The end of an era, the final farewell, call it what you will but Wednesday 30th April will go down as another significant date in the history of the Manchester Metrolink T68/T68A fleets with the final normal passenger service runs of the remaining two operational T68As: 2001 and 2003. Both vehicles were allocated to the Bury-Abraham Moss shuttle during the day (2003 did spend some time during the morning out of service but 2001 was used all day) and once their duties were completed they were to return to Queens Road Depot where they would be officially withdrawn from passenger service. However it appears that this will not the very end as Manchester Metrolink have confirmed on their Twitter feed that there will be an official Farewell Event during May with details to follow nearer the time.
The once six strong class of T68As were ordered specifically to cater for the Metrolink Eccles extension and spent most of the early years of their career operating between Manchester City Centre and Eccles before they started to stretch their legs a bit more with further T68s being modified allowing them to run through the streets to Eccles. The first T68A to arrive in Manchester was 2001 on 10th May 1999 ahead of the first passenger runs on 6th December 1999 (when 2001–2004 and 2006 all entered service, 2005 followed on 7th January 2000).
2001 and 2003 have been flying the flag for the T68As for over a year now with the other four examples having been withdrawn from service within a few weeks of each other in March and April 2013. Of the withdrawn vehicles 2004 has already left Manchester and has been scrapped in Rotherham with this LRV being removed by Alleleys on 2nd April 2014. In recent times the use of 2001 and 2003 has become sporadic with the M5000s becoming more and more reliable. The two T68As have been restricted to use on the Bury-Abraham Moss shuttles since the closure of Victoria for redevelopment works although there has been at least one occasion when a T68A managed to reach Manchester city centre with 2003 seen on a test run on 4th April.
But now the journey really is over for both the T68 and T68As and after today no normal fare paying passengers will be able to enjoy a trip on one of these iconic trams. There will be a farewell event at some point in May (details of this will be released within the next few weeks by Transport for Greater Manchester) but that will really just be a sombre retirement party.
Thanks for the memories T68As! You will be missed!
* As with the withdrawal of the last T68s we are planning to feature a special “Farewell to the T68As” Photo Gallery within the next few weeks. If you have any photos of the T68As during their far too short working life please email them to email@example.com.