Main construction works on a new Metrolink line through the heart of Manchester city centre are expected to finish before Christmas, with the final rails now laid.
The £165m Second City Crossing, due to open next year, is designed to allow more frequent, reliable and flexible services to run on the tram network.
All major civil engineering works – including installing overhead lines to power the trams along the route – are expected to be completed before the Christmas markets.
Construction challenges during the works included a collapsed Victorian sewer, and finding double the number of anticipated graves to exhume at a former church graveyard on Cross Street.
A testing and commissioning programme will resume in early 2017 before the first passenger services begin.
Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman 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.”
The Second City Crossing will depart Victoria Station and travel 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.
Elements of the Second City Crossing programme are financed partly by the European Regional Development Fund.
The main contractor is M-Pact Thales.