Rail Industry Focus


Metrolink replacing entire fleet by 2014

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Aug/Sept 2012

Kate Ashley reports on a major upgrade to the Manchester light rail system’s tram fleet.

Manchester Metrolink will get 20 new M5000 trams to replace all of its old T68 stock by 2014, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has announced.

12 of the original T68 trams were replaced last September, with the old trams in a period of phased retirement.

The rest of the fleet is now definitely to be replaced too, with an order for 20 new M5000s to be placed with the consortium of Bombardier and Vossloh Kiepe.

The order is in addition to 74 new trams for the existing and expanding network. Once all the new lines are in operation, 94 M5000s will serve the network.

The trams, an adaptation of Bombardier’s popular Flexity design known as Flexity Swift, are ten tonnes lighter than the old T68s, reducing track wear and energy usage. They are on average four times less likely to develop a disruptive fault, too.

The T68s’ original design life was 30 years – meaning they were due to be replaced by 2022.

Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the TfGM committee, said: “This decision signals the end of one chapter for Metrolink and the start of a new one. Our T68 vehicles were the first of their kind in the UK and served the first modern light rail network of its kind in the country.

“The arrival into service of our first new vehicles in December 2009 demonstrated just how far the industry has come in that time and it is clear that our T68s no longer live up to the standards that passengers expect. The time has now come for them to enter a well-earned retirement.

“The new Bombardier trams have delivered significant improvements for passengers and I’m sure regular users of the network will welcome this announcement and the benefits it will bring to the services they depend upon.”

Following the opening of the new South Manchester line to St Werburgh’s Road in Chorlton last summer, which will eventually reach Manchester Airport, the line to Oldham is now open too, having launched in June.

The trams terminate at temporary stop Oldham Mumps, until the rest of the extension to Rotherham opens, at which point a new Oldham town centre stop will be used. The line serves a mix of new Metrolink stations and some that were previously served by heavy rail trains.

The opening of the 3.9-mile eastern extension from Manchester Piccadilly to Droylsden, however, has been delayed, first from ‘spring 2012’ to ‘summer 2012’, then to ‘autumn 2012’, and now there are fears it won’t be open until next year. The infrastructure has been in place since October 2011, and tram testing began in June. The new line, which serves Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, will in 2013/14 be extended to Ashton-under-Lyne.

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