The sound of tram horns could be heard more frequently across Manchester today, as the new Metrolink line across the city from St Peter’s Square to Victoria opened to passengers.
The Second City Crossing is the long-awaited 1.3km stretch of track, taking trams from a newly built stop at St Peter’s Square along Princess Street past the side of the Town Hall to Cross Street, where it turns and runs along to stops at Exchange Square and Victoria.
View video below of journey from St Peter’s Square to Victoria
The line is described by Transport for Greater Manchester as “the last jigsaw piece” in Metrolink’s £1.5bn expansion programme, which has seen extensions to MediaCityUK, East Didsbury, Rochdale via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Airport. The line is expected to increase capacity as more trams will run through the city.
A drizzly Sunday in February proved a good day to launch the service, with neither too many cars or pedestrians using the route.
While the introduction of light rail along busy thoroughfares such as Cross Street and Corporation Street could present a risk to the many shoppers crossing the street, on the first day of opening all appeared calm and organised. The route to cross to Market Street is clearly marked; no more dangerous than the average pelican crossing, and significantly less problematic than the tangle of tram lines to be found through Piccadilly Gardens.
Given the Sunday opening, Cross Street was quiet, and so not fairly representative of how busy the street gets during a weekday lunchtime or sunny Saturday. For all of TfGM’s best intentions in installing yellow “look both way” signs, walkers and tram drivers alike are going to need to be alert when the city centre is at its peak busiest periods.
Video of how tram integrates with Cross Street, Albert Square and Corporation Street
Motorists struggled more than pedestrians with the new system, particularly at the junction where John Dalton Street meets Cross Street. Police officers were stationed at the corner of Albert Square for the day, directing away the various cars who failed to notice signs and still attempted to access Princess Street.
There was a buzz amongst passengers waiting to board the Metrolink service at St Peter’s Square, and on the trams various riders were talking about the Second City Crossing, although some were puzzled as to its purpose.
“They’re just joining up the dots aren’t they?” One woman said. However, she was still keen to ride the tram on the day of opening. “It’s not on my route but I wanted to ride it so I could say I’ve been on it. I can say I tried it on the first day.”
Despite the potential hazard to pedestrians, the opening of the Second City Crossing should bring relief to residents and local businesses who have been suffering various traffic disruptions and road closures caused since construction started in 2014.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, welcomed the completion of work: “It’s with great pleasure that we welcome the Second City Crossing after more than three years of work. Not only will it make travel through the city easier but it also takes in some of the city’s most iconic landmarks along the way.
“The new line highlights the journey of our city, how much the city has changed in such a short space of time, and represents a major milestone in Manchester’s continuing development and growth.”
Manchester Airport services will run to the city centre Deansgate-Castlefield stop for the first time and, later this year, will continue to Victoria.
Services that currently terminate at Deansgate-Castlefield and Exchange Square will continue across the city centre to Shaw and Crompton and East Didsbury.
MPT, the joint venture made up of VolkerRail, Laing O’Rourke and Thales, was the contractor for the Second City Crossing.
Driver’s view route from Exchange Square to St Peter’s Square
Click any image below to launch gallery