The new lines could be complete by 2012, the government says
The long-awaited expansion of Greater Manchester's Metrolink tram system can finally go-ahead.
Transport Secretary - and Bolton West MP - Ruth Kelly has confirmed the government will put £244m towards the £575m total cost of the scheme.
It means lines out of the city centre will be extended to Rochdale railway station, Chorlton and Droylsden.
Cash for a bigger expansion of the network was withdrawn by the government in 2004 over spiralling costs.
In total, the extensions are predicted to boost Metrolink passenger numbers by 50%, adding an extra 10 million journeys a year by 2012.
Ms Kelly said: "Metrolink has been at the heart of Greater Manchester's transport system for more than a decade.
"Giving final approval to these plans reflects the Government's commitment to providing convenient, reliable and comfortable public transport.
"This ensures people have a real alternative to using their cars, and supports my aim to tackle congestion and reduce harmful pollution."
The extensions will add 20 miles of the track, which will go from the centre of Manchester to the north, east and south of the city and are expected to be complete by 2012.
The £244m investment is the final lump sum of £520m pledged by the government in 2004 for Greater Manchester transport improvements.
The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) and the Department for Transport are jointly funding the scheme.
Sir Richard Leese, deputy leader of AGMA and leader of Manchester City Council described the funding approval as "good news".
"This is an important milestone but it is just the start. We need further funding to secure the transport infrastructure required to bring significant economic benefits to the city."
Government officials are still considering a separate bid for £1.2bn from the transport innovation fund which would fund a bigger expansion of the network.
AGMA wants the grant, plus permission to borrow £1.8bn more, in return for introducing a congestion charge of up to £5 a day.
Among other transport improvements, the money would fund original plans for a large expansion of Metrolink south to Manchester Airport, north to Rochdale town centre and east to Ashton-under-Lyne.
A government decision on that application is expected at the end of May.