Metrolink T68 1025 becomes twelfth to be withdrawn – with a twist!

12 of the original T68 vehicles on Manchester Metrolink have now been withdrawn from passenger service with 1025 the latest to be taken out of service, although this time it has a more secure future as it is to be used for winter ice breaking duties. This now concludes the originally announced withdrawal program although it is not expected to be that long before more examples are taken out of service.

1025 ran its last passenger duties on Tuesday 15th January when it was utilised on Bury-Altrincham direct services. It was swiftly moved into the workshops at Queen’s Road depot where it has received a special pantograph for winter ice breaking duties. Those of you have been reading our news blog recently will be aware that Manchester Metrolink run “ice breaking” trams when temperatures are forecast to reach a certain level overnight so that when passenger services start in the morning the trams can easily draw power from the overhead wires. The special pantograph on 1025 will enable this vehicle to undertake these duties and it is also retaining its TMS and VRS equipment to allow it operate on most of the network. It is not known whether it will be able to be used on all lines as previously T68s have not been permitted to travel on the Oldham and Rochdale lines – ironically the line which was part suspended earlier this month as a result of ice breaker trams not running!

1025 becomes the first second generation UK tram to be withdrawn from service and to find another use as a works tram, a practice which was, of course, very popular in the days of first generation tramways with many now preserved trams owing their existence to this very practice. It could also mean that a T68 is guaranteed to live on a bit longer which may allow preservation groups extra time to find the money and space to house one of the original second generation trams in this country.

Meanwhile a number of M5000s have entered passenger service other the past couple of weeks with 48 examples now being fitted with TMS and VRS equipment to allow them to operate on the complete Manchester Metrolink network. The two latest M5000s to enter service have been 3048 and 3049 with 3047 currently receiving the equipment to also join the operational fleet.

“The first 12” – T68 withdrawal dates

1011 – 18th April 2012

1004 – 16th May 2012

1008 – 14th June 2012

1005 – 22nd June 2012

1001 – 7th August 2012

1018 – 9th August 2012

1006 – 30th August 2012

1010 – 2nd September 2012

1015 – 20th September 2012

1019 – 27th September 2012

1020 – 2nd November 2012

1025 – 15th January 2013

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22 Responses to Metrolink T68 1025 becomes twelfth to be withdrawn – with a twist!

  1. WatcherZero says:

    It would take more than 4 hours or so for one tram to cover all the network track icebreaking so presumably they are still also going to use M5000’s unless they convert more.

  2. David Holt says:

    Is one solitary icebreaker tram enough for the expanding network? Maybe more will be added in due course. Perhaps they’ll fit snowploughs as well?

  3. Ken walker says:

    If this tram into be used only as an “ice maiden” I wonder how long it will last as it will only be required for 3 or 4 months of the year, and intermittent use even during that period. What is special about the pantograph being fitted, is it just of more robust construction to avoid damage from the ice or is there more to it? With regard to the withdrawn T68s stored at Old Trafford it was sad to see a couple of weeks ago that despite being stored in a supposedly secure depot they appear to have suffered considerably from the attentions of the graffiti brigade.

  4. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Great stuff. Nice to see a pro-active decision being made. Hope that it all goes to plan and wish them well.

  5. Nigel Pennick says:

    The custom of using old trams used as works cars is as valid now as it ever was. A snowbroom tram like those they used to have on the first generation electric tramways would be useful – they use them at airports. (Not trams of course, rubber-tyred snowbroom trucks).

  6. David Holt says:

    The reason why the T68s are banned from the new lines is probably that they have cyclically sidecut the track since day one, which is what causes the M5000s to hunt so badly at speed. The cyclic sidecutting has necessitated much relaying and transposition of rails (eg on Cornbrook viaduct) and may necessitate more of the same once the T68s are finally finished with. Better to keep that costly phenomenon away from the new routes. Also, passengers will not be able to make unfortunate comparisons between the two types of tram if they only ever experience the smaller and potentially slower and more rough-riding M5000s.

    • Ken walker says:

      I’ve generally found the ride on the M5000s to be ok, although I’ve not used the Metrolink that much prior to Shaw opening. Perhaps it’s the preceding 25 years of travelling on class 142 pacers that’s made the M5000’s seem ok – a 142 would make a solid-wheeled bus seem comfortable! But I had a ride from Victoria to Bury and back on 3044 a couple of weeks ago. The ride to Bury was fine but on the return journey the degree of hunting was alarming in places.

    • TM says:

      Jury remains open whether the cyclic sidewear from T68s results in M5000 hunting (I suspect not), but it is the reason why T68s are restricted from new sections of route.

      • freel07 says:

        The early stages of the ‘hunting’ are becoming evident on the straight stretches of both the South Manchester and Shaw Lines which tends to point to the fact that the problem is more to do with the M5000 than the effect the T68s have on the track.

  7. Adam Mckendrick says:

    The T68’s are only banned from the oldham Line passed Central Park, due to signalling at Newton Heath Depot, but that stops them using the St Werburghs line because it has to pass the depot to work that service,

    Last night there was 4 M5000’s and two double T68’s on ice breaker duties, 1025 was not one of them.

    • freel07 says:

      Not strictly true Adam. its certainly one reason why they aren’t used on the Shaw to St Werburghs Road service. However a decision has been made not to allow them on any Phase 3 Lines, as I understand it to avoid the build up of the alleged damage they cause.

  8. Phil Hart says:

    I regularly travel from Derker (on the Oldham line) to Market Street. I find the ride really comfortable until it meets the junction with the Bury line. From here to Victoria the trams shake so much side to side, people nearly fall off their seat (if they have one). Standing squashed like sardines, (which is a regular occurance from Oldham Mumps before the 9am tram from Shaw) I have seen people nearly fall over on this stretch of track.

  9. Neil Gardner says:

    Can anyone tell me what future awaits the withdrawn T68’s or are they to be scrapped?

    • Gareth Prior says:

      At the moment they are just being stripped for spares and stored. In the long term they are likely to be scrapped unless by some chance they manage to find somewhere else in the world to take them on.

  10. roger woodhead says:

    I would suggest a couple of T68 be retained for towing duties. After 3045 became a total failure last week when operating in sardine can mode, its sudden shuddering halt threw several passengers on to the laps of others. Fortunately the incident occured between St Peters Square and Deansgate but the vehicle was stuck there for over an hour while one man in van attempted repairs. This affair thus prevented all services to the South being stopped and it made me think that had a recovery vehicle been based at Old Trafford it could have been despatched wrong line and recovered the failure and thus reduced the delay to other services by a considerable amount. To conclude the tale 3045 had lighting restored after about 45 mins and eventually power was sort of restored to the motors and it then moved at a snailspace with alarms sounding to Old Trafford.

    • Ken walker says:

      Why can’t they couple up the following service and push the failure to the next stop? Or if the tramcan’t be moved, why is there no emergency procedure to enable the passengers to be disembarked onto the roadway? It’s one thing on the former railway sections where there are all kinds of hazards for the unwary, but to be trapped on a stationary tram in cattletruck conditions for over an hour when there is a roadway and public footpaths adjacent is ridiculous. If passengers are able to disembarked at least they have the option of going for a bus.

      • freel07 says:

        There is a detraining procedure but as I understand it this failure happened on the ramp up to Deansgate Castlefield which is not really a safe place to be getting passengers down onto the track. I could be wrong about the location and perhaps someone will correct me. There is no need for specific recovery trams as in the case of an emergency recovery either type of tram may be coupled together mechanically although a mix of T68 and M5000 will not retain full multiple unit control. I don’t know why the following tram wasn’t used to attempt a rescue.

        • Ken walker says:

          That’s a fair point if the failure occurred on the raised section and not on the street, it probably wouldn’t have been safe (although they would have to do so in an emergency). The T68s seem to be fighting back as Metrolink’s own website was showing the service suspended between Derker and Shaw for a while on Monday afternoon due to a tram failure at Shaw, so this must also have been an M5000 failure. As regards the ride quality, I have travelled the whole current system within the last month on M5000s and apart from the instance I mentioned earlier in this thread t has been perfectly acceptable. But thee again I have always managed to get a seat!

  11. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Some positive comments in previous comments. Lets hope Metrolink takes heed. We all want Metrolink to be succesful but these incidents really need reducing. Hopefully Transoprt For Manchester allow the new boss to get on with making improvements with minimal interference.

  12. Clifford Stead says:

    Unfortunately Ken common sense and logic don`t prevail these days! Getting the passengers off or shunting the failed tram out of the way would seem fairly straight forward. The M5000`s seem to be having a few technical hitches! I`m not sold on these trams at all, the dire lack of seating and poor ride quality let them down. When the entire network opens in 2016 I don`t think the 94 trams will cope and there will be serious overcrowding. Some T68`s may have to return to traffic to help out!

  13. The Eye says:

    The M5000’s cousins in Cologne are notorious for rough riding at high speed! Although to be fair, I travelled from Altrincham into the city at the beginning of the week on an M5000 and the ride quality was far better compared to when they were first introduced! Is this to do with less T68s or have they tweaked the suspension on the M5000s?

  14. WatcherZero says:

    Limited track replacement.

    While not regular its not unheard of for the T68’s to operate the South Metrolink line so could be some damaging there, however ive always argued the cause of the M5000 wobbles when going over 40 (their smoother than T68’s at low speed) is the high centre of gravity caused by attaching seats horizontally to the sides of the tram rather than vertically to the floors for ease of cleaning.

    That said the Flexity Swift itself isnt the smoothest ride at high speeds, you cans see the same problem on the newer DLR cars which are just reshelled Flexities underneath.

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