A Brief History of the Manchester Metrolink

by | Jul 26, 2017 | 2000s, History, Manchester

Manchester’s first electric tram was introduced in 1901. By 1930, Manchester boasted the third largest tram system in the UK. By 1949 however, the Manchester tram lines were closed due to the rise in popularity of cheaper bus alternatives.

It wasn’t until 1991 that construction work began on the Bury, Altrincham and City Centre lines. In July 1992, The Metrolink was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen at St Peters Square Manchester for the grand opening of the Metrolink.

Queen visits Manchester. Pictured here the Queen opens the Metrolink at St Peter’s Square. 17th July 1992.

In 1997, work began on phase two of the Manchester Metrolink. This involved the construction of a new 4 mile line linking Eccles to the City Centre.

Phase 3 saw the introduction of 4 new lines, with construction beginning in 2009. The new lines consisted of the Oldham and Rochdale line, The East Manchester line, the South Manchester line and the Manchester Airport line. A route to Media City was also introduced in 2010 which branched from the Eccles line.

The Oldham line was converted from an existing heavy rail line with many new stops added. A disused line was used as part of the South Manchester line which up until 2013 ran to St Werburgh’s road and a new line was constructed to form the East Manchester line running as far as Droylsdon.

Expansion on these lines continued with construction of the line to Manchester Airport completing in 2014. Expansion of the East Manchester line to Ashton under Lyne and the South Manchester line to Didsbury were also completed that year.

A second city centre route, known as the Second City Crossing opened in February 2017. This involved laying new track between St Peter’s Square and Victoria Station via Albert Square, Cross Street and Corporation Street. A new tram stop was also constructed at Exchange Square.

The original T68 trams were retired from use in 2014 and were superseded by the current yellow M5000 trams. There are currently around 120 trams in operation.