What is it about Mondays? For the second week in a row there were delays on Manchester Metrolink and this time they can definitely be put into the major category with overhead problems at both Deansgate-Castlefield and Radcliffe leading to services being suspended and altered. The severity of the problems were such that the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham demanded a meeting as to just what went wrong.
The problems starting shortly after 1430 on Monday 19th February when all trams on the Bury line were suspended because of overhead line problems at Radcliffe. No trams ran beyond Queen’s Road for the remainder of the day with the damage sustained so bad that it wasn’t until midway through Tuesday 20th February that services were able to resume all the way to Bury. Trams had been extended as far as Whitefield earlier in the day.
As if one problem with the overhead wasn’t enough a second issue was reported just after 1615 at Deansgate-Castlefield. This led to all trams running from Altrincham, East Didsbury, Eccles and Manchester Airport being terminated at Cornbrook. Although this problem was initially fixed this only ended up being a temporary fix as further problems were reported leading to further amendments to the service during the evening.
Reports on social media and in the local press have said that passengers were “forced” to “jump” from trams and walk along the tracks to continue their journeys. Continuation of journeys would have been by bus with replacement buses put in place between Bury and Queens Road/Victoria whilst passengers were also able to use Metrolink tickets on local buses which parallel the tram services.
Overnight repairs enabled services to run through Deansgate-Castlefield again at the start of service on Tuesday 20th February but the damage sustained at Radcliffe still required further attention with a full resumption not able to commence until midday. Metrolink bosses had warned passengers the night before that it was highly unlikely repairs would be finished by the morning rush hour.
In the immediate aftermath of the two incidents Mayor Andy Burnham was forthright in his condemnation calling on a meeting to determine exactly what went wrong. For their part both Transport for Greater Manchester and operator Keolis Amey Metrolink (KAM) confirmed that full investigations are underway.
Aline Frantzen, Managing Director for KAM, said: “We are sincerely sorry for the disruption on Metrolink services on Monday and Tuesday – we know that people had long and difficult journeys as a result. The disruption was caused by two separate incidents on the network where the overhead lines were damaged at Bury and Cornbrook, affecting a significant number of services. The overhead lines are inspected on a weekly basis and this type of incident is incredibly rare, but it does have a very significant impact on customers when they do occur. Repairs are now complete but investigations into the cause are ongoing. We are liaising closely with TfGM to look at what lessons can be learnt and how to reduce the risk of this happening again. Our engineers worked through the night with both TfGM colleagues and experts from around the country, who are a part of the wider KAM network, to tackle the issues as quickly as possible – but they were complex and took some time to address.
Danny Vaughan, Head of Metrolink at TfGM, added: “I’d like to reiterate my apologies for the delay to people’s journeys on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, and assure them we are doing all we can to ensure this type of incident does not occur again. TfGM has been working closely with KAM to look at the cause of the incident, the way it was handled and the way customers were informed. We have also been liaising closely with the Mayor’s office regarding this matter and a report is being produced which will include a review of what happened and measures which can be taken.”