.[47][48] The network was expanded beyond Victoria to G-Mex tram stop on 27 April 1992; then expanded through to Altrincham on 15 June 1992, the branch to Piccadilly station was last to open on 20 July 1992.[48] The completion of Phase 1 enabled use of all 26 T-68 vehicles acquired for the operation.[40][49] Queen 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.[49][48][50][49][48]

Then costing £145 million (£270,600,000 as of 2017[41])[31] Phase 1 was expected to carry 10 million passengers per year,[51] but surpassed this figure by the 1993/94 fiscal year, and every year thereafter.[52] 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.[53][15]

Phase 2: Salford Quays, Eccles[edit]

Main article: Eccles Line
Metrolink after Phase 2 (1999–2000)
A T-68A vehicle, street running in Eccles specially acquired for the new Eccles Line, opened in 1999 as part of Phase 2.

During the 1990s, Salford Quays became a business district specifically redeveloped for commerce, leisure, culture and tourism.[54] 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.[31][55] In autumn 1995 a 4-mile (6.4 km) Metrolink line branching from Cornbrook tram stop to Eccles via Salford Quays was confirmed as Phase 2 of Metrolink.[31][40][55] 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.[31][55] In April 1997 Altram, a consortium of the Serco, Ansaldo and John Laing 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.[31][55][13]

The Eccles Line was officially opened as far as Broadway tram stop on 6 December 1999 by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair[56][53] a service to Eccles Interchange joined the network on 21 July 2000,[40][31] and was officially declared open by Anne, Princess Royal at a ceremony on 9 January 2001.[57] On completion, Phases 1 and 2 gave Metrolink a total route length of 24 miles (39 km).[58] Phase 2 was predominantly privately funded and cost £160,000,000 (£242,870,000 as of 2017).[41][31] The line navigated the Quays on a slow and meandering route, and in competition with comparatively quicker and cheaper buses, failed to reach its initial passenger targets.[59] 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.[9]

Phase 3[edit]

In 2000, officials and transport planners in Greater Manchester decided that the 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).[60] 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 (£742,300,000 as of 2017).[41][31][7][40][61]

Spur to MediaCityUK opened 2010.

Estimated costs were later revised in 2002 to £820,000,000 (£1,203,000,000 as of 2017),[41] meaning Metrolink required a Government contribution of at least £520,000,000.[56] With costs predicted to rise further,[62] 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.[56][61][63]

In response, highlighting the legal costs and demolition of property in anticipation of the new lines,[61] the Get Our Metrolink Back on Track (or Back on Track )[64] 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.[65][62][61][66] Following negotiations, Phase 3 funding was confirmed by Douglas Alexander on 6 July 2006,[61] albeit with adjustments (such as axing the Wythenshawe Loop)[67] 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.[64][62] 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.[40][62] 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.[40][62][13]

Phase 3a: Oldham, Rochdale, South & East Manchester[edit]

Metrolink after Phase 3a (2009–13)

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.[13][15][64][68] The Oldham and Rochdale and South Manchester Line's were funded by a £244,000,000 lump sum from the government.[13][64] The East Manchester Line to Droylsden was funded by borrowings by GMPTE that would be repaid over 30 years using fare revenue from Metrolink.[15]

The Oldham Loop Line closed on 3 October 2009 allowing work to convert the line from heavy rail to Metrolink,[69][70] Conversion of the Oldham Loop for Metrolink allowed for the addition of new stops along the line, including Monsall, South Chadderton, and Newbold;[71] Kingsway Business Park tram stop was authorised at a late stage of planning in July 2011.[72]

Chorlton tram stop, on the new South Manchester Line, shortly after opening in July 2011.

Services on the spur from the Eccles Line to MediaCityUK tram stop began on 20 September 2010,[73] serving the MediaCityUK development, and The Lowry arts centre.[62][13][31][74]

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.[75] 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.[75][76]

On the South Manchester Line, services to St Werburgh's Road tram stop commenced on 7 July 2011.[68][77] 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,[13][78] 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 tram stop opened in a single stage.[71][79][80] A service on the Oldham and Rochdale Line from Oldham Mumps as far as Shaw and Crompton tram stop began on 16 December 2012.[81][82]

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.[75] Services to Rochdale and Droylsden were scheduled for a spring 2012 opening date,[13][83] but delayed by months because of problems with the implementation of TMS.[84][85] The East Manchester Line to Droylsden opened with a trial to local residents on 8 February 2013, and to the general public on 11 February 2013.[84][86] 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).[87][88] 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.[89]

Phase 3b: Ashton-under-Lyne, East Didsbury and Manchester Airport[edit]

Metrolink after Phase 3b (2013–14)
A M5000 tram running through Union Street, on the Oldham town centre line opened in January 2014.

Phase 3b involved extending the East Manchester Line by 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne;[90] extending the South Manchester Line by 2.7 miles (4.3 km) from St Werburgh's Road to Didsbury;[91] and creating a new 9-mile (14 km) Airport Line to Manchester Airport from a junction at St Werburgh's Road.[92] Phase 3b also enacted long held plans first drawn up in 1983, to re-route and extend the Oldham and Rochdale Line with street running routes through Oldham and Rochdale town centres, both of which were poorly served by using the outlying Oldham Mumps and Rochdale railway stations alone.[93][94][71][95][96]

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 multimillion-pound sum for public transport improvements linked to viable anti-road traffic congestion strategies.[97][98] A referendum on the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund was held in Greater Manchester on 19 December 2008,[99] in which 79% of voters rejected plans for public transport improvements linked to a peak-time weekday-only Greater Manchester congestion charge.[100] 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.[101][95] Phase 3b was approved with funding on a line-by-line basis between March and August 2010.[90][95]

A tram passing over a purpose built viaduct over the River Mersey on the newly opened Airport Line, in November 2014

Construction work for all Phase 3b lines began in March 2011.[102] The 2.7-mile (4.3 km) route of the South Manchester Line from St Werburgh's Road to East Didsbury tram stop was the first section of Phase 3b line to open on 23 May 2013 – three months ahead of schedule.[91][103] 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 tram stop, taking the total system length to 47.7 miles (76.8 km).[104][105][106] The Oldham and Rochdale Line was completed with a street-running service through Oldham town centre on 27 January 2014,[107] and the addition of a street-running service between Rochdale railway station and Rochdale Town Centre on 31 March 2014, taking the total system length to 48.5 miles (78.1 km).[11]

On 3 November 2014, the network once again expanded, with a 14.5-mile (23.3 km) extension to Manchester Airport railway station, bringing the length of the system to 92.5 kilometres (57.5 mi), making it the longest tramway in the United Kingdom, and the longest light railway.[108][not in citation given] It opened more than one year early,[109] and at a cost of £368 million.[110]

Current works and future expansion plans[edit]

Second City Crossing[edit]

Phase 2CC works on Corporation Street. 2CC will add a second crossing through Manchester and eliminate the current bottleneck.

The Second City Crossing (also known as 2CC)[111] 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.[9][111][112][13][113] Funded by the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, its 0.8-mile (1.3 km) route will begin at a rebuilt St Peter's Square tram stop, and run along Princess Street, Cross Street and Corporation Street to rejoin the existing Metrolink line by Victoria station.[112][114] Following the submission of a planning document under the Transport and Works Act 1992, and a public inquiry held throughout 2013,[114][115] the Second City Crossing was granted approval on 8 October 2013 by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin,[113][116] and signed off on 28 October 2013 by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.[117]

Construction started in early 2014 on the new Exchange Square tram stop, which will be the only stop on the new route, and the first tracks of the line were laid in late November 2014.[111][116][117] Part of the new route became operational on 6 December 2015, when Exchange Square, along with a 500-metre stretch of track between the new stop and Victoria was opened, meaning a Shaw and Crompton-to-Exchange Square service could begin.[118] The first test tram to run the entire route ran on 1 December 2016.[119] Opening of the whole line is expected to occur on 26 February 2017 if final testing goes to plan.[120]

Trafford Park Extension[edit]

The Transport & Works Act Order for the 3.4 mile Trafford Park Line was granted in October 2016.[121][122][123] Enabling works began in January 2017.[124]

Proposed future developments[edit]

A number of speculative expansion proposals exist for new lines to Stockport, a loop around Wythenshawe, and the addition of tram-train technology.


Metrolink stops are marked with yellow totems, such as this one at MediaCityUK

Metrolink is owned by TfGM and operated and maintained by private transport firms under an operating and maintenance (O&M) contract. Between 1992 and 1997 Metrolink was operated and maintained as a concession by Greater Manchester Metro Limited, between 1997 and 2007 by Serco.[125] From 2007 until 2011 it was operated and maintained by Stagecoach Metrolink – part of the Stagecoach Group.[126][127] 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.[9][10][128]

In October 2015, TfGM announced RATP Group, Keolis/Amey, National Express and Transdev had been shortlisted to bid for the next contract starting in July 2017.[129] In late 2016, incumbent operator, RATP Dev revealed in a statement to shareholders that it was not the preferred bidder.[130]

On 18th January 2017, it was announced the successful bidder for this seven year contract would be Keolis/Amey, commencing mid-July 2017. [131]

TfGM's Metrolink Director has been Peter Cushing since February 2013.[132] MRDL (RATP Dev), the operator is headed by Managing Director Chris Coleman.[133]

Branding and public relations[edit]

The name Metrolink and a system-wide aquamarine, black and grey corporate branding and vehicle livery was devised by Fitch RS and Design Triangle,[134][135] and first revealed at a press launch in June 1988.[136][137] 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.[138][139] 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".[139] 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.[40][140] Yellow was chosen by Hemisphere for its high visibility and to reflect Greater Manchester's culture of confidence and optimism.[141]

Metrolink has been a "Football Development Partner" with the Manchester Football Association since August 2010,[142] meaning it is the association's Official Travel Partner, and supports grassroots association football in Greater Manchester by selecting a "Team of the Month".[143] Metrolink is a sponsor of the annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival.[144] 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.[145] Although a fictitious event, at least six calls were made to GMPTE asking if services had been affected.[146]

Transport planners in Greater Manchester describe Metrolink as both "an icon of Greater Manchester",[147] and "an integral part of the landscape in Greater Manchester".[65] The Guardian describes Metrolink as "Manchester's efficient and much-loved tram system".[56] Under ownership of the Guardian Media Group, the Manchester Evening News spearheaded the Get Our Metrolink Back on Track campaign in 2004–05.[66] 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.[148]

In 2013, then 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 tram stop). The announcements were first used on 17 February 2013, for Manchester City's FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Leeds United A.F.C..[149][150]



As of December 2015, Metrolink has a network length of 57 miles (92 km) and 93 stops[151] — along seven lines which radiate from a "central triangular junction at Piccadilly Gardens which forms the hub of the Metrolink system" in the City Zone.[152]

The lines are: the Airport Line (which terminates at Manchester Airport), 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).[153]

Geographic map of Metrolink system.
Metrolink lines and zones
Line or zone First
Route type(s) Length Number of
Peak frequency[154] Start Terminus
Airport Line 3 November 2014 On and off-street[a] 23.2 km
14.5 mi[35]
15 12 minute Barlow Moor Road Manchester Airport
Altrincham Line 15 June 1992 Converted railway track 12.2.0 km
7.6.0 mi[35]
10 6 minute
(less before Trafford Bar)
Cornbrook Altrincham
Bury Line 6 April 1992 Converted railway track 15.9 km
9.9.0 mi
10 6 minute Queens Road Bury
City Zone 27 April 1992 On and off-street 9 Various Victoria Deansgate-Castlefield
or New Islington
East Manchester Line 11 February 2013 On and off-street 9.7.0 km
6.0 mi[155]
11 12 minute
(6 minute before Etihad Campus)
Holt Town Ashton-under-Lyne
Eccles Line 6 December 1998 On and off-street 6.4 km
4 mi[156]
10 12 minute
(6 minute before Harbour City)
Pomona Eccles
MediaCityUK spur[b] 3 September 2010 Off-street 0.3 km
0.2 mi
1 12 minute MediaCityUK
Oldham and Rochdale Line 13 June 2012 Converted railway track 23.8 km
14.8 mi[11]
19 12 minute
(6 minute before Shaw and Crompton)
Monsall Rochdale
South Manchester Line 7 July 2011 Converted railway bed 7.1 km
4.4 mi[147]
8 6 minute
(4 minute before St Werburgh's Road)
Firswood East Didsbury
Trafford Park Line 2020–21[c] 5.5 km
3.4 mi
6 Pomona Trafford Centre
  1. ^ The line crosses the Mersey by a new bridge near Jackson's Boat and runs over the floodplain alongside Rifle Road.
  2. ^ Follows the Eccles line routes from Piccadilly before turning off at Harbour City to MediaCity.
  3. ^ Transport and Works Act 1992 powers granted October 2016. Construction began in 2017 with funding from the rebate package as part of the City Deal. The line is planned to be completed by 2020–21.


There are 93 tram stops on Metrolink, as of 2016. 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.[157][158] The original stops on the Bury Line and Altrincham Line, opened in phase one, were formerly railway stations, and were changed little from British Rail days, as available funding only allowed minimum upgrades to be made.[159] When the Oldham and Rochdale Line was converted from a railway however, all of the former railway stations were completely rebuilt.[160]

Some stops, such as Cornbrook, are shared between lines, and may be used as interchange stations;[153] others, such as Altrincham Interchange, or Ashton-under-Lyne are transport hubs which integrate with heavy rail and bus stations.[153]

Metrolink stops are unstaffed, each contains at least two ticket vending machines, and are provided with help/emergency call points to enable passengers to speak to control. Each stop is monitored by CCTV for public safety, and the images are continuously recorded. Route maps and general information are provided on each platform.[158] Each stop 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.[9][161] Shelters and canopies at stops were supplied by JCDecaux,[161] and ticket vending machines by Scheidt & Bachmann.[162] Card readers are installed on all stop platforms, ready for the TfGM 'My Get Me There' smart card initially trialled in 2014; when this is fully implemented all smart card users will touch-in and touch-out at these platform readers.

Power supply[edit]

The trams are electrically powered from 750 V DC overhead lines.[163] Between 1992 and 2007, electricity for the Metrolink system was procured by the operator, based on price only.[4] 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.[4] Now, energy for the system is generated by biomass.[164]


M5000 trams stabled at the Queens Road depot.

Metrolink has two depots, at Queens Road and Old Trafford: Metrolink House at Queens Road in Cheetham Hill was the original headquarters of Metrolink.[165] Constructed during Phase 1 alongside the Bury Line, it served jointly as a control centre, HQ, office space, and depot for the storage, maintenance and repair of vehicles.[165] Under the original proposals, Metrolink House was intended to be much larger, with a design which would support network expansion, but this design did not obtain the necessary planning permission from Manchester City Council.[165] Consequently, Metrolink House was scaled down to a 4-hectare (9.9-acre) £8,000,000 site with limited capacity,[165][166] and, in light of Phase 3a network expansion, a second depot in Old Trafford was built in 2011.[167][147] This second depot, adjacent to the Old Trafford tram stop, occupies the site of a former warehouse, and can stable up to 96 vehicles,[147] it also has a washing plant and maintenance workshops; major work on trams however is still carried out at Queens Road.[168] On 7 May 2013 Metrolink completed the transfer of its main operational functions from Queens Road 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.[169]


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.[170][171] It was rolled out fleet wide in March 2015.[172]

Rolling stock[edit]

Metrolink is operated by fleet of 120 M5000 trams, which were first introduced in 2009, and continued to be delivered until 2016. These replaced the original fleet of thirty-two T-68 and T-68A trams, which had operated the network since opening in 1992, and were withdrawn from service during 2012–14.[173][174]

Because low-floor tram technology was in its infancy when Metrolink was in its planning stages, and in order to be compatible with the former British Rail stations Metrolink inherited, the network uses high-floor trams with a platform height of 900 mm (35 in), the same height as main line trains.[13][174]

Trams on Metrolink can operate either singly, or coupled together to form double units. Double units regularly run during rush hours.[175]


Main article: M5000

In December 2009, Metrolink took delivery of the first M5000 tram. Built by Bombardier Transportation and Vossloh Kiepe, the initial eight M5000s were ordered to allow services to be increased.[13] 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.[13][15][50][176][177]

With the approval of the spur to MediaCityUK, a further four were ordered.[13] To provide rolling stock for the phase 3 extensions and replace the existing fleet, the order was increased successively to 94.[50][178][179][180] In December 2013, a further ten M5000s were ordered to provide trams for the Trafford Park Line planned to open in 2020, while in the interim supporting a service between MediaCityUK and Manchester city centre and other capacity enhancements.[117][181] In September 2014, a further 16 were ordered; the final one of which was delivered in October 2016, bringing the fleet up to 120.[182][183][184][173]

Class Image Type  Top speed  Length  Capacity  Number Fleet Numbers Routes
Built Years operated
 mph   km/h   Seated   Standing 
M5000 M5000 trams in multiple.JPG Tram 50 80 28.4 metres 60-66 146 120 3001–3120 All lines 2009–2016 2009–present

Ancillary vehicles[edit]

Metrolink has one Special Purpose Vehicle from 1991. Numbered 1027 with its support wagon 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.[185]

Former fleet[edit]


Main article: T-68
T-68 in Manchester City Centre in 2008.

To commence operations, a fleet of 26 T-68 trams manufactured by AnsaldoBreda in Italy were delivered in 1992.[186][187] To provide extra trams for the Eccles Line, six modified T-68A trams were purchased in 1999.[13] The 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.[13]

Three of the earlier T-68 fleet were similarly equipped,[13] and were known as T-68Ms.[188] Mechanically and electrically the T-68M vehicles remained essentially a T-68, but had modifications to its brakes, mirrors, and speed limiters to suit the Eccles line.[188] Initially only these vehicles were permitted to operate the Eccles line but the entire fleet except for 3 (1018, 1019, 1020) were modified between 2008 and 2012 for universal running,[13] under a programme known as the T-68X Universal Running programme.[189]

The newer M5000 trams proved to be considerably more reliable than the T-68/A fleet; which averaged 5,000 miles between breakdowns, while the M5000's averaged 20,000 miles. This led to a decision in 2012 to withdraw the entire fleet from service and replace them with M5000's. All of the T-68 and T-68As were withdrawn between April 2012 and April 2014.[190]

Tram no. 1007, the first to pass through the City Centre on the opening day, is due to be restored at Heaton Park Tramway.[191]

 Class  Image Type  Top speed  Length  Capacity   Number   Fleet Numbers   Routes operated   Built   Years operated 
 mph   km/h   Seated   Standing 
T-68 Manchester Metrolink 1001 and 1011at Manchester Victoria.jpg Tram 50 80 29m 86 122 26 1001–1026 Bury-Altrincham-Piccadilly
(later Eccles)
1991–1992 1992–2014
T-68A Manchester Piccadilly station - Metrolink (1).JPG Tram 50 80 29m 86 122 6 2001–2006 Eccles Line 1999 1999–2014


Service patterns[edit]

Metrolink operating at night (left) and in December snow (right), at Shudehill Interchange and Radcliffe tram stop respectively.

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.[192] Greater Manchester Metro 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.[192] 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.[192] Operators are required to provide this level of service at least 98% of the time, or incur a financial penalty charge.[193] This six-minute service pattern has been adopted on the rest of the network as the system has grown.[87][194][195] Heavy snowfall during the winter of 2009/10 impaired Metrolink services and the operator was criticised for failing to have cold weather procedures.[128] This prompted a programme to improve reliability and performance of the system in freezing conditions.[128][196] Metrolink operated icebreaker-style vehicles at night during snowfall in January 2013 to provide normal services.[197]

In January 2016, Transport for General Manchester agreed a baseline Service Specification to grade bidders seeking to operate the concession from July 2017; once the Second City Crossing is in operation. In the baseline service pattern, there are no designated 'peak' periods of service operation; instead there will be an 'enhanced' service operating from start of service to 8pm Monday to Friday, and to 6pm Saturday; and a 'core' service running at all other times. In the 'enhanced' service pattern, trams will run with a 6-minute frequency to Shaw & Oldham, Bury, Ashton, Altrincham, Manchester Airport and East Didsbury; and with a 12-minute frequency to Rochdale, Eccles and MediacityUK. When the Trafford line opens, services will run to the Trafford Centre with a 12-minute frequency. In the 'core' service pattern, all lines will run with a 12-minute frequency.[198]

Tram services[edit]

Peak time service:[199]

Peak time is 07:15–19:30 on weekdays and 09:30–18:30 on Saturdays.

Nine services which all run every 12 minutes:

Thus the combined frequency for some routes is at least every 6 minutes if not greater.

Offpeak service:[199]

Offpeak is before 07:15 and after 19:30 on weekdays, before 09:30 and after 18:30 on Saturdays, and all day Sundays and bank holidays.

Six services which all run every 12 minutes:

Early morning service:[199]

The early morning service operates 03:00–06:00 Monday to Saturday and 03:00–07:00 on Sundays and bank holidays.

One service which runs every 20 minutes:

This is largely to support airport shift workers and people with early flights.

Metrolink service routes[153]
Map of Greater Manchester overlaid with Metrolink's service routes in colour. Line termini and Manchester's two main stations are labelled.
(A) Altrincham – Bury
(peak only)
(B) Altrincham – Piccadilly (C) East Didsbury – Victoria
(offpeak only)
(D) MediaCityUK – Piccadilly
(peak only)
(E) Eccles – Ashton-under-Lyne
(via MediaCityUK)
(F) Manchester Airport – Cornbrook
(G) Bury – Etihad Campus (H) Shaw and Crompton – East Didsbury
(peak only)
(I) Rochdale Town Centre – Exchange Square
(J) Firswood – Manchester Airport
(03:00–06:00 only)
(K) East Didsbury – Deansgate-Castlefield
(peak only)


Metrolink Ticket Vending Machine at Bury Interchange

Metrolink fares were originally set by the system's operator,[192] 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;[200] Metrolink receives no public subsidy.[201][202] Fares typically rise each January above the rate of inflation.[203][204] The fare tariff is based on a division of the network's stations into fare zones.[205] 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.[200] 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.[200] In normal circumstances, tickets cannot be purchased on board Metrolink vehicles, and must be purchased from a ticket vending machine before boarding the vehicle.[206]

Fare evasion in 2006 was estimated at 2–6% of all users,[207] and in 2012 at 2.5% of all users.[208] Checking tickets and passes and issuing Standard fares is the responsibility of Metrolink's Passenger Services Representatives (PSRs), who provide security and assistance on the network;[209][208] between 1992 and 2008, Greater Manchester Police had a dedicated Metrolink unit responsible for policing the system.[210]

The original ticket vending machines were designed by Thorn EMI.[205] In 2005 GMPTE announced that rail passengers travelling from within Greater Manchester into Manchester city centre can use the Metrolink service between the nine City Zone stations for free.[211] Passengers must present a valid rail ticket, correctly dated with Manchester Ctlz as the destination.[212][213] 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.[214] These were replaced in 2009 with touchscreen machines, designed with the Scheidt & Bachmann Ticket XPress system.[162] In October 2012, TfGM announced it was devising a simpler zonal fare system, comparable to London fare zones, and preparing to introduce get me there, the region's new contactless smartcard system, for use on all public transport modes in Greater Manchester, including Metrolink.[203]


Metrolink trams and stops have been designed to be accessible to disabled passengers: each stop has been provided with access ramps or lifts, tactile paving, high visibility handrails, disabled boarding points and help points on the platforms. The trams have also been designed with with large areas available for the provision of wheelchairs and pushchairs.[215]

Mobility scooters were originally banned from Metrolink, however in 2014 a scheme was introduced whereby scooters could be allowed on trams, provided they have a permit which can be obtained after an assessment of the scooter's size and manoeuvrability.[216]

Bicycle policy[edit]

Metrolink does not allow full sized bicycles on to trams, but does permit the carriage of "fully covered" folding bicycles. The ban on non-folding bicycles was upheld in 2010, despite a campaign by cycling and green groups for the trams to be adapted to allow them.[217] Campaigners against the policy had argued that the ban on bicycles was anomalous, as other large objects such as ironing boards and deckchairs were allowed on the trams under current rules.[218]

Passenger numbers[edit]

The Department for Transport reported passenger journeys for the 2015/16 financial year at 34.3 million; a 10.1% increase from 31.2 million the previous year.[5] Patronage has risen steadily since its opening, from a start-point of 8.1 million in the 1992/93 fiscal year.[52] 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[219] to 19.6 million for the 2009/10 fiscal year.[52] Metrolink revised its method for calculating passenger boardings in 2010/11, meaning figures are not directly comparable with previous years.[52] TfGM projects that 41.7 million passenger journeys per year will be made on the Metrolink system by 2016/17.[16]

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.[201] 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.[201]

Estimated passenger journeys made on Metrolink per financial year
Year Passenger journeys Year Passenger journeys Year Passenger journeys Year Passenger journeys
1992/93 8.1m 1999/00 14.2m 2006/07 19.8m 2013/14 29.2m
1993/94 11.3m 2000/01 17.2m 2007/08 20.0m 2014/15 31.2m
1994/95 12.3m 2001/02 18.2m 2008/09 21.1m 2015/16 34.3m
1995/96 12.6m 2002/03 18.8m 2009/10 19.6m
1996/97 13.4m 2003/04 18.9m 2010/11 19.2m
1997/98 13.8m 2004/05 19.7m 2011/12 21.8m
1998/99 13.2m 2005/06 19.9m 2012/13 25.0m
Estimates provided by TfGM to the Department for Transport,[5] based on sales from ticket machines.[note 2]
Manchester Metrolink Passenger Numbers from 1992 to 2015[220]

Passenger satisfaction[edit]

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.[201] TfGM recognised that the older vehicles in its fleet – the T68/T68As — were outdated and the cause of much disruption, and agreed to replace them with M5000s by 2014.[50][178] Among those who used Metrolink less regularly, the system scored far better in the survey.[201] A survey in 2013 by the non-departmental government body Passenger Focus found that of the five major light rail systems in the United Kingdom – Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram, NET, Midland Metro and Blackpool tramway – Metrolink had the lowest overall satisfaction rating in the United Kingdom. Respondents were surveyed on value for money, punctuality, seating availability, tram stations and overall satisfaction. Metrolink was below average on all criteria, and 47% believed Metrolink was value for money compared to a national average of 60%.[221]

A further survey in late 2015 by watchdog Transport Focus, found that satisfaction levels had increased; 89% of passengers surveyed said they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with their overall journey, up from 83% in 2013, but still below the national average of 92%. It also found that 58% felt the service was value for money.[222] The national average rating for value for money on all tram networks was 69%.[223]


Unlike some Metro systems in the United Kingdom, the Manchester Metrolink has a high degree of street interaction between pedestrians and motorists with on-street running trams – this is most notable in Manchester city centre. All trams are equipped with a standard horn and a warning horn.[224] A number of fatal incidents have occurred on the network since opening in 1992:

  • On 18 October 2002, a pedestrian died after a collision with a tram after falling onto tram tracks near Manchester Central.[225]
  • On 25 June 2005, a pedestrian died after a collision with a tram at Navigation Road stop.[226]
  • On 5 June 2011, a pedestrian died after a collision near Piccadilly Gardens.[227]
  • On 15 December 2011, a blind man died after a collision with a tram near St Peters' Square.
  • On 6 February 2013, a pedestrian died after a collision with a tram at the Failsworth stop.[228]
  • On 11 January 2014, a pedestrian died after a collision with a tram at the Market Street stop.[229]
  • On 16 February 2016, a cyclist died after a collision with a tram at the Robinswood Road stop.[230]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The system is branded Metrolink.[2][3][4] The Department for Transport refers to the system as Manchester Metrolink,[5] an alternative unofficial name.[6][7] It is defined in Acts of Parliament and Byelaws as the Greater Manchester Light Rapid Transit System;[3][4] and sometimes (unofficially) called Greater Manchester Metrolink.[8]
  2. ^ Estimates excludes free travel such as Concessionary Bus Pass for pensioners and tickets sold through other vendors.[52]


  1. ^ a b "LTRA World Systems List index". Light Rail Transit Association. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Ogden & Senior 1992, p. 4.
  3. ^ a b Department for Transport (2009). "Explanatory Memorandum to the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (Exemptions) Order 2009". Retrieved 19 January 2013. The Order grants exemptions from certain requirements of railways legislation currently applying to the Greater Manchester Light Rapid Transit System ("Metrolink") ... 
  4. ^ a b c d Slatcher, Adrian (17 December 2010). "Procurement of hydro-electricity for Metrolink – the Greater Manchester light rapid transit system.". Manchester: Energy Planning Knowledge Base. Retrieved 19 January 2013. GMPTE own the Greater Manchester light rapid transit system – known as Metrolink. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Light Rail and Tram Statistics: England 2015/16" (PDF). Department for Transport. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  6. ^ Ogden & Senior 1992, p. 106.
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  8. ^ Ogden & Senior 1992, p. 39.
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  12. ^ "New Metrolink line to Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport to open on November 3 – a year ahead of schedule". Manchester Evening News. 13 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Manchester Metrolink, United Kingdom". Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
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External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google

KML is from Wikidata