Interviews

14.03.14

The newest additions to the Metrolink fleet

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/Mar 2014

New style Metrolink trams have joined the M5000 fleet in Manchester. RTM spoke to Metrolink director Peter Cushing.

The fleet of Metrolink trams is expanding to 104 of the new M5000 vehicles.

The newest batch feature a revised seating lay-out, giving eight additional seats, based on passenger feedback and a survey in 2011, with input from Metrolink’s Disability Design Reference Group.

Metrolink director Peter Cushing told RTM: “We asked whether people would prefer more seating room or more standing room – there was a fair balance, but predominately people were asking for additional seats. There’s only two ways you can deliver that: either you deliver double-trams or more frequent trams, or you put more seats on the trams you have.

“We’ve looked at the lay-out and completely revised it, and managed to get another eight seats on the vehicle, without restricting standing room too much either, so we can still get the same number of people on a unit.”

Tram numbers 3075, 3076 and 3077, which each now have 60 seats and additional hand-holds, are the first three of an order for 30 new M5000 trams from Bombardier / Vossloh Kiepe, which began their life in Manchester by being tested on the Oldham and Rochdale line, currently being extended.

Cushing explained: “As part of their commissioning they were being used to test and commission the Oldham line; it made sense to use them to do their mileage as well as to build up the testing on the new line.”

But those trams are in service now, and like the rest of the fleet, will be used across all the Metrolink lines as required.

Cushing said there are no current plans to retrofit the existing M5000 fleet to give them more seats, but added: “There may be an opportunity, at some sort of mid-life refurb, to do that – but that’s something we’ll look at closer to the time.”

Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the TfGM Committee, added: “The new layout and seating are a direct result of us acting on feedback. What these improvements demonstrate is that not only do we listen to our customers and value their feedback, but we also attach great importance their comfort and convenience.”

End of the line for the T68s

The older T68 trams are basically gone from the network now, with the new M5000s being 10 tonnes lighter and up to four times less likely to develop a disruptive fault.

Two T68As are being retained as stand-bys, but not in daily service. “They’re out on very rare occasions,” Cushing said. 

The original T68s have been sold for scrap, except for a few – one has gone to Heaton Park Tram Museum in Manchester, which will become part of a permanent exhibit there, running on the heritage tramway. Another has gone to be used as a training vehicle for fire and rescue personnel.

In December 2013, Transport for Greater Manchester exercised an option to extend the original 2007 order for new trams by 10. That contract extension is worth about £18m, Bombardier said. As consortium leader, Bombardier designs and manufactures the vehicles at its sites in Bautzen, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. Bombardier’s Siegen plant in Germany is responsible for delivering
the bogies. The consortium partner Vossloh Kiepe provides the electrical equipment.

Cushing said 104 trams is precisely the right fleet size to cope with the currently funded and planned network extensions: that includes the Rochdale town centre extension, the extension of the East Didsbury line down to Manchester Airport, the Second City Crossing, and the proposed Trafford Centre line (the only element of the extension that does not currently have funding or approval).

He explained: “It’s all been calculated in terms of run-times and headways. Obviously that may change in the future with additional capacity requirements or requirements to run more frequent services, but as it currently stands, 104 is enough for all the extensions.”

Discussing the Second City Crossing (2CC), he added: “It’s going very well so far. The first part of the works are the utility diversions – making sure we’ve got everything out of what’s going to be the tramway. That work started a few weeks ago and is going to be continuing for quite a while. Obviously once we’ve moved through the city, we can start moving on with the tram alignment.

“We are going to be looking at what routes we can put down 2CC, and whether we mix that across routes.

“We’re ploughing on with the extensions, and 2CC is obviously very busy and important. But everything so far is going well.”

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