The new Manchester Second City Crossing line between town hall and Victoria Station officially opened on 26 February.
The GBP165m line forms the final part of a GBP1.5bn transport expansion plan, previously dubbed ‘the big bang’. Work started in 2009 with routes to East Disbury, MediaCityUK, Rochdale via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester airport, now culminating in this new city centre line that veers away from the Piccadilly Gardens/Market Street routes and instead traverses Cross Street, taking in a major new stop at St Peter’s Square.
Just under a mile long and taking three years to complete, Peter Cushing, Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink Director, commented that the Second City Crossing would give the capacity to not only run more trams through the centre, but also to provide a back-up plan if there is any issue along another route, meaning that trams can run with “a lot more surety and a lot more reliability”.
The line saw delays in 2015 after works uncovered the remains of 280 shallow-buried bodies in cemetery beneath Cross Street – the Cross Street chapel to which these belonged was destroyed by bombing during World War Two. Archaeologists had to exhume the bodies, leading to tramway construction delays of several months.
A 5.5km (3.4-mile), six-stop line to the Trafford Centre is now undergoing planning to join the network, expected to open by 2020. Although already three times it original size and the largest light rail system in the UK, at this point the network will have extended to cover over 66 miles and 99 stops.