Transport for Greater Manchester have confirmed that they are to order an extra 20 of the Bombardier built M5000 light rail vehicles which will enable them to withdraw all of the original T68 trams by 2014. It is hoped that the replacement of the original trams will see improvements in reliability of the service as it is said that the M5000s are up to four times
less likely to develop a disruptive fault than the T68s.
The T68s were built in two batches with the first 26 being introduced when Metrolink opened in 1992 and a further six (the T68As) being constructed for the opening of the Eccles line in 1999. All of these trams will be replaced by 2014 as part of this project which will bring the total number of M5000s in Manchester to 94, and these will be able to cover all services on the expanded Metrolink network.
Manchester Metrolink are currently in the process of replacing the first 12 of the T68s in a project which commenced on 18th April when 1011 was taken out of service. Further T68s have since been removed from use since that date and it is planned that this initial batch of withdrawals will be completed by the end of the summer (according to the latest TfGM press release although previously they had said the first 12 would be withdrawn by November 2012).
Chair of the TfGM Committee, Cllr Andrew Fender, commented: “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.”
In recent times the T68s have become the villain of the piece as far as TfGM have been concerned with any major disruption reported in the local media quickly being out down to one of the “old” trams failing again. The oldest of the T68s are only 20 years old with the T68As only reaching 15 years old when they are all due to be withdrawn in 2014 and so many people have queried why their life in service has been so short. Added to this is the fact that a lot of investment has been made in recent years in refurbishing these trams including the major expenditure on 2001 which spent a long period of time out of service. But the decision has now been made and with further M5000s entering service in recent weeks more T68s are likely to be taken out of service and the advice is catch them whilst you can!
TfGM and MRDL (operators of Metrolink) will now meet to develop a plan to withdraw the remaining T68s.