The latest Manchester Metrolink extension has now been given an official opening date with the news that the line between Shaw & Crompton and Rochdale Railway Station will open to passengers from Thursday 28th February – little over a week away. The full shadow running started operation on Monday 18th February and has been continuing all week and this has obviously not shown any problems so TfGM are confident enough to go public with the opening date. The first revenue earning service will depart Rochdale at 0559 and the first tram to Rochdale will be departing Victoria at 0608. Unlike the East Manchester Line there will be no free preview service for locals before opening.
The latest extension to the Oldham and Rochdale Line runs for 4.6 miles (7.4km if you prefer) and will serve the former railway stations at Newhey and Milnrow as well as two brand new stops at Kingsway and Newbold. Trams will initially run every 12 minutes between St Werburgh’s Road (on the South Manchester Line) and Rochdale and will exclusively use M5000s as the T68s and T68As are banned from operating on the Oldham and Rochdale Line.
Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, is understandably delighted by the news: “The Metrolink expansion continues apace and I am delighted that we are now only days away from services running to Rochdale for the first time. These new services will open up several new opportunities for communities along the line: for the very first time, people will be able to travel to and from the brand new stops at Kingsway and Newbold, and all on new trams and tracks. They will also be able to travel to and from the new stops at Monsall, Central Park, South Chadderton and Freehold that opened last year, and services will run through to Manchester city centre and on to Chorlton, calling at all stops in between. These are all new travel opportunities that weren’t available when this route operated as a traditional railway line. People in Rochdale will shortly have the best of both
worlds: inter-regional and local rail services, and local tram services. Rochdale is undergoing great change, and Metrolink’s arrival is a great symbol of a bright future.”
Tickets from Rochdale Railway Station to stops as far as Shaw & Crompton will cost £1.80 for a peak single and £2.60 for a peak return. A peak single from Rochdale Railway Station to all stops between Derker and Failsworth will be £2.10 and a peak return comes in at £3.60. Anyone wishing to travel into the City Centre (as far as Piccadilly and Deansgate-Castlefield) can get a peak single for £4.10 whilst a peak return is £6.20. Season tickets are also available which offer great value to travel across the Metrolink network.
Cllr Colin Lambert, Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, commented: “The arrival of the Metrolink at Rochdale Railway Station marks a significant point in the development of this exciting project. The launch of services from Rochdale Railway Station will benefit residents and businesses in the area and presents a major boost to the local economy, as well as making our borough more accessible to visitors, investors and developers. A great deal of hard work has already gone into project and I am grateful to the community for their patience during the unavoidable disruption. The good news is that the extension of the line continues at a pace and it won’t be long before we can all enjoy the benefits it will bring once it arrives in the heart of our new town centre next year.”
The opening of the extension to Rochdale is said to be halfway point of the major expansion of the Metrolink network and when it officially opens the network will be 43 miles (69 km). The next extension due to open will be the South Manchester Line to East Didsbury and this is currently expected to be in the summer of this year. Eventually the network will reach 59 miles (more than three times the size of the original Metrolink system which opened in 1992).