Despite Manchester’s Victorian infrastructure throwing up unforeseen challenges – including a collapsed Victorian sewer, and double the number of anticipated exhumations following the discovery of a former church graveyard on Cross Street – the £165m Second City Crossing is expected to open in early 2017.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) opened the first phase of the route, from Victoria Station through to a new stop at Exchange Square, in December 2015.
All major civil engineering works for phase two – including installing overhead lines to power the trams along the route – are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Due to the potential delays, TfGM had been expecting completion in summer 2017. However contractor M-Pact Thales (MPT) worked with utility companies and TfGM to ensure the line is on track to be finished earlier in the year.
A testing and commissioning programme will resume in early 2017 before the first passenger services can launch.
Councillor Andrew Fender, chair of the TfGM committee, said: “It’s great to see these final sections of rail laid, one of the final jigsaw pieces in the puzzle. With some infrastructure still dating back to the Victorians, building through a busy city has not been an easy task. The scale of the venture has been impressive and, while there has been inevitable disruption, we’re close to the finish line and to customers, residents and businesses reaping the benefits.
“Since the Second City Crossing programme began we’ve seen a huge increase in Metrolink use across the network, from 27 to 35 million passenger journeys a year. The need for a new line through the city has never been more pressing.
“To make room for more customers we’ve also opened a new tram stop in Exchange Square and competed major rebuilds of a further four city centre tram stops.
“This major overhaul will mean we can continue supporting the demand to travel from workers, residents and visitors to our ever-growing city – connecting people with jobs, days out, family and friends.”
Expansion of Manchester’s Metrolink network began in 2008. MPT project director Peter Jones said: “Over the past eight years of partnership with TfGM, we’ve built 58 new tram stops and more than 60km of new track. Reaching this milestone is a measure of our teams’ tenacity and we will work together to ensure the opening is achieved early next year.”
The Second City Crossing leaves Victoria Station and travels along Corporation Street to a new stop at Exchange Square. Services will continue along Cross Street and Princess Street to run through the major new stop recently completed in St Peter’s Square.