Victoria Metrolink

Metrolink least-used mode of transport by commuters

Alice Cachia

Just 2.2% of the 1.17m people employed in the city region use the Metrolink for their journeys to work, compared to 60% of those still driving, according to a travel diary survey conducted by Transport for Greater Manchester.

The findings of the travel diary survey, known as TRADS, were published ahead of a Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting this Friday 27 October.

The document analysed Greater Manchester TRADS from 2014-2016. TRADS is a rolling programme of household interviews that gathers data and travel information from 2,000 households. This amounts to around 4,600 people and more than 10,000 trips each year. From these interviews, TRADS releases travel estimates.

More than 1.17m people work in Greater Manchester, but the Metrolink is used by just 2.2%. This amounts to 25,830 people. According to a TfGM spokesman, the 2.2% is significantly up on the 2011 census result of 1.3%. In absolute terms this equates to at least 10,000 additional commuters every working day using the Metrolink.

Cars or vans are still the most popular mode of transport, with more than 704,500 people driving to work each day. Around 11% of people walk to work, and 10% catch the bus.

In 2016, TfGM revealed that less than half the forecast number of passengers were using new Metrolink lines opened in recent years to Oldham, Ashton, East Didsbury and Manchester Airport. TfGM used data from 2014-2015 journeys. The target was 22.1m passengers on these lines but only 10.58m people were recorded using the Metrolink.  This statistic incorporates all Metrolink travel purposes, including commuting.

The TRADS numbers do not reflect changes in passenger use that may have occurred since the second city crossing opened in February this year.

A proposal due to be submitted by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to the Government puts forward the Western Loop Metrolink extension, which will link the planned HS2 station at Manchester Airport to Wythenshawe Hospital and the surrounding area. This may make the Metrolink more accessible to commuters.

The Metrolink is the UK’s largest light rail network, and it recently reported a record 40m passenger journeys made by tram each year. 

Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink, said: “In terms of the figures contained in the travel diary survey, it’s important to note that car and bus journeys are higher than that of Metrolink for very obvious reasons. While Metrolink spans seven lines across a 60 mile network it does not operate in nearly as many areas as bus services currently do. Similarly, a large number of motorists travel to work from outside of Greater Manchester and an even larger number from areas within it that do not have direct access to the tram network.”


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Not one publicly accessible cycle hub to the South of the city despite MCC / Trafford developing cycle corridors – where to? Anyone commuting along Chester Road / Regent Road working in Spinningfield. Town Hall and Deansgate areas have to cycle well beyond their place of work to use a TfGM cycle hub. With the overcrowded trams at peak times there is no incentive to do anything else.

By Anonymous

To be fair passenger numbers have increased 10% year on year, its 37m total journeys for 2016/2017 and it was 19m in 2009. The met only works for people who work in town, not in greater Manchester. There will soon be very few (cheap) surface car parks in town which is forcing people to the Met. Its not properly set up to get someone from Monton to their works yard in Clayton which is probably why people still drive a lot more. Plus I doubt I will see any trademen jumping on the met with a bag of concrete !

By Stretty

If you try and get on a rush hour tram from Chorlton / Didsbury, then the sardines experience is enough to make you want to go back to the car. I’m sure that if you could actually get on the thing, then the numbers would be higher.

By ...

The Metrolink is good but it’s expensive and the network isn’t extensive enough yet. Also during rush hour, the trams are very busy and there simply isn’t enough trams running so how they could expect that 2% to rise if the capacity for a lot more people isn’t there?

By Soya

Give us a seat during rush hour and watch the numbers grow.


useful but limited as no real details of the commuter trips outside GM area using the same routes/modes into the centre etc. no dis-aggregation between to from centre and in between the districts.

By alan

Virtually pointless analysis. Headline might have been better reading “Mode of transport serving origin/destination of smallest number of commuters attracts smallest number of commuters”.

By InterestedParty

I would love to use the tram – alas it doesn’t serve Urmston/Flixton and I’ve never heard ay talk that it ever will. Even once the tram comes out to the Trafford Centre this would still be a 45 min walk to the tram station for a good proportion of Urmston residents, and longer still for those in Flixton.

Real shame as the trains aren’t frequent enough at 2 per hour even during rush hour and are ridiculously busy in the mornings by the time they arrive at Urmston stations.

By Fair Minded Woman

£4.10 one way bus to Bury centre and another £4.10 one way tram to city centre.
Car park contract equates to £5.00 per day.
“Public” sector transport is too expensive. Ultimately I suppose I’m paying for both – but at the moment I have the choice. I would object to being “forced” to use the bus/tram.

By ChesneyT

Should’ve built an Underground!

By Kayla Bibby

Metrolink would gain more passengers if it wasn’t THE most expensive public transport option.

By Anonymous

No surprise there then, Metrolink service way too expensive and service poor.

By Therealist

Cant wait for the January price hikes to kick in…what an incentive to use it. Metrolink is already creaking at the seems…surely all trams will have to be doubles ASAP

By deh'Trafford

I use the tram frequently i would use it much more if it wasnt as dear as the buses for a weekly

By Jackie

I stopped using it about 7-8 years ago and went back to the car. It was overcrowded and unreliable. That was its legacy even though it may be different now.

By Nobby

The problem is that unless you both live and work incredibly close to a station, it’s no better than a bus – because it’s barely faster than a bus and at least as expensive.

That’s the difference between the trams and a proper underground metro – an underground is fast. Tram usage will pickup as parking gets more difficult, but there’s no point building any more lines after the trafford extension.

The next development should be what was always the best idea – a proper underground line, running from Stockport, into the city down Oxford Road, past the university, into Piccadilly, Piccadilly Gardens, Victoria, then out through Northern Salford and on to Bolton. All of these are currently off the network. The outer bits can be overground where possible, but the inner city stuff needs to be underground and in a straight line.

Any european city the size on Manchester would have an underground. Instead we got a crap alternative so the government can point at it and say “You see? There’s no demand.”

By Lin

Metrolink doesn’t serve the vast majority of the city.

It also is far more expensive than buses.

It also does not interact well (no integrated fares) with buses and cycles.

It also has no plans to do any of the above.

By Help Mancunians

What a silly headline, to report a serious survey. ‘NW Place’ needs to do better.

By Peter Black

I can afford to drive so I do. Public transport is horrible.


It is ridiculously overpriced and dangerous. I have never been on it yet when there is not a tribe of vile teenagers looking to cause trouble. The people running it do not care about the comfort of their passengers and there is no effective means of keeping fare dodgers from using it. I have been threatened on it twice, my partner was assaulted coming from Chorlton and another friend of mine experienced a hate crime at Salford Quays which was not taken seriously by the owners of this system, even though the police were called. It should be taken into public ownership by our powerless mayor and the fares reduced to acceptable levels, then people would use it. What a pleasure travelling in London is after this joke. Safe, clean, you can get anywhere and a simple ticketing system.

By Elephant

Interesting approach. Arguing for more metrolink on the back of success, and then arguing for more metrolink on the back of failure!!

If only Greater Manchester wasn’t gobbling up the vast majority of transport spending, and government attention, in the north west, it would be an amusing observation.

Instead, Liverpool is left with token and minor improvements like the Lime Street “major” upgrade, part of a decades worth of improvements across the whole city region totalling only around £350m. Or, almost one third of one short metrolink line.

By Mike

Mike – the difference of course being that Metrolink operates to a profit, whereas Merseyrail requires enormous operating subsidies. That in itself makes Metrolink more of a success than Merseyrail, but add to that the fact that Metrolink isn’t as big as some of Manchester’s other transport networks, and that’s why it isn’t as used as the bus network or road network, for instance. Not failure, it’s just not expansive enough yet. Worth noting that the number of passengers using Metrolink has leapt 4 million in the past year alone – doesn’t sound like failure to me!

By Anonymous

Except of course, Mike, that Liverpool already has a metro and GM pays for Metrolink itself.

By Logenberry

Merseyrail has the highest subsidy per passenger km than any other rail network in the UK. Metrolink passengers pay for the privilege of using Metrolink, which has been developed on a successful business case by an ambitious Greater Manchester leadership. The system is a success, it’s useful and quick for travelling into the City Centre and is driving regeneration along its corridors. Standing at Cornbrook now and seeing the arrivals and transfers every couple of minutes makes you reflect on how it’s a proper, European transport system.

By Merseyfail

Merseyfail is obviously using a different network to me. I recently went to Lisbon and travelled all day for less than a child’s fare on Metrolink. The service is a joke. I agree it looks pretty,purring down the ramp near the Midland hotel but it is not practical. it takes ages to get through the city centre,as it is painfully slow and you can get to Birmingham quicker than Rochdale on a suburban train.

By Elephant

There is no flexibility in ticketing on the Metrolink. If i want to get a train from one station to City but return to a different station, or make linked trips you need a different ticket to return!

Bring in travel pass, zoning prices, proper flexible means of payment i.e. tap on/off oyster cards and make it cheaper!

By Anonymous

UPDATE: Adds comment from Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink.

By Alice Cachia

This is poor and a bit misleading. Anyone who travels by tram during commuter hours knows every line is full. You’re not comparing like for like. Disappointing, I expect better from Place North West.

By Hannah