The Metrolink tram network expansion project in Manchester is moving ahead at a pace after the second city crossing line was given approval.

Government officials gave the green light to the new route which will pass through St Peter's Square, along Princess Street, Cross Street and Corporation Street. It will then join up with the existing Metrolink line outside Victoria Station. The current route moves on from the city's second major train station to Market Street then gives onto Piccadilly Gardens, for Droylsden via Piccadilly station, or St Peter's Square, for Altrincham, Eccles and MediaCityUK.

Plans were the subject of a major consultation in 2011 which was followed by a public inquiry at the beginning of 2013. The Manchester public gave their backing to the development which will create easier access to some of the city's main areas. It will see the creation of a larger tram stop in St Peter's Square, while a new stop will be created in Exchange Square, one of the city's biggest shopping areas.

Patrick McLoughlin, secretary of state for communications and local government, has granted Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) the Transport and Works Act Order for 2CC to build and operate the new line. The work has also secured the associated Listed Building Consents for the scheme.

Councillor Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “This is fantastic news and means we can now press ahead with developing the detail of the delivery programme, appointing a contractor and getting work started as soon as possible.

"It’s an essential part of the expansion programme which also complements the city’s redevelopment of St Peter’s Square – so this really is excellent news.”

TfGM has been significantly upgrading the Metrolink line to improve access to satellite towns surrounding Manchester. Routes have been created to include the likes of Oldham, Rochdale and Droylsden while there is now a direct link to Manchester City's Etihad Stadium. Plans are also in the works to create a new line to Manchester Airport which is expected to be open in 2016.

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