Approval has been given for a scheme to expand Manchester’s Metrolink tram network with a new £350 million line that will extend the system to the Trafford Park area.
The go-ahead was given after transport secretary Chris Grayling granted Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) legal powers to proceed with the 3.4-mile route.
Construction could therefore begin as soon as this winter for a target completion date of 2020 or 2021.
The new line will branch off from the existing Pomona stop and call at six new stops at key destinations, including near the Old Trafford football ground, the Imperial War Museum and the Trafford Centre shopping mall.
The majority of the route will be built on dedicated, off-road rails to ensure faster, more reliable journey times, although there will be some stretches where the tramway shares space with existing roads.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd welcomed the news, saying it will be a “big step forward” for transportation in the city.
“Our new Trafford Park line will connect people across Greater Manchester to thousands of new job opportunities as well as offering fast, frequent and sustainable links to some of our city-region’s greatest sporting and cultural venues, not to mention the Trafford Centre,” he continued.
TfGM noted that the line will be a major boost for the area, connecting businesses to the city centre. Trafford Park is the largest major employment zone in Greater Manchester outside central Manchester, with over 1,200 businesses supporting 33,000 jobs in the area.
The £350 million in investment needed to proceed with the scheme has already been secured by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority through the ‘earn back’ funding arrangement as part of the Greater Manchester devolution deal. When plans for the line were put to consultation in the summer of 2014, 89 per cent of respondents were in favour of the scheme.
Over the past few years, some £1.5 billion has been invested in the Metrolink network, enabling it to triple in size. Currently, services call at 93 stops across 62 miles of on- and off-road track, catering to 35 million passenger journeys a year.