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The future of rapid transit

Future travel Metrolink banner image

Developing Greater Manchester’s rapid transit network will be essential to keeping the city-region moving and the economy growing.

The Metrolink tram system is one of Greater Manchester’s major rapid transit success stories.

From humble beginnings, Metrolink has expanded to become the largest light rail network in the UK. Services now run on seven lines to 93 stops covering nearly 60 miles.

We continue to explore new ways to expand the Metrolink network and develop new rapid transit schemes as part of the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040.

In the medium-term (to 2030) new Metrolink lines are being considered, along with potential for ‘tram-train’ services.

Longer-term options being explored include tunnelled ‘metro-style’ services under the city centre.


Developing Metrolink

Work is already well under way to build the new Trafford Park Line, due 2020.

We are currently developing a business case for extending the Manchester Airport line, using a £2.1m grant from central government. This is also referred to as the Metrolink ‘Western Loop’.

Our short term ambition is for an initial extension to the Manchester Airport Terminal 2 development.

At a future date, the line could link up with High Speed Rail (HS2) and offer improved links to University Hospital South Manchester (UHSM).

We have commissioned engineering, architectural and environmental work, and scheme modelling.


Extra trams

Metrolink has a fleet of 120 modern and reliable M5000 trams.

Following major expansion, the Metrolink network has grown to carry 40 million passenger journeys a year.

We know more trams are needed so that Metrolink can continue to grow and keep people moving. We are currently exploring funding options to buy more trams.


Potential rapid transit schemes

We are currently undertaking a number of scoping studies for potential rapid transit schemes, including orbital links.

To progress further, any schemes we identify would need a strong business case, demonstrating real economic and social benefits.

Schemes would also need to be affordable and have sufficient funding available.


Tram-train services

‘Tram-train’ is a light-rail public transport system where tram services like Metrolink can share lines with conventional trains.

In Greater Manchester, it could mean ‘metro-style’ services in more areas.

It would help to improve access to the city centre at the busiest times, while also offering more capacity on the heavy rail network.

We are currently exploring the potential benefits of introducing tram-trains to the city-region as a way of improving rapid transit connections.

A number of routes have been identified as having potential for tram-train, including:

  • Manchester to Marple
  • Manchester to Glossop
  • Manchester to Wigan via Atherton
  • Stockport to Manchester Airport

Before delivering tram-train services, we would need to run a trial scheme with Network Rail to gain technical approvals.


Underground services in Manchester city centre

By the mid-2030s we will need significantly more capacity to run rapid transit services through Manchester city centre.

A detailed study is needed to explore the potential for this to be achieved through a tunnel. This would limit the impact of overground transport services in the growing and busy city centre.

A tunnel could support the possible conversion of some existing suburban rail lines to metro-style services.

This would be a major investment which will need careful planning.

Please check back for updates.