More woes for Metrolink after cold temperatures & Cornbrook points causes problems

It is becoming rather tiresome to report but Monday 4th November was another day to forget for Manchester Metrolink after delays were experienced on all lines because of ice on the overhead and then after that problem had been solved the troublesome points at Cornbrook failed again. The morning delays were due to severe frost on the overhead wires and because of extensive improvement works over the weekend Metrolink bosses had been unable to run their usual ice breaker trams to help clear the wires – if the frost had been forecast before the weekend they say they would have cancelled the works to enable them to run these trams.

A spokesperson from Transport for Greater Manchester is quoted in the Manchester Evening News: “ TfGM and Metrolink’s operator, MRDL, have a clearly defined set of  operational procedures which are implemented in the event of icy conditions being forecast in areas served by Metrolink. This includes running ice breaker trams to keep the overhead power lines free from frost. This weekend, a package of essential engineering work and network improvements was scheduled to take place. MRDL receives detailed weather forecasts in order to prepare for any frosty conditions. If these forecasts suggest ice is a possibility, any work scheduled on the network can be cancelled. None was forecast ahead of the weekend, so the work went ahead. Once such work is under way, there are limited opportunities to cancel it in order to hand the lines back in a safe and suitable condition for operating trams, including ice breakers. Unfortunately on this occasion, by the time the frost forecast was received on Sunday evening, the work could not be stopped until it had been completed, which was in the early hours of Monday morning. This reduced the MRDL’s ability to run ice breaker trams, which in turn affected services, and we apologise for the disruption this caused.

Delays of at least 30 minutes were experienced on all lines whilst the problems were dealt with leading to many very unhappy passengers who were delayed on their commute to work on yet another Monday morning. In addition there were problems between Timperley and Altrincham because of Network Rail issues which were also said to be down to the frost.

And then if that wasn’t bad enough the points at Cornbrook then failed at approximately 1845 causing further problems. Engineers were quickly on the scene (they might as well stay there permanently the number of times they have to attend!) and the points were reset shortly after 1900. During the disruption no inbound services were able to operate whilst outbound trams were able to continue operating although at reduced speeds.

TfGM have said investigations are continuing into the problems with the points at Cornbrook but for the long suffering Metrolink passengers it can’t come soon enough when these problems are solved.

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14 Responses to More woes for Metrolink after cold temperatures & Cornbrook points causes problems

  1. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Words fail me. The usual excuses rolled out. The whole tram world must by now have heard of Cornbrook. As for frost it is not unknown in the north of England in November. The original Manchester system even in it’s last speed reduced days was nothing like as bad as this. Is anybody prepared to accept responsibility for these failings? I just feel so sick and embarrassed that my city can not get it’s tram system sorted. I hope someone in that setup reads these comments. We are enthusiasts and we want Metrolink to be a great system but we just get so fed up of hearing the same problems.

    • Colin Smith says:

      In general terms, I fully agree. Cornbrook is proving to be the Achilles heal of the system. However, it is being a bit unfair comparing the first generation system with Metrolink so far as frost problems are concerned. The older system was, by the time you refer to, for the most part only operating in built up areas where the buildings offered shelter from frost on the overhead equipment.

  2. Liam Standring says:

    I was stood at Derker for well over an hour before I decided to drive in to work. A tram had halted, unable to move, between Shaw and Derker and the passengers (including a pregant lady) were man-handled off and made to walk up to Derker (over half a mile away) along the tracks, at which point said tram had managed to get going again and caught them up! The word DELAY shown on the info boards is entirely misleading as no service was available.

  3. Ken Walker says:

    They use the excuse of engineering work preventing ice breaking trams from running. They obviously weren’t aware that the Bury, Ashton and Rochdale lines were running a normal service on the Sunday as all the engineering works were in the south side of the network, so what was the excuse for ice breakers not operating on these lines? As for Cornbrook, this is now becoming almost a daily event and barely worthy of mention anymore.
    In addition to the disruption itself, the information given by Metrolink regarding availability of tickets on buses is abysmal. On the Monday for example they were telling passengers that they could use their tickets on the 181 and 182 between Rochdale and Oldham Mumps. I emailed them to point out that the 181 no longer runs between Shaw and Rochdale and that neither of the services goes to, or indeed anywhere near Oldham Mumps or Derker. I just got the automated reply that they would respond within 15 days, which I’m sure was a great help to passengers travelling on the day. On another occasion they quoted services 182 and 183 being available between Rochdale and Manchester, unfortunately the 183 is nothing more than a local Oldham-based service serving the hospital. I wonder how many First Manchester bus drivers have been on the receiving end of rants from disgruntled passengers because they have pointed out that their bus doesn’t go to where the Metrolink website says it does? Passengers are stressed to start with by the endless failings of the tram network and don’t need “winding up” even more by being sent on wild goose chases by people who don’t check facts before posting advice on the website.
    As TfGM specify the bus tram and train services within Greater Manchester they should surely be vetting the nonsense that Metrolink put on their website.

  4. Mike Norris says:

    Agree with Ken’s apt last line wholeheartedly.
    Setting out to use Metrolink to travel from Radcliffe to Disbury these days truly is a Nonsense. What can a half hourly service 33 (single deck operated) do to carry a tram-load of passengers at Piccadilly wanting Eccles, when the system goes down. Is there no-one in Metrolink man enough and with any sense of decency to sort these problems out and to show some care for passengers in these all too regular instances. Yes, someone somewhere has got to stand up, be recognised and take responsibilty for these appalling state of affairs, then pack his and all of MRDL’s bags and clear out of Manchester for good and allow another operator in, who says he can make our trams run !

    • Gareth Prior says:

      I’m not convinced changing the operator will have the desired effect to be honest. Metrolink has already been there when Stagecoach left and were replaced by MRDL which seems to suggest there is something else at fault. What that is I don’t know!

  5. nigel says:

    Sorry but another failure has been missed of Mondays horror show. At about 1700hrs a tram “sat down” at besses resulting in absolute chaos on the way into Victoria. Trams descended the hill from Shudehill and blocked the road thus preventing the 135 getting down, sometimes 3 to 4 units, some double were stacked up just trying to get through man vic.

    I had a plus bus and was on the 135 and when it left man vic there were nearly fights breaking out, and I am not over dramatising their either, due to the sheer volume of Metrolink passengers trying to get on it. I left Man Pic at 1710 and got home in radcliffe at 1850.

    Just follow some of the people on Twitter and you will get an idea as to how strong the anti management of metrolink has become.

    Now tgm has confirmed that if you tweet them after 1700hrs when they stop manning the “Tweet Desk” and before 0900hrs all Tweets are ignored.

    Many are clamouring for the Men and other so called Journalists to do proper in depth reporting on the Cornbrook shambles.

    Meanwhile no accountability seems to be held by anyone and it will carry on like this for a long time to come yet I fear.

  6. tram man says:

    I’am afraid no matter who tfgm appoint to run the metrolink system,nothing will change.As I have mentioned in previous post tfgm hold the purse strings.If metrolink had been allowed to choose a new signalling system they would have gone for a proven system like siemens,certainly not Thales who are making it up as they go along.I would class Stagecoach as a pretty competent operater,but they must have seen what was coming and bailed out pretty sharpish.As for the ice on the overhead.Sunday night was not a particular heavy frost and there were trams out testing between cornbrook and gate No2 at old Trafford.
    Mind you these new trams cannot handle the ice the same as the T68′s.
    And before anyone suggest using the T68′s at old Trafford as ice breakers,forget it.They are in no fit state to go anywhere apart from the scrapyard.

    • Watcherzero says:

      Your missing the fact that the London Underground chose the same signalling system from Thales? Or are you calling them incompetent too?

  7. nigel says:

    Tram man I take on board your points raised and very good ones they are to. What is going to happen as Ice Breakers if no t68s to do the job .

  8. Ken Walker says:

    With regard to Stagecoach pulling out, I did wonder at the time whether it was because they operate all the buses on the Ashton New Road route and didn’t want to be involved in a Monopoly enquiry.
    As regards the congestion, one unfortunate downside of the number of doubles running now is that congestion builds up more quickly as it is only possible to accommodate 1 service at a time in any particular platform. I witnessed this last Friday on a double from Rochdale which was at a stand immediately before the Market Street stop (and obstructing the pelican crossing) for 5 minutes waiting for a Bury-Altrincham double in front to depart, which was obviously following another service standing at the delta junction. The abolition of the Mosley Street stop does not seem to have done very much at all to reduce congestion as was promised as the lights at the St Peters Square end of where the stop was seem not to be timed to give trams a run, I have seen trams stand at these lights for 2 or 3 minutes (obviously this is outside of Metrolink’s control). As for standing across Corporation Street, I was under the impression that tram drivers were not supposed to take the signal if they could not cross and clear the junction. I have certainly seen drivers ignore the proceed signal when there has been one in front.

  9. Bob Hall says:

    In those parts of he world where damp, sub-zero temperatures are commonplace the OHLE does not ice up. A controlled “short circuit” passes sufficient current along an unused line to warm the wires sufficiently to prevent icing. It is not rocket science, just the application of long established practice. Unfortunately, British operators are still engrossed in the brainstorming necessary to invent the wheel, which sooner or later they will conclude must be circular.

  10. Ken Walker says:

    Metrolink website again announcing disruption to all services due to ice and freezing fog. Slight delays on the Bury & Ashton lines and severe delays on the East Didsbury and Altrincham lines and between Rochdale and Oldham. No doubt this will cause delays and distress to people trying to get to the Remembrance Day events. Will they ever get it right? It’s a good job our transport infrastructure was more reliable than this during the war years!

  11. Fred says:

    Most people are missing several points here possibly.

    -TfGM own all the network, and plan everything. Whose house the compulsory purchase and every tree planted. They will make as many cost savings as possible as they do not operate the network. It is their fault trams are driving on icy lines that are known to frost, snow and more… TfGM are really at fault for many things here but MRDL cannot speak out! Their hands are tied.

    - GMML, Serco, Stagecoach, MRDL All these operators still employ mostly 85%+ of the same staff in management and operational planning. So no matter who the operator is, it will still have the same staff of which 34% believe in giving a good service, 33% hate the public and 33% are there only for the monthly salary slip.

    - Asking Peter Cushing to resign is pointless as he can’t do much, and if he does go, then it will be months before a replacement is found and they will take months to get upto speed….. Peter needs t have good backing and support to make decisions and implement them.

    In my opinion
    - its ALL staff not having communication!
    – From TfGM & MRDL bosses to Drivers, passenger staff and customer services.
    - There is too much “one-upmanship” going on that people with expertise and and experience are at loggerheads.
    - TMS is failing, FACT! the system isn’t fit for purpose and TfGM are polishing the turd, Thales hate TfGM as their relationship isn’t friendly anymore. (just look at the way new parts of the system has different TMS features turned on/off)
    - TfGM put pressure on MRDL to provide a service without MRDL’s owner RATP being given the reins to do the job they actually could provide. Given the resources needed. and TfGM not being “interfering”

    If I could suggest three things

    - Staff MUST be updated on all parts of whats going on.
    + Stop the secrecy. Get on with it and make people want to work there and happier in their job and this will cascade out to the service provided.

    - TfGM let MRDL jump in the deep end for 2014. Let them be fully responsible for the network planing as MRDL do have experts and experience on their side. If they fail, fine them! and kick them out!

    - Communication is the key. consult, implement, review, learn but for christ’s sake don’t have meetings for meetings and remind people why your there!
    “To provide an excellent frequent tram service for the people of Greater Manchester”