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Manchester Metrolink

Metrolink is the light-rail (tram) system operated by Serco in Manchester, England.

For many years there had been plans to connect Manchester's two main railway stations, Piccadilly station to the southeast of the city centre, and Victoria station[?] to the north of the centre. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were plans for a PicVic tunnel to carry mainline 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 that rather than replace the equipment on a like-for-like basis to construct a light-rail system which would connect the Victoria-Bury line with the line to Altrincham[?], southwest of the city, and via on-street lines in the city centre to Piccadilly station.

The authority to construct Phase I of Metrolink (Bury to Altrincham via city centre, plus a spur to Piccadilly station) was granted in January 1988, with construction of the street track section beginning in March 1990. Metrolink opened for passenger service 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 I of the system.

On 25 April 1997 work began on Phase II of Metrolink, which was an extension from Cornbrook, on the Altrincham line, through Salford Quays[?] to Eccles[?]. Service on the new route started as far as Broadway on 6 December 1999 and to Eccles on 21 July 2000.

As of the summer of 2003, the Metrolink network is approximately 37 kilometres long, and has 37 stops (one, Cornbrook, having no public access from the outside as it is purely an interchange between the Altrincham and Eccles lines). Moseley Street stop in the city centre only serves trams travelling westward. Because much of the route of Metrolink was formerly a mainline railway, the stations on the former railway routes have normal platforms about 90cm above ground level; consequently the new stops built in the city centre also have 90 cm high platforms.

Table of contents

Routes

Normal weekday and Saturday service is on the following routes:
  1. Piccadilly station - Altrincham
  2. Piccadilly station - Bury
  3. Piccadilly station - Eccles
  4. Altrincham - Bury (via a direct route which omits Piccadilly Gardens and Piccadilly station)

Service frequency is normally 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 3 and 9 minutes apart). Between Cornbrook and St Peters' Square the addition of the Eccles service increases the frequency even more.

The Altrincham - Bury direct service does not operate on Sundays.

The current route length is:

  • Phase 1:
    • Bury - Victoria -- 15.9 km.
    • Victoria - G-Mex -- 3.1 km.
    • Spur to Piccadilly station -- 0.7 km.
    • G-Mex - Altrincham -- 10.4 km.
  • Phase 2:
    • Cornbrook - Broadway -- 3.0 km.
    • Broadway - Eccles -- 3.5 km.

Fare structure

Fares are charged depending on the number of fare zones travelled through, and whether travel is in the peak period (defined as before 0930 on weekdays). The zones are:
  1. City Zone -- Everywhere between Victoria station and G-Mex.
  2. Zone A -- Bury, Radcliffe, Whitefield.
  3. Zone B -- Besses o'th' Barn, Prestwich, Heaton Park.
  4. Zone C -- Bowker Vale, Crumpsall, Woodlands Road.
  5. Zone D -- the old name of the City Zone.
  6. Zone E -- Trafford Bar, Old Trafford, Stretford.
  7. Zone F -- Dane Road, Sale, Brooklands.
  8. Zone G -- Timperley, Navigation Road, Altrincham.
  9. Zone H -- Pomona, Exchange Quay, Salford Quays, Anchorage, Harbour City, Broadway, Langworthy, Weaste, Ladywell, Eccles.

Zone H is considered to border Zones D and E.

Tickets are purchased from machines located 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. Half the ticket machines only accept coins, the others will also accept banknotes but give a maximum of 7 in change.

Vehicles

The Metrolink fleet currently consists of 26 Italian-built T68 light rail vehicles built in 1991 and numbered in the 1000-series, and 6 type T68a vehicles built in 1999 for the Eccles extension and numbered in the 2000-series (and easily identified by the contrasting aquamarine coloured doors required by late 1990s disability regulations). The LRVs are hinged in the centre and normally operate singly, except during the rush hours when there are a few "double trams".

Patronage

In 2001 Metrolink carried 17.2 million passengers, compared to 7.5 million who used the Bury and Altrincham rail services prior to the construction of Metrolink.

Changes to the system since original construction

There have been a few modifications to the system since the opening of Phase I in 1992.
  • Originally there were stops at the side of Market Street handling trams in the Bury direction only, and around the corner in High Street handling 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.
  • Cornbrook station was opened on the Altrincham line to provide an interchange with the new line to Eccles. There is no public access to this station from the street.
  • Shudehill stop opened in April 2003 between Victoria station and Market Street. This will form part of a transport interchange with a new bus station which is to open in Autumn 2004.

Future developments

The government has authorised the construction of Phase III of Metrolink, which will see a massive increase in the size of the network, providing all the necessary money can be found:
  1. Conversion of existing railway from Victoria to Oldham and Rochdale, plus some street running -- 24 km, will require 22 new LRVs.
  2. Extension to Manchester Airport -- 21 km, will require 26 new LRVs.
  3. Extension to East Didsbury[?] -- 14 km, will require 9 new LRVs (possible further extension to Stockport[?].
  4. Extension to Ashton-Under-Lyne[?] -- 10 km, will require 9 new LRVs.
  5. Extension to the Trafford Centre shopping mall -- 7 km, will require 7 new LRVs (the Trafford Centre is currently served by a shuttle bus from Stretford Metrolink stop).

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