Metrolink passenger numbers hit 70% of pre-pandemic levels

The recovery of passenger numbers on Manchester Metrolink has continued over the past few months with the latest figures showing that it has now reached over 70% of pre-pandemic levels. With much of the recovery being seen in the leisure market, Sunday 10th October saw the busiest Sunday in Metrolink history with passengers heading to the Manchester Marathon.

Before Covid restrictions were introduced in March 2020, Metrolink was seeing over 800,000 passenger journeys recorded every week but as lockdown was introduced this rapidly fell with at one stage just 5% of those numbers being carried on board. With the fluctuating restrictions ever since the passenger numbers have gone up and down before the week of 20th September saw 73% of pre-pandemic levels – just over 600,000 journeys in total. There has been a slight fall since (although the last week under review was back at 72%) but these numbers have given confidence within TfGM that there has been a significant recovery to the service.

As we saw during the summer a reduced service had to be introduced to take into account the number of drivers having to self-isolate but from the start of September additional services were introduced with both the Bury-Altrincham and East Didsbury-Shaw & Crompton lines services being reintroduced. At the time these were announced as coming back it was also hoped that the dedicated MediaCityUK service onto the Ashton-under-Lyne line would be able to start up again but with further driver shortages this has now been put back for now. TfGM continue to keep patronage under constant review to ensure available capacity is targeted in the right areas.

Although there may be more passengers travelling on the network (or maybe because there are), reliability continues to be below the target. This is measured by operated mileage with the target being 99.4%. Each of the last 12 months have been below this target with the average being 96.4%. The lowest four week period was period 4 (27th June to 24th July) with just 92.7% of planned miles operated, mainly down to driver shortages caused by self-isolation requirements.

Meanwhile, punctuality remains above the 90% target at 92.0% as an average for the last 12 months. This has taken a bit of a nosedive in recent months though – same reason of staff shortages – with period 4 going as low as 81.9%, by far the lowest seen in the past year.

The training programme for frontline staff is now being accelerated having stalled due to the pandemic and restrictions in place which it is hoped will improve the staffing shortage and hopefully allow full services to operate going forward.

Tram wise, the availability of the M5000s has been just below the target with the rolling 12 month average being 86.9% availability. The past four periods have all been well below the average, with period 5 (25th July to 21st August) the lowest at 81.8% – again there have been staff shortages caused by the pandemic leading to availability issues.

This information comes from the report provided to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority by Head of Metrolink at TfGM, Danny Vaughan. Included in this report is Metrolink patronage line-by-line which gives an interesting snapshot of the popularity of each line (all figures are in 000s and are the September data):

  • Altrincham – 3,700
  • Bury – 2,900
  • Oldham and Rochdale – 2,638
  • East Didsbury – 2,121
  • Eccles – 1,981
  • Airport – 1,185
  • Ashton-under-Lyne – 1,087
  • City – 619
  • Trafford Centre – 600
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