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An Introduction to Metrolink

These pages are about the origins of Metrolink and its developments. Rail History outlines mainline railway developments from 1830. By the 1980s there were two unconnected networks north and south of the city. Some lines having only or mainly local services and requiring increasing levels of subsidy plus considerable capital expenditure for renewals.

Several studies led to the original Metrolink six line plan. Metrolink History 1 outlines how this evolved through the Bury, Altrincham & Eccles line openings and on to December 2004. Metrolink History 2 continues from 2005 with Phase 3 extensions, all of which have opened. It also has brief details of possible future lines. Metrolink Timeline lists, in tabular form, the significant dates in Metrolink’s History.

Metrolink & rail lines plan
System in 2019 (69KB)
For Metrolink service information see the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) web site.

Metrolink Line Description Pages

On the plan (right) Metrolink lines are shown in various colours; these indicate the pages where they are described. These descriptions work away from the delta junction in the City Centre.

Main line railways are in blue. East Lancashire Railway, a heritage line, is shown in dark blue. Route descriptions can be followed by using paper or online maps.

Metrolink pages, including Infrastructure, Vehicle information, Photogallery and News, are listed below with modification dates.

Line openings, a brief history

Early plans were for the network to be built in stages, the first stage had to be able to stand on its own. Thus the Altrincham and Bury lines with City Centre street running tracks were phase one of Metrolink. This opened from Bury to Victoria on 6 April 1992; Victoria to Deansgate–Castlefield on 27 April; Deansgate–Castlefield to Altrincham on 15 June; then the branch to Piccadilly Rail Station on 20 July 1992.

The Eccles line from Cornbrook, on the Altrincham line, through Salford Quays and on to Eccles became phase two. This opened to Broadway on 6 December 1999 and Eccles on 21 July 2000. City South describes the segregated sections from Deansgate–Castlefield to Pomona, Trafford Bar and Chorlton.

On 7 July 2011 the Chorlton route from Trafford Bar to St. Werburgh’s Road stop opened. Chorlton to East Didsbury opened on 23 May 2013.

The Oldham and Rochdale line opened to Mumps temporary stop on 13 June 2012; it was extended to Shaw and Compton on 16 December 2012; then to Rochdale Railway Station on 28 February 2013.

On 18 January the phase 3a temporary line through the Oldham tunnels closed, enabling it to be disconnected. The Oldham Town Centre phase 3b line was connected and tested, it opened on 27 January 2014.

Rochdale town centre line final commissioning stage started on Thursday 27 March; trams ran out of service along the route every 12 minutes. Then the Rochdale town centre line opened on 31 March 2014.

The Ashton route from Manchester to Droylsden was constructed as part of phase 3a extensions, testing then driver training took place followed by a soft opening on 8 February 2013, with three days free travel for local residents. The line opened to the general public on Monday 11 February with regular advertised services.

Droylsden to Ashton–under–Lyne opened on 9 October 2013.

Chorlton to Manchester Airport opened on 3 November 2014.

Second City Centre Crossing partially opened from Exchange Square to Victoria on 6 December 2015. Deansgate–Castlefield through St. Peter’s Square to Victoria opened on 26 February 2017. Through services use the outer faces of both island platforms. On 28 January 2018 Victoria turn–back (inner faces of island platforms) came into use; Airport line services reverse here.

TfGM held a public consultation on plans for a new Trafford Park Line, from 4 July to 26 September 2014. They applied for a Transport and Works Act Order on 11 November 2014. The government granted the Order on 13 October 2016. The line is under construction; see Trafford Park Line page for available details.

Metrolink phase 3b extensions have been enabled by the Greater Manchester Transport Fund.

TfGM now have 120 FLEXITY Swift M5000 trams from Bombardier. See the Bombardier M5000 page for more information; also new trams photo gallery for pictures.

TfGM has signed a contract for 27 new M5000 trams which will increase capacity on the network. The first tram is expected to arrive in February 2020, with other units following on a monthly basis through to June 2021. For more information see 2 July 2018: 27 news trams on the way for Metrolink on the News 2018 page.

Signalling and Tram Management System

Phases 1 & 2 Track Circuit Block working on segregated lines and line of sight working for on street sections are described on the Signalling page.

Phase 3 requires a new Tram Management System (TMS). This is based on Line of Sight working; however, it is different from the previous line of sight in the city centre. TMS gives Metrolink Control a more precise position for each tram and enables the new Passenger Information Displays to show accurate information.

The City Centre, Deansgate–Castlefield through Cornbrook to both Eccles and Brooklands/Timperley, Ashton line, East Didsbury line, Airport line, Rochdale via Oldham line and Bury line to Whitefield including the stop use the new system.

The pages about Metrolink are based on information published by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) formerly the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE), the GMA Group who built phase one and Altram who built phase two.

Recent Update details

Metrolink pages listed with most recent modification date

Metrolink Introduction: top of page

This page was written and illustrated by Tony Williams. Contact if you have any comments, ideas or suggestions about these pages.