A £350m extension of the Manchester Metrolink tram network to Trafford Park has been approved by the government.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has granted Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) legal powers to build the new 5.5km line under a Transport & Works Act order.

Construction work could start this winter and the line be operational by 2021. TfGM said that it woul appoint a contractor ‘shortly’.

The Trafford Park line will branch off from the existing Pomona stop and call at six new tram stops at key destinations, including Wharfside, near to Old Trafford football stadium, the Imperial War Museum, and key business areas through the industrial park.

The majority of the new route is not on roads to ensure faster, more reliable journey times. It will pass under the Trafford Road Bridge and run alongside the existing promenade next to Manchester Ship Canal before joining Trafford Wharf Road.

The new line will increase the size of the Metrolink network to more than 66 miles (106.5km) with 99 stops.

The £350m funding package to build the line has already been secured by Greater Manchester Combined Authority through the ‘earn back’ funding arrangement as part of the Greater Manchester devolution deal.