Airport Line (Manchester Metrolink)
|Termini||St Werburgh’s Road|
|Opened||3 November 2014|
|Character||Reserved track and|
|Line length||9 miles (14.5 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||750 volts DC overhead|
|Operating speed||50 mph (80km/h)|
The Airport Line is a tram line of the Manchester Metrolink in Greater Manchester running from Manchester city centre to Manchester Airport via the suburb of Wythenshawe. The line was opened in November 2014 as part of phase three of the system's expansion.
From Manchester city centre, the route is shared with the Altrincham Line as far as Trafford Bar, and then the South Manchester Line as far as St Werburgh's Road. The Airport Line proper starts at a junction just south of St Werburgh's Road stop, where the line leaves the former railway trackbed, and runs off to the south-west. It joins Mauldeth Road, running along the central reservation to Barlow Moor Road stop. It then runs on street along Hardy Lane for a short distance, before crossing onto a tram only viaduct crossing the River Mersey and the Mersey Valley flood plain.
The line then continues on a low embankment to Sale Water Park stop, serving the Sale Water Park; this stop is also near Junction 6 of the M60 motorway and has park and ride facilities. The line then runs parallel to the M60 for a short distance before turning south-west and crossing it on a tram only bridge.
After crossing the motorway, the line serves Northern Moor stop. Between Northern Moor stop and Wythenshawe Park stop the line runs on a strip of land which was originally reserved for a road scheme. The line then crosses onto Moor Road, where it serves Moor Road stop, before crossing onto a reserved track section alongside the road. A tram bridge takes the tracks over the Mid-Cheshire railway line and into Baguley stop. The line then runs alongside the road for the next few miles, serving stops at Roundthorn and Martinscroft, before crossing the M56 motorway on a purpose built bridge.
The line then runs along Hollyhedge Road with other traffic, before turning onto a segregated section of track alongside Brownley Road, serving stops at Benchill and Crossacres. The route crosses to another segregated alignment on the south side of Poundswick Lane, crossing the northern end of Rowlandsway before turning left into Wythenshawe Town Centre stop.
The line then runs along segregated roadside track sections, for the next few miles, serving stops at Robinswood Road, Peel Hall and Shadowmoss, before passing under Ringway Road via an underpass, and into the terminus at Manchester Airport station: The two tram platforms at the Airport station were built alongside the mainline rail platforms allowing interchange between the trains and trams.
The total distance, between St Werburgh's Road and Manchester Airport is 9 miles (14.5 km).
Construction work for all Phase 3b lines began in March 2011. On the Airport Line, a 580-tonne steel bridge was erected in Wythenshawe over the M56 motorway on 25 November 2012. The Airport Line opened on 3 November 2014, more than one year early, and at a cost of £368 million.
Proposed future development
The original plans for the line included a loop from Roundthorn tram stop to the existing line at Manchester Airport via the University Hospital of South Manchester (Wythenshawe Hospital) and Newall Green. The line would have had stops at Wythenshawe Hospital, Newall Green and Davenport Green. Although axed in 2005 to control costs, the Wythenshawe Loop remains an aspiration of TfGM. The route could link with HS2 Manchester Interchange.
TfGM have submitted a bid for funding to extend the Airport Line to Terminal 2.
As of January 2018, trams operate Manchester Airport every 12 minutes, and terminate at Manchester Victoria in the City Zone. At opening, Airport Line services had terminated at Cornbrook and later Deansgate-Castlefield due to lack of capacity through the city-centre, which was remedied by the opening of the second city crossing. In March 2016, an early morning service was introduced between the airport and Firswood, which was in February 2017 also extended to Deansgate-Castlefield. TfGM have indicated that there could also be a 6-minute service at peak times after 2017.
During the first full year of operation, 1.88 million journeys were made on the Airport Line.
- Styal Line; heavy-rail line also serving Manchester Airport.
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