Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 11:22 UK

End of line tribute for rail link

A 140-year-old railway line in Manchester is closing to make way for a tram link.

The Oldham Loop Line closure is being marked with the naming of one of train operator's Northern Rail's Class 156 trains on Saturday afternoon.

The Gracie Fields will be a tribute to the Rochdale-born performer.

The loop line linked Oldham, Rochdale and Manchester and its last passenger service will leave Manchester Victoria railway station at 2324 BST.

Councillor Keith Whitmore, of Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA), said the new tram service would offer more frequent connections to more locations.

Expansion plan

The first section of the new tram line - from the city centre to Central Park - will open in spring 2011, followed by Oldham Mumps in the autumn and the full line, to Rochdale, will be open by spring 2012.

Trams will run from Shaw & Crompton every six minutes, and every 12 minutes from Rochdale.

Buses will carry passengers on the route while the line is converted.

Rail services will run as normal on the Calder Valley line between Manchester, Rochdale and Leeds.

The new line to Oldham and Rochdale is part of a £600m expansion of the Metrolink network, which will also take trams to East Manchester and Droylsden, Chorlton, and MediaCityUK in Salford.

New Metrolink stops will be built at Monsall, Central Park, South Chadderton, Freehold, Newbold and outside Rochdale railway station on the Oldham and Rochdale line.

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