The first Metrolink services pulled into a brand new tram stop at Manchester city centre’s Exchange Square yesterday (Sunday 6 December).
The stop opening marks the first stage of the transformational Metrolink Second City Crossing, a new tram line through the heart of the city.
Right in the heart of the busy shopping and leisure district, the new Exchange Square stop is next to the Manchester Arndale and near the major retail outlets, the Corn Exchange, Printworks, The National Football Museum and – during December – the Christmas Markets.
Construction work started on the 0.6km stretch of line between Victoria Station and Exchange Square in summer 2014.
When it fully opens in 2017, the £165 million Second City Crossing will allow more frequent, reliable services to run right through the city, calling at transformed and newly built stops at Deansgate-Castlefield, St Peter’s Square, Exchange Square and Victoria Station.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “This is great news for the city and Metrolink passengers and is yet another major Metrolink project delivered on time and on budget.
“Ultimately, the Second City Crossing will allow Metrolink to run more frequent and reliable tram services through our expanding city and across Greater Manchester.
“Getting the Exchange Square stop up and running weeks before Christmas is a significant achievement – and one that would not have happened without European funding to fast-track the work.”
The new Exchange Square stop is fully accessible with ramped access, ticket machines, smart card readers, passenger emergency facilities and a PA system. A clean, uncluttered design sees passenger information displays and seating integrated into polished concrete columns to give the stop a sleek look.
Councillor Kate Chappell, Manchester City Council's executive member for the environment, said: “The opening of the Exchange Square stop will not only make a real difference to people coming in from Oldham and parts of north Manchester, it is a vital step towards the opening of the second city crossing, which will revolutionise public transport across the city.”
The principal contractor for the Second City Crossing is M-Pact Thales (MPT), a consortium consisting of VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales, with RATP Dev Ltd responsible for operating the Metrolink network. Thales has also supplied the new Tram Management System.
Jim Goldsby, MPT project leader said: “Seeing the trams running into the new landmark stop at Exchange Square in the heart of the city’s retail district, is a magnificent sight. The striking architecture and surface finishes enhance the urban realm whilst providing a key transportation link for the people of Greater Manchester.
“This complex infrastructure project, within the city centre, required technical and engineering excellence and delivery of the first phase of the Second City Crossing is testament to the skill and dedication of all involved. The whole project team is now focused on delivering the remaining phase of the Metrolink’s extension.”
There are now 93 stops on the Metrolink network, with more than 90,000 passenger journeys each day, and over 33 million passenger journeys expected to be made this year.
The new Second City Crossing line will start at St Peter’s Square and run down Princess Street, along Cross Street and Corporation Street, through Exchange Square and into Manchester Victoria station.
As part of the Second City Crossing project the Deansgate-Castlefield stop has been completely transformed, and work is under way to build a brand new tram stop in St Peter’s Square, which is being relocated and expanded from two platforms to four.
The Second City Crossing is part of a co-ordinated three-year programme of works, known collectively as Grow, which will enable Manchester city centre to flourish for years to come.