LRTA logo Light Rail Transit Association
Light Rail for better public transport

Metrolink Timeline

1982 – 1992:   Planning and Construction, Phase 1

datesevents
1982Rail Strategy study set up by Greater Manchester Council, GMPTE and British Rail.
November 1984GMPTE deposits first Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Bill in Parliament seeking powers to construct city centre light rail routes between Piccadilly Gardens and Piccadilly Station, Victoria Station and Deansgate (G-Mex).
1985GMPTE submits Application to Department of Transport for capital grant for Phase 1 light rail project – conversion of Bury and Altrincham lines to LRT and construction of city centre links.
November 1985GMPTE deposits LRT (No.2) Bill in parliament covering remaining parts of the Phase 1 system – Victoria to Bury and G-Mex to Altrincham.
1986Greater Manchester Council abolished. A new joint board, with representatives from the ten Greater Manchester district councils, assumes power of Passenger Transport Authority and unanimously endorses Light Rail proposals.
March 1987Project Light Rail at Debdale Park – First passenger carrying light rail vehicle in Greater Manchester; a Docklands Light Railway car operates for three weeks, sponsored by major manufacturers.
July 1987Secretary of State for Transport indicates in the House of Commons that a Government grant will be available, subject to private sector involvement.
November 1987Third Parliamentary Bill deposited for LRT extension to Salford Quays.
January 1988Secretary of State for Transport authorises GMPTE to invite tenders for phase 1 of the light rail project (Bury to Altrincham via city centre).
February 1988Royal Assent received for Parliamentary Bills deposited in 1984 and 1985.
June 1988Light Rail project relaunched under the name Metrolink.
September 1988Tendering begins for Phase 1 Altrincham to Bury with the selection of eight consortia announced.
November 1988Fourth Parliamentary Bill deposited for extensions to Oldham and Rochdale, Didsbury, Trafford Park and variations of Salford Quays.
March 1989Service diversions began in Manchester City Centre and 3 consortia were selected for the second stage of tendering.
27 September 1989Announcement of successful consortium – GMA Group (GEC Mowlem, AMEC and GM Buses).
24 October 1989Michael Portillo Minister of State for Transport gives final approval for Metrolink.
November 1989Fifth Parliamentary Bill deposited for Trafford Park following its withdrawal from Fourth Bill and Sixth Bill deposited for Rochdale town centre and Chorlton – Didsbury.
December 1989Work commences on main GMA contract.
March 1990Construction of street track section begins and the vehicle mock up is delivered.
April 1990Royal Assent received for Parliamentary Bill for Salford Quays.
May 1990Public open days for vehicle prototype mock-up.
5 June 1990Design, Build, Operate and Maintain (DBOM) contract signed with Greater Manchester Metro Limited.
July 1990Timperley to Altrincham – layout re-modeled for Metrolink.
Summer 1990Cornbrook Underpass construction starts.
November 1990Seventh Bill deposited for Oldham town centre.
Third and Fourth Bills receive Royal Assent.
April 1991Cornbrook Underpass completed and ready for track laying.
July 1991Bury electric trains withdrawn from Victoria to Crumpsall.
16 August 1991Last Bury electric train – end of British Rail operation to Bury.
August 1991First light rail vehicle delivered to Queens Road Depot from Italy.
September 1991First light rail vehicle on street in central Manchester – propelled by diesel locomotive for gauging tests.
October 1991Fifth Bill receives Royal Assent.
24 December 1991Last electric trains, Altrincham – Deansgate.

1992 – 2001:   Phase 1 opens, Planning, Construction and Opening Phase 2

datesevents
6 April 1992Metrolink opens for passenger service from Bury to Victoria.
27 April 1992First street operation in the United Kingdom when passenger operation commences through Manchester City Centre to G Mex (now known as Deansgate-Castlefield) from Victoria and enters the Guiness Book of Records as England’s only Street operated Light Rapid Transport System.
15 June 1992Metrolink opens for passenger service from G Mex to Altrincham.
17 July 1992Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II declares Metrolink open at a ceremony in Manchester.
20 July 1992Metrolink Phase 1 is complete as operation to Piccadilly Rail Station commences.
November 1992Sixth Bill receives Royal Assent.
May 1994Seventh Bill receives Royal Assent. Government backs plans for Metrolink Phase 2 Eccles via Salford Quays line – the first light rail extension to have on-street running.
October 1994Application for Transport and Works Act order to build Airport extension.
April 1995Application for Transport and Works Act order to build Eccles extension.
June/Sept 1995Public Inquiry into Manchester Airport extension.
October 1995Public Inquiry into Salford Quays/Eccles extension.
January 1996Tendering for Salford Quays/Eccles begins.
February 1996Public consultation on the Ashton-under-Lyne extension.
21 October 1996Transport and works order made for Eccles extension from Broadway to Eccles.
8 November 1996Altram (consortium of Serco Limited, Ansaldo Trasporti, Laing Civil Engineering and 3I) is announced as the preferred bidder for Phase 2 of the contract.
December 1996Application for order to build Ashton extension.
Government approves final funding package for Salford Quays/Eccles extension.
April 1997Contract signed between GMPTE and Altram to build Salford Quays/Eccles extension.
25 April 1997Work begins on Salford Quays and Eccles extension.
May 1997Powers for Manchester Airport extension granted by government.
26 May 1997Serco Metrolink take over operation of the Bury to Altrincham line.
June 1997Public Inquiry into Ashton extension.
July 1997Construction work starts on Phase 2 Eccles via Salford Quays line.
20 January 1998Construction work begins outside the entrance of the Piccadilly Metrolink Station, to enable trams to cross over the tracks before entering the station.
21 April 1998Beams lifted into place over the Manchester Ship Canal
27 April 1998Piccadilly Crossover on London Road becomes operational.
3 August 1998Minister of Transport Dr John Reid launches Integrated Transport Policy.
6 August 1998First street rail on Salford Quays and Eccles line laid by Glenda Jackson MP.
10 August 1998New Market Street island platform becomes operational replacing High Street and former Market Street stops.
August 1998Transport and works order for the Ashton-Under-Lyne route made; granting Powers for construction.
6 December 1999Eccles via Salford Quays line is officially opened as far as Broadway tram stop by Prime Minister Tony Blair.
March 2000John Prescott MP visits Manchester to announce government funding of up to £250 million to finance the Single Contract.
21 July 2000The Eccles extension is launched by Bev Hughes MP at the terminal Regent Street stop in Eccles town centre.
9 January 2001HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, officially opens Salford Quays/Eccles services.

2001 – 2017:   Phase 3

datesevents
April 2001GMPTE issue bid documents for Phase 3.
April 2002Secretary of State grants compulsory purchase powers and planning approval for Second Depot.
December 2002GMPTA and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) agree a £520 million funding package with Government.
GMPTE announce the two preferred bidders for the Phase 3 single contract.
*Transport Minister, John Spellar, unconditionally grants consent for the closure of the Oldham Loop line, allowing the conversion from heavy rail line to Metrolink light rail.
31 March 2003Shudehill opens for service.
28April 20003Transport Minister John Spellar MP officially opens Shudehill.
January 2004Ground Transport Interchange at Manchester Airport opens, including space for future Metrolink stop.
July 2004Due to cost increases, government withdraws funding for Metrolink Phase 3 expansion.
August 2004Greater Manchester unites behind ‘Get Metrolink Back on Track’ campaign.
December 2004Department for Transport confirms funding is still available for Metrolink expansion subject to detailed plans.
July 2006Government agrees a multi-million funding package to upgrade existing Metrolink infrastructure.
July 2006Government gives conditional funding approval for Metrolink Phase 3a to Oldham and Rochdale, Droylsden, and St Werburgh’s Road stop in Chorlton.
Summer 200720 miles of worn Metrolink track is replaced on Bury and Altrincham lines and in Manchester city centre.
July 200710-year contract to operate Metrolink awarded to Stagecoach Metrolink
August 2007Parsons Brinckerhoff is appointed as the Metrolink Phase 3 Delivery Partner.
February 2008Government approves final round of funding to upgrade existing Metrolink network.
April 2008MPact Thales consortium is selected as preferred bidder for the ‘design, construct and maintain’ contract for Phase 3a.
May 2008Government approves funding package for new lines to Oldham and Rochdale, Droylsden and Chorlton.
May 2009Greater Manchester Transport Fund includes Phase 3b Metrolink lines to Oldham and Rochdale Town Centres, Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe Town Centre and the Second City Crossing.
13 July 2009First Bombardier M5000 tram arrives at Metrolink Queen’s Road depot
October 2009New yellow and silver Metrolink visual identity revealed.
Heavy rail Oldham Loop Line is closed for work to start on conversion to Metrolink.
November 2009Work starts to replace all Metrolink ticket machines with 250 state-of-the-art new touchscreen machines.
14 December 2009Preparation work begins with trees and vegetation clearance along the disused railway cutting from Mauldeth Road West in Chorlton towards Didsbury on the East Didsbury line.
16 December 2009First new M5000 tram (#3002) enters service on Eccles line.
21 December 2009Official M5000 launch event with 3003.
6 March 2010Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne and Chorlton to East Didsbury Metrolink lines final funding approved.
May 2010Metrolink line to MediaCityUK opens.
July 2011New line opens to St Werburgh’s Road.
August 2011Construction work starts on Manchester Airport line.
Operation and maintenance contract transferred to RATP Dev Ltd.
August 2012Rochdale via Oldham line opens to Oldham Mumps.
December 2012Rochdale via Oldham line is extended with new stops at Derker and Shaw & Crompton.
February 2013Ashton line opens to Droylsden.
Rochdale via Oldham line opens to Rochdale Railway Station.
May 2013New line opens to East Didsbury.
October 2013Ashton line extension opens from Droylsden to Ashton-under-Lyne.
January 2014New stops in Oldham town centre open on Rochdale via Oldham line.
February 2014T68 tram retired from service.
March 2014Final section of Rochdale via Oldham line opens to Rochdale Town Centre.
April 2014T68A tram retired from service.
May 2014Event to mark the retirement of the final T68 model of tram.
October 201415-stop Manchester Airport line opens a year ahead of schedule.
November 2014Chancellor George Osborne MP confirms £350 million funding package for Trafford Park line.
December 2014Passengers make a record-breaking 30 million annual journeys on Metrolink in 2014.
New section of line opens through city centre Deansgate-Castlefield stop.
March 2015Free Wi-Fi rolled out on trams.
April 2015TravelSafe Unit launched to boost safety and security on the Metrolink network.
June 2015Newly modernised footbridge linking Manchester Deansgate Station with Metrolink stop reopens.
July 2015Arrival of 100th M5000 tram.
September 2015Major transformation works completed at city centre Deansgate-Castlefield stop.
December 2015First phase of Second City Crossing complete as new Exchange Square tram stop opens.
August 2016Transformed city centre St Peter’s Square stop re-opens to passengers.
October 2016Record breaking month as – over the 31 days – 3.3 million passenger journeys are made across the network.
Legal powers to build Trafford Park Metrolink line granted.
Arrival of 120th M5000 tram.
November 2016Smart ticketing app for Metrolink celebrates 1st birthday with 45,000 registered customers.
Government awards TfGM £2.1 million to develop a business case for Airport ‘Western Loop’ extension.
January 2017Work starts on new six-stop Trafford Park line.
KeolisAmey announced as new Metrolink operator from July 2017.
February 2017Second City Crossing (2CC) opens through the heart of Manchester city centre.

Metrolink Timeline: top

This page was written and illustrated by Tony Williams. Contact manwebm@lrta.org if you have any comments, ideas or suggestions about these pages.