Manchester Metrolink to double in size

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Manchester Metrolink in action (photo West Yorkshire Metro)

Manchester Metrolink was a pioneering light rail system when it opened in 1992. The first in the UK to include on-street running, but despite success in easing road congestion, it has been stifled by a lack of investment to meet natural growth or to develop new routes across one of the UK’s largest metropolitan areas.

Two years ago the government gave a provisional go-ahead for an ambitious expansion plan subject to funding being agreed. Now the Greater Manchester’s Metrolink is set to double in size with a total of £640 million being invested in the expansion and improvement of the network.

When the expansion is complete, Greater Manchester’s Metrolink network will cover nearly 60 miles (95 km) making it one of the biggest tram systems in the UK, 45 million trips are expected to be made by passengers using Metrolink every year, taking 10 million car journeys off the road.

The Metrolink expansion is being implemented in two stages. The first phase (3a) will extend the network to Oldham and Rochdale, Droylsden in Tameside, and Chorlton in South Manchester. The second phase of the expansion (3b) will take Metrolink into Oldham and Rochdale town centres as well as to Ashton-under-Lyne, East Didsbury and Manchester Airport.

Manchester has also been granted ‘programme entry’ for a £3bn bid for funding from the governments transport innovation fund. New cross-city bus routes and more frequent services are envisaged and improvements to local rail, including more carriages and station improvements. There will also be new cycle routes and secure cycle parking spaces, as well as improved park and ride facilities for rail and Metrolink. The majority of the improvements are to be in place before the Manchester introduces a two tier rush hours only congestion charge in 2013.

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