Early retirement for Greater Manchester’s first Metrolink trams

30 September 2011  •  Source: Transport for Greater Manchester

Plans to ‘retire’ Metrolink’s oldest trams have been approved by Greater Manchester’s transport leaders today, in a move that will lead to significant improvements for passengers.

More than 60 new yellow and silver M5000 Bombardier trams have already been ordered, predominantly to serve the expanding network, with new lines to Manchester Airport, East Didsbury, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Oldham and Rochdale town centres well underway.

Members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) today agreed to order 12 more M5000s in order to replace some of the original and oldest Metrolink vehicles, known as T68s, which have been in service since the network opened in 1992.

The Transport for Greater Manchester Committee will oversee the investment on behalf GMCA.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “Metrolink’s trams have become an icon of Greater Manchester since the first line opened in 1992. They were the first of their kind in the UK and were a symbol of our ambition – but the network is now entering a new age.

“The first of the new Bombardier trams have delivered significant improvements for passengers and, as the investment in trebling the size of the network starts to come to fruition, the time has now come for the original vehicles to enter a well-earned retirement.

“The strategy we have agreed today makes the most sense: for passengers, for the network and for the public purse. I am sure regular users of the network will welcome this announcement and the improvements it will bring to the services they depend upon.”

A total of 26 T68s served the original line – Altrincham to Bury – and a further six came into service in 2000 when the Eccles line opened, taking the total fleet to 32.

Replacing them now will lead to even more reliable services for passengers, because the new M5000s are, on average, four times less likely to develop a disruptive fault than the T68s. It will also, in turn, reduce associated fleet maintenance costs.

As the M5000s are 10 tonnes lighter, they will also reduce energy costs and prolong the life of existing rails by several years, which will reduce the long-term costs of track renewals and, again, prevent greater disruption for passengers.

Councillor Roger Jones, Chair of the TfGM Committee’s Capital Projects and Policy Sub-Committee, said: “Regular passengers will be aware that the original trams are beginning to show their age and the vast majority of disruptions are down to the reliability of the older vehicles.

“We have been exploring the best way of addressing this issue for some time, so I’m delighted with today’s announcement and the benefits it will bring for passengers.”

The original T68 trams have a ‘design life’ of 30 years and were due to be replaced by 2022. Transport for Greater Manchester is ordering 12 M5000 vehicles, with the first of these new trams expected in 2013/14.

However, a plan for the phased ‘retirement’ of the T68s will now be developed with the operator, MRDL, with a view to introducing more of the existing M5000s into service as soon as possible.

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