Connecting Manchester: the Second City Crossing

Just under a mile long, Manchester Metrolink’s Second City Crossing is the extra connection through the city centre that has allowed the tram network to boost capacity and meet the ambition of seamless public transport links for its growing population.

Second City Crossing runs from St Peter’s Square – transformed as part of the project – to a new stop at Exchange Square and on to Manchester Victoria Station. It was the final stage of a £1.5bn ‘Phase 3’ expansion programme which has seen extensions to MediaCityUK, East Didsbury, Rochdale Town Centre via Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Airport. A record number of passengers used the network last year – over 43 million – and the numbers are still growing.”

We have been working with Transport for Greater Manchester since 2007, acting as Delivery Partner to assist in the Metrolink redevelopment and network expansion. Second City Crossing started construction in 2014 and opened in 2017. We are now working on the Metrolink extension through Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre, which is due to open in 2020.

Surprising discoveries and city greening
Running through the busy heart of Manchester, Second City Crossing proved a challenge to the abilities of everyone involved. Manchester City Council had to facilitate the relocation of the Cenotaph and St Peter’s Church Cross in St Peter’s Square, to allow the main construction works to start, while we managed advanced utility diversions including the discovery of unknown Victorian sewers. We had to build over

meet the team

Meet Rachel

an old church crypt which meant we had to strengthen the walls to take the weight of the trams. And we found the remains of an old graveyard dating from the 1700s which required careful and highly sensitive exhumations and reinternment of over 250 bodies from under Cross Street.

New tram stops have been designed to add to Manchester’s public realm. A new water feature and over 20 semi-mature trees were planted in St Peter’s Square including, uniquely, trees integrated into the new Metrolink platforms, all to create a major new civic space for Manchester’s future. The redeveloped and expanded Metrolink stop at Victoria now sits right at the heart of the station thanks to collaboration between our project and Network Rail’s £44m redevelopment there. And the Deansgate-Castlefield stop is an oasis for customers thanks to a huge ‘living wall’ of plants and flowers.


“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”

Sir Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council


All together now
Collaboration across the project and with the local authority, businesses and the people of Manchester was a key part of our role. An early success was to fast-track the first section between Manchester Victoria station and the new stop at Exchange Square so it could open for Christmas 2015.

Throughout the job we had to reduce the impact of the work on existing tram operations and passenger services through St Peter’s Square – one of Metrolink’s

view slideshow

View slideshow

busiest tram stops at the centre of the network – to deliver the new tracks and bigger, better platforms (including the trees). This involved running the trams through the square on a temporary bi-directional single line for 10 months along with two eight-week ‘blockades’ when no services ran through the stop during the summers of 2015 and 2016.

We cracked the eternal challenge of getting utilities companies to work together to minimise disruption caused by diverting the underground pipes, cables and wires away from under the path of the trams. We established a weekly joint utilities group (JUG) meeting for planning and co-ordinating the works, even using single trenches where space allowed for all utilities to work within. There was also a single traffic management team working for the various utilities companies to make sure there was a fully co-ordinated approach. The JUG forum was such a clear success that it was immediately taken forward to be used for the Trafford Park line extension.


Miles of track make up the Manchester Metrolink network – the largest light rail system in the UK


M5000 trams run through the city’s 93 stops.
Second City Crossing allows more frequent, flexible tram services


Of underground electricity cable had to be relocated for Second City Crossing

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