MANCHESTER : Next stop: Rochdale!

Metrolink services to Rochdale – the latest chapter of the network’s expansion – will open to passengers for the first time on Thursday 28 February.

Continuing on from the existing Oldham line at Shaw & Crompton, the 7.4km (4.6-mile) extension will run to Rochdale Railway Station, serving the former railway stations at Newhey and Milnrow and two brand new destinations: Kingsway and Newbold.

The first in-service tram from Rochdale Railway Station on Thursday will leave at 5.59am, while the first tram to Rochdale will leave Manchester Victoria at 6.08am.

Services will run every 12 minutes, calling at key employment centres at Kingsway, Shaw & Crompton, Oldham Mumps, Central Park and Manchester city centre.

More than 200 park-and-ride spaces will also be available to passengers travelling on Metrolink and heavy rail services from Rochdale.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “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.”

The 7.4km (4.6-mile) Rochdale extension will bring the total size of the Metrolink network to 69km (43 miles) and signals the midway point of a massive expansion of the network that is now well under way.

By the time new lines to East Didsbury (summer 2013), Ashton (winter 2013/14), Oldham and Rochdale town centres (2014), and Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe (2016) are complete, the network will cover 95km (59 miles): more than three times the original 30km (18.5-mile) network that opened in 1992.

A further line – a second, 1.6km (1 mile) route through Manchester city centre – is also being progressed.