More than 300million journeys have been completed on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink system since 1992 – with 2.6million more in the past year.
The current network across the city celebrated its 20-year birthday in April and last month an extension line into Oldham opened successfully.
The figures released by the Department for Transport and Transport for Greater Manchester reveal Manchester’s trams are the second most used outside of London – with Tyne and Wear Metro pipping the city to the top spot.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “In its lifetime, more than 300million journeys have been made on Metrolink and it is now a vital part of our transport network, catering for tens of thousands of essential journeys every day.
“But, arguably, the best is yet to come, as the new lines we are in the midst of creating will treble the size of the original network, bringing even more opportunities for passengers and for communities.
Cllr Fender added: “I’m incredibly proud of what Metrolink has achieved in the 20 years since Her Majesty officially opened the first phase of the network, and of what it is going to go on to achieve in the next 20 years and beyond.”
In the first year of operating in 1992 – when lines connecting Bury and Altrincham were the first to open – 8.1million journeys were made.
By 2000 when passengers were connected to Eccles, the number had reached 17.2million and last year 21.8million trips (nearly 60,000 a day) were made as the extension to MediaCityUK boosted figures in summer 2010.
The Metrolink network currently covers a total of 25miles and is operated using 44 trams.
The £1.4billion construction continues connecting the lines Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne (via Droylsden), East Didsbury in South Manchester (via Chorlton) and Manchester Airport (via Wythenshawe).
A second, additional line across Manchester city centre is also being developed to triple the distance currently covered.
“Since 1992, the Metrolink network has become one of the most successful light rail systems in the country and a symbol of Greater Manchester’s rejuvenation and ambition,” said Cllr Fender.
“It has helped to drive regeneration: of Manchester city centre – which, at one point in the 1980s had just 500 residents compared with some 20,000 today, of Trafford, of Bury and, more recently with the extension to Eccles, of the Salford Quays area.
“You only have to look out of the window when you’re riding along and see all the new developments that have been built since it opened to appreciate just how vital it has been in attracting people to work, live and do business in the towns and cities it serves.”
The expansion is due to be completed in 2016 and will make it the largest network of its kind in the country.