Manchester Metrolink T68As: The Final Farewell

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all day) and once their duties were completed they were to return to Queens Road Depot where they would be officially withdrawn from passenger service.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 20012004 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2001 and 2003 have been flying the flag for the T68As for over a year now with the other four examples having been withdrawn from service within a few weeks of each other in March and April 2013. Of the withdrawn vehicles 2004 has already left Manchester and has been scrapped in Rotherham with this LRV being removed by Alleleys on 2nd April 2014.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

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11 Responses to Manchester Metrolink T68As: The Final Farewell

  1. tram man says:

    Even though we all knew it was coming,a few days notice would have been nice.I wonder what prompted metrolink just to announce on the day that it was their final day in passenger service.I thought it would have got a mention on the local news.

  2. Mary says:

    Will they really be missed? Perhaps by a few enthusiasts but not the regular passenger or the engineers with the impossible task of maintaining them. OK there is the sentimentality of them being the first modern light rail in the UK, but realy they were a bad buy and showed the folly of always accepting the lowest bidder. Manchester is best rid of them…

  3. Clifford Stead says:

    I agree that the whole handling of the withdrawal of the T68A`s this week has been a great disappointment, it would have been nice to have given us a bit more notice, especially for those of us who live miles away! I hope the farewell event is handled better.

  4. Nigel Pennick says:

    Compared with when I was young and scrapping trams meant the tramlines would also be ripped up finally and buses would take over, as happened everywhere outside Blackpool, the replacement of trams by a second generation of vehicles is progress indeed. The end of these pioneer trams in 2014 just means new ones run in their place. A complete change in attitude in 60 years.

  5. Howard Piltz says:

    Mary is quite right of course, but these trams were the first of their generation and as such deserve better. Hopefully one will be preserved and I really do think their reliability could have been improved had there been the will, just look at the reliability of 2001 since it returned to service.

  6. Frank Gradwell says:

    I wonder how long it will be before the M5000s need replacement too.

    I hear horror stories of their structures being incompatible with rainy Manchester and winter salt spreading


    Surely Europe where these abominations come from has more extremes of weather than anything here.

    • John West says:

      Your ‘horror stories’ are very much misplaced. There are over 1000 of the flexity swift in service! If the were as such an ‘abomination’ as you say, would bombardier have received order for it from: Croydon and Manchester; Cologne, Bonn and Frankfurt; Istanbul; Porto; Rotterdam; Stockholm.

  7. nigel says:

    As far as I know 1007 will be one of the units doing the farewell tour the cost of which looks like being £20.00 with all the profits going to charity.

    As for 2001 its been a hard job keeping it going. As for being a bad buy I would disagree , they have served well with failures only coming towards the end. What makes me laugh is transport for greater manchester took great delight in telling us all when a t series broke down and that things will become so much better. So what excuse will they give now when the m series develop there now increasing technical fault.

    Will also Metrolink get the track profiled and help to stop the horrendous journey conditions on some routes with the m series.

  8. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Now is the time to start going through the hours of film footage of the T68 and T68A which I started filming way back in 1991. Have enough material for at least 2 videos between 1991 and 1995. I managed to film 2001 on Wednesday but missed out on 2003 as I had to get back to Saddleworth to pick my son up from school. I look forwards to the tour in May.

  9. tram man says:

    As we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing.When metrolink was conceived back in the eighties the T68 was pretty much the only suitable vehicle on the market.It was also classed as light rail,which now I suppose would be classed as the new buzz word tram/train.
    From the engineers point of view the T68a was a bit of a handful to work on.Mainly due to the electrical drawings being in Italian.The engineers still have the same problem with the M5000.After four years they are just starting to get the English version of the software needed to fix the trams.I suppose we should be glad metrolink didn’t turn into a white elephant and has turned Manchester into what looks like a European cosmopolitan city.

  10. tram man says:

    Just heard that the farewell tour will be on bank holiday Monday 26th of May.Not sure what the itinerary is yet,but as we all know T68s are not allowed on certain lines.So they would probably be restricted to Altrincham and bury,which is where they pretty much spent most of their lives.

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