Manchester Metrolink is an urban light-rail system in Greater Manchester, England centred on Manchester City Centre. It operates services to the towns of Bury, Altrincham and Eccles.

Metrolink is operated under a management contract by Stagecoach Group, on behalf of the system’s owner, the GMPTE. The Metrolink network is approximately 23 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) long, with 37 stops along the route. Because much of the Metrolink route was formerly main-line railway with platforms about 900 mm above ground level, the new stops in the city centre also have 900 mm-high platforms.

Many more extensions to the Metrolink system are planned providing funding can be found. The ambitious "Big Bang", now named Phase 3 would take services to Oldham and Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, Stockport, Manchester Airport and to the Trafford Centre.

Construction historyEdit

Trams crossing at gmex

1019 arrives at GMex whilst 2004 departs for Eccles

Sale Metrolink station

Sale Metrolink station one of the converted former British Rail stations

For many years there had been plans to connect Manchester's two main railway stations, Piccadilly station to the south-east of the city centre, and Victoria station to the north. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were plans for a Picc-Vic tunnel to carry main-line trains, but the proposal was abandoned because of excessive cost. By the late 1980s, the power equipment on the electrified suburban railway line from Victoria to Bury, which had a unique-in-Britain side-contact third-rail power supply, was in need of replacement, and it was decided, rather than replace the equipment on a like-for-like basis, to construct a light rail system that would connect the Victoria–Bury line via on-street lines with the line to Altrincham, south-west of the city, and in the city centre to Piccadilly station.

Phase 1Edit

The Metrolink lines were formed by closing two electric train lines to trains between Altrincham and Cornbrook Junction (former Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway, electrified in 1931) and between Bury and Manchester Victoria, electrified by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1916. Trains ceased to operate to Bury, and trains arriving at Altrincham from Knutsford, Northwich and Chester were diverted to Manchester via Stockport, adding at least 10 minutes to an already slow journey The disadvantages of Metrolink's creation to the rail users of south Manchester and north Cheshire were considerable and remain so today (2008).

Authority to construct Phase 1 of Metrolink (Bury to Altrincham via city centre, with a spur to Piccadilly station) was granted in January 1988, with construction of the on-street section beginning in March 1990. Metrolink opened between Bury and Victoria on 6 April 1992, through the city centre between Victoria and G-Mex (the former Manchester Central railway station, now an exhibition centre) on 27 April 1992, and between G-Mex and Altrincham on 15 June 1992. The system was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 July 1992, and trams started operating into Piccadilly station on 20 July 1992, completing Phase 1 of the system. Conversion of the existing railway lines to Metrolink took far longer than had been planned . The Altrincham line was closed for 6 months, rather than one month as promised, with bus substitution during that period. Metrolink's own new trackwork in Manchester's city centre required reinstalling twice in the first years of operation, due to inadequate quality controls and poor design work, such as placing switches directly where the blades could be expected to be repeatedly crossed by buses.

Phase 2Edit

On 25 April 1997 work began on Phase 2, an extension from Cornbrook, on the Altrincham line, through Salford Quays to Eccles. Service started as far as Broadway on 6 December 1999 and to Eccles on 21 July 2000. The whole line was officially opened on 9 January 2001.

Planning permission was granted in October 2007 for a 400-metre long extension from a point between Harbour City and Broadway to the central plaza of the new Mediacity:uk development.[1]


Metrolink's Monday-Saturday service:

  1. Piccadilly station – Altrincham
  2. Piccadilly station – Eccles (Calls at Mediacity UK when Mediacity UK - Cornbrook line is not running)
  3. Altrincham – Bury (Daytime only)
  4. Bury-Droylsden
  5. Mediacity UK - Cornbrook (Daytime only)
  6. Rochdale Railway station - East Didsbury

Metrolink's Sunday & Bank Holiday service:

  1. Piccadilly station – Altrincham
  2. Piccadilly station – Eccles (Via Mediacity UK)
  3. Bury - Droylsden
  4. Rochdale Railway station - East Didsbury

The direct Altrincham-Bury (avoiding Piccadilly) service does not operate on Sundays. Passengers are required to change at Piccadilly Gardens.

Frequency on each service is every 12 minutes, but the interleaving of the Altrincham – Bury direct service with the services to Piccadilly Station mean that for much of the route there are two trams every 12 minutes, usually three and nine minutes apart.

Between Cornbrook and St Peter’s Square, with three services (Altrincham-Bury, Altrincham-Piccadilly and Eccles-Piccadilly) running every 12 minutes, the frequency is increased even more.

The current route length is:

Phase 1
Bury – Victoria 9.9 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)
Victoria – G-Mex 1.9 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)
Spur to Piccadilly station 0.4 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)
G-Mex – Altrincham 6.5 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)
Phase 2
Cornbrook – Broadway 1.9 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)
Broadway – Eccles 2.2 miles (Template:Convert/pround km)

Transport InterchangesEdit

Passenger rail interchanges are situated along the Metrolink route. These include Piccadilly, Victoria station, G-Mex for Deansgate, Altrincham, Navigation Road and Eccles.

Major bus interchanges are also situated at Bury, Victoria, Shudehill, Piccadilly Gardens, Altrincham and Eccles Metrolink Stations.

Tram stop listEdit

As of December 2007 there are 37 Metrolink stops: 17 former British Rail stations on the Phase 1 lines to Altrincham and Bury, 17 newly-build stops on the Phase 1 lines in the city centre and on the Phase 2 line to Eccles, and 3 shared mainline stations (Altrincham, Piccadilly and Victoria).

Bury Line Altrincham Line Eccles Line

(*)=planned, not built yet

The Navigation Road to Altrincham section is single track.

Depots Edit

The first Metrolink’s depot is located south of Queen’s Road (Cheetham Hill, M8) on the western side of the Bury line, between Victoria and Woodlands Road stops. The depot connections face Bury. There is a staff halt, Queens Road, serving the depot [2]. This facility will not be able to handle the expanded network, therefore GMPTE have obtained the site for a second depot, near Old Trafford stop [3].

2007 track renewalsEdit

Due to the age and condition of most of the track on the Bury and Altrincham routes it was decided that the mostly 1960s trackwork was to be relaid. This construction work included improvements to stations along the lines.

Bury Line The renewals commenced on 29 May 2007 with the cessation of services between Bury and Whitefield. By 22 June 2007 services on the Bury line terminated at Crumpsall. By 23 July 2007 there was no service on the Bury line as all northbound Metrolink trams in public use terminated at Victoria. The Bury Line re-opened on 13 September 2007.

Altrincham Line With the possible exception of the section between Stretford and Dane Road, the track along this route was not as worn as that on the Bury line and so not as much work was required. From 2 July 2007 various sections of the line were shut down and serviced with a replacement bus service. The Altrincham Line re-opened on 28 August 2007.

As of mid-September 2007 all tram services were back in operation, the work having been completed on time. Since the track renewals the ride is much smoother and quieter than before.

Fare structureEdit

Fares are charged depending on the number of fare zones travelled through, and whether travel is in the peak period - before 09:30 on a weekday, except on public holidays. The zones are shown above.

Tickets are purchased from machines at each stop. Single journeys must be completed within 90 minutes, return journeys the same day. It is also possible to purchase tickets from the machines for travel all day, for groups, or all weekend. Some ticket machines accept only coins; the others will also accept banknotes, and give a maximum of £7 in change. Train users travelling into the city centre from stations in Greater Manchester are able to use the Metrolink in the central zone for free. These train tickets can be used between Victoria, Shudehill, Market Street, Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly, Mosley Street, St Peter's Square and G-Mex. [4]

All Metrolink tickets must be purchased before travel. A "standard fare" of up to £80 is charged for travelling without a ticket[1].


Metrolink is policed by the Greater Manchester Police including Police Community Support Officers.

An initiative by Greater Manchester Police, which saw around 15 officers routinely patrolling the tram network, was stopped due to lack of funds. On-board ticket checks are done by Carlisle Security on behalf of the GMPTE.


File:Metrolink tram in Eccles.jpg

As of December 2007 the Metrolink fleet consists of 26 T-68 light-rail vehicles (LRV) numbered in the 1000 series, and six T68a vehicles built for the Eccles extension and numbered in the 2000 series. Both types were supplied by Ansaldobreda, the former in 1991 and the latter in 1999. The LRVs are articulated in the centre and normally operate singly, except during the rush hours when there are a few double trams along the Bury–Altrincham route. Three 1000-series trams (1005, 1010, and 1015) and all 2000-series trams are modified for use on the Eccles line, which involves large amounts of street running, with retractable and covered couplers and covered bogies.

In April 2007, eight new trams were ordered for the Metrolink. These will be Flexity Swift high-floor trams based on the K5000 series currently employed in the German cities of Cologne and Bonn, and similar to the low-floor models already used by London’s Tramlink. When delivered in 2009 these 8 new trams will enable all the Bury - Altrincham direct services to operate as double trams, significantly increasing capacity. A further 4 trams of the same type have now been ordered by the GMPTE to allow for a new 12-minute service between Cornbrook and the new Mediacity:uk extension. [5]

Technical data (T68 and T68a trams)Edit

The trams[6] (bi-directional: with cabs at both ends and doors on both sides), are 30 m long and consist of two carriages, joined by an articulated section in the middle, with four doors per side. The front and rear bogies are powered, with two 750V, 105kW motors per bogie. The third bogie, located under the articulated part, is not powered. The maximum speed is 80km/h, with 50 km/h allowed for street running.

There are 83 seats per vehicle (plus 4 folding seats) and the nominal capacity is 200 passengers (250 maximum). Trams normally run singly, but up to four units can be operated by one driver (with two-unit services commonplace at peak times).

List of Trams by name and numberEdit

Twenty-three of the trams have name plates, named after famous Mancunian people, achievements or places.

  • 1001
  • 1002 Virgin Megastores[7]
  • 1003
  • 1004 The Robert Owen
  • 1005 The Railway Mission
  • 1006
  • 1007 Sony Centre Arndale
  • 1008
  • 1009 Virgin Megastores
  • 1010
  • 1011 Virgin Megastores
  • 1012 Virgin Megastores
  • 1013 The Grenadier Guardsman
  • 1014 The Great Manchester Runner
  • 1015 Burma Star
  • 1016 Virgin Megastores
  • 1025 Fred G Fitter
  • 1026 The Power
  • 2001 Joe Clarke
  • 2002 Sony Centre Arndale
  • 2003 Traveller 2000
  • 2004 Salford Lads Club
  • 2005 WH Smith West One
  • 2006 Sony Centre Arndale


Metrolink carried 18.8 million passengers in 2004, compared to 7.5 million who used the Bury and Altrincham rail services before Metrolink. According to Metrolink sources, at least two million fewer car journeys have been made each year along the tram route.

Metrolink has become something of a victim of its own popularity. Many services are extremely busy, especially at peak times at the city centre stations, and fares have risen at a rate far above that of inflation.

In the first two years of Metrolink operation, peak hour patronage was well below expected levels, but off-peak patronage exceeded expectations. Metrolink reacted by reducing peak fares which improved loadings.

System Changes after ConstructionEdit

There have been a few modifications to the system since the opening of Phase I in 1992.

  • Originally the stop in Market Street handled trams to Bury only, and the one around the corner in High Street handled trams from Bury only. When Market Street was closed to road traffic these stops were replaced by a new platform stop in the centre of Market Street, which handles trams in both directions. This stop opened on 10 August 1998.
  • Crossover points were installed in the section approaching Piccadilly Station in order to allow inbound trams to access either platform without having first to proceed to the buffer stops at the far end of the undercroft area; this in order to facilitate quicker tram turnaround times. However, this mode of operation seems to have been discontinued in recent years.
  • Shudehill interchange between Victoria station and Market Street opened in April 2003. The bus station complementing it opened on 29 January 2006.
  • Cornbrook station on the Altrincham line was opened to provide an interchange with the new line to Eccles. There was initially no official public access to this station from the street, but this changed on 3 September 2005.
  • On 15 July 2007 Stagecoach took over as the Metrolink operator from Serco. Unlike Serco, Stagecoach do not own the concession, merely operate it on a fixed-term management contract.

Phase 3Edit

The initial Metrolink network was formed of two converted railway lines, linked across the city centre (Phase 1). Since opening in 1992, one extension has been completed to the Salford town of Eccles via Salford Quays (Phase 2). Metrolink Phase 3, also known as the Big Bang, was an ambitious expansion programme which would have seen trams running to Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, Didsbury, Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport.

Phase 3aEdit

Phase 3 has now been split into two sections: Phase 3a will involve taking over the main line railway to Oldham and Rochdale station, as well as extensions to Droylsden and to Chorlton-cum-Hardy. In December 2004 the government announced that £520 million would be authorised for Phase 3. A first stage of Phase 3 was given the go ahead by the Department for Transport in July 2006, with a £300m funding gap expected to be met by a loan. Phase 3a will begin construction in 2008 and is hoped to become operational in 2011/12.

Phase 3bEdit

The second part of Phase 3, referred to as Phase 3b, will take the lines into Oldham and Rochdale town centres, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Didsbury and Manchester Airport.

Phase 3b forms part of Greater Manchester’s integrated transport strategy, which will recommend a package of transport investment and traffic management measures. In July 2007 GMPTE, along with AGMA submitted a bid to the Governments Transport Innovation Fund to secure the funding for this package which, if received, will guarantee the extensions to these destinations.
File:Metrolink canal crossing at pomona.jpg
The outcome of this bid for funding will be known early in 2008.

Further extensions are also planned, continuing from Didsbury to Stockport, Mediacity at Salford Quays and to the Trafford Centre. The Trafford Park line will continue on from Pomona viaduct on the Eccles line which has been built with the expansion in mind. The new line is expected to serve the Manchester United home ground at Old Trafford and Imperial War Museum North.

Concerns have been raised regarding the single route through the city centre which may become a bottleneck when new extensions are open - with six or seven services all running over the same track, questions have been raised about the possibility of a 'tram-jam'. The other issue is that the focus of the city centre is moving to quarters not currently served by Metrolink. GMPTE have reacted to this with an additional favoured line down Cross Street between GMex and Victoria. GMPTE say the line would also aid the city with additional tram stops, possibly around the Town Hall and Arndale Shopping Centre areas.

Project Length New trams required
Extension spur from Harbour City to Mediacity funded jointly by Peel Holdings and North West Development Agency, service to run between Cornbrook and Mediacity every 12 minutes 0.25 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) 4
Additional route across Manchester city centre between Central and Victoria1 mile (Template:Convert/pround km) N/A
Conversion of existing railway from Victoria to Oldham and Rochdale (plus some street running) 14.9 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) 22
Extension to Manchester Airport 13 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) 26
Extension to Ashton-under-Lyne 6.2 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) 9
Extension to East Didsbury (optional, with possible further extension to Stockport) 8.7 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) 9
Extension to the Trafford Centre shopping centre, which will stop at Old Trafford Football Ground, Imperial War Museum for the North and Trafford Park subject to private-sector funding 4.3 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) Not Yet Known
Completion of Manchester Airport loop subject to private sector funding 4 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) Not Yet Known

A bid for Transport Innovation Fund monies towards the second stage, plus an additional city centre crossing, which would take the total cost of Phase 3 to an estimated £1.2 billion with a road charging scheme is expected to be included to cover some of the cost.[8]

A network including all the proposed expansions will increase the size from 23 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) with 37 stops to 70 miles (Template:Convert/pround km) with at least 115 stops.


Metrolink attracted significant negative publicity in its early days. Delays in construction, closures for rebuilding defective trackwork and lack of thought in ticketing and information systems all attracted criticism. Politically, the system was deemed to be an immediate success, though the tax burden on Greater Manchester's ratepayers increased notably, since Metrolink attracted subsidies the previous trains had not.

Many of the initial problems have been addressed during the years, but ticketing and passenger information remain major failings. Through ticketing beyond the Manchester suburban area is nonexistent for travellers from Metrolink stations (though possible travelling inbound from elsewhere in Great Britain), leading to fare increases on journeys involving the wider rail system. When the Altrincham and Bury services were part of the national rail network, through ticketing was possible.

One of the criticisms levelled at Metrolink is that it does not reach the Trafford Centre, other than via a shuttle bus from Stretford Metrolink stop, and travel on this shuttle bus is not covered by the MetroMax ticket that allows travel through the rest of the network. The line from Manchester city centre to Eccles is also disappointing, as it takes longer than an equivalent bus journey following a more direct route (not via Salford Quays), despite buses not being able to use the dedicated Metrolink infrastructure.

Also during the night, there is lack of security, so makes it easy to jump on trams without paying


  1. Williams, Tony (21 November 2007). 21 November 2007: Mediacity:UK and Enhanced Salford Quays Service. Light Rail Transit Association. Retrieved on 2007-12-08.
  2. Bury line description. Retrieved on 2007-12-20.
  3. New Metrolink depot. Retrieved on 2007-12-20.
  4. Free tram rides for Greater Manchester's train passengers. GMPTE.
  5. Mediacity:UK and Enhanced Salford Quays Service. Light Rail Transit Association.
  6. T68 and T68a LRV's: manufacturer's data sheet. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  7. 'Trams except 1018' List of Trams at British Trams Online
  8. 'Metrolink wins a "Little Bang"', article in the Manchester Evening News

See alsoEdit


{{UK light rail}} {{Greater Manchester Metrolink stations}}