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Free trams until Sunday

After the upheaval since Tuesday the Altrincham and Eccles lines go free for four days

Published on September 3rd 2009.

Free trams until Sunday

August was the month of repairs, renovations, of laying the foundations for tram line extensions. September has started off with recriminations, rancor and a public relations disaster.

Since the supposed re-introduction of Metrolink services on the Altrincham and Eccles lines on Tuesday 1 September, endless ‘technical problems’ have caused cancellation of services, replacement buses and passenger rage.

Following the unforeseen inconvenience experienced by Metrolink passengers on the Altrincham and Eccles lines this week, services on those lines will be free until the close of service on Sunday

Confidential has received email after email from the press office of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) over the problems, some being sent out very late at night or in the early hours. This morning, at 6.23am we woke to another email. Then we got another one at 7.30am. These contained a bit of a surprise.

They started predictably enough: ‘Metrolink passengers using the Altrincham line are advised that trams are now running every twelve minutes between the Timperley and St Peter’s Square stops. The X5 and X6 replacement bus services, which have been operating throughout August, are also running between Altrincham Interchange and Manchester city centre.’

Then there came this jolt: ‘Following the unforeseen inconvenience experienced by Metrolink passengers on the Altrincham and Eccles lines this week, services on those lines will be free until the close of service on Sunday.’

Free. Nada. Zilch. Gratis. Let’s get tram hopping from St Peter’s Square to all points south.

Some will see this as a mildly pathetic gesture aimed at short-term appeasement for the exasperation of thousands of passengers.

Maybe though we should take the introduction of the free service in the spirit it’s given and acknowledge that Metrolink and GMPTE are very aware of the inconvenience that has been caused and are marking their regret by this action. It’s perhaps important to keep our eye on the endgame and the improved service with increased capacity and extra lines that the current work will deliver.

By the way the official explanation for the problems goes like this: ‘A fault occurred between Timperley and Altrincham at lunchtime yesterday that resulted in the suspension of services between Altrincham and Old Trafford. Engineers have been working through the night to address the problem, which is of a mechanical nature.

It finishes off with: ‘Passengers on the Bury line who are planning to travel on Altrincham or Eccles services during that time are advised to buy tickets to Manchester Victoria only. Weekly, four-weekly or season ticket holders can claim a refund for travel on the lines during this period by writing to Customer Relations, GMPTE, Freepost MR7 116, Manchester, M1 9QL, by 30 September.'

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31 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JSeptember 3rd 2009.

That is very true...ultimately making those that do pay more! Wonder if they're gonna sort this?

BlytheSeptember 3rd 2009.

That's nice for the alty and eccles tram riders but can we have some free rides in north manc as well to make up for the generally bad service on the bury line? How about they have a week of free rides every year as standard as an apology for the rest of the year.

AlistairSeptember 3rd 2009.

@FedUpCity Centre work to finish beginning of November (5th - 6th) I believe. Can't wait to get a tram all the way to the centre of Picadilly.

Somewhat AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

At least they're offering refunds but the cynic in me can't help thinking that they'll try to find some way of wriggling out of as many as possible - what's the betting people's passes will go missing in the post and 'never arrive' at their office etc? And why are they offering refunds now when their service has pretty much been this bad for as long as I can remember? What about all the other countless times I ended up stranded at work and had to pay to get a taxi home or whatever because no trams arrived? Obviously if they refunded for every problem then they'd be giving nearly all of their money back, but I just don't understand the logic.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

Hi could you tell me the dates because i was told it finished last sunday 6th sept thanks

HelenSeptember 3rd 2009.

They've messed up, they're giving us a few free days - what more can they do, magic the problems away? Take it in the spirit it's intended - a grovelly one.I've been driving in most of August - £4 to park just before Deansgate vs 2 lots of £5.40 a day tram tickets for me and hubby. However I can't face the traffic now the schools are back and its worth paying the extra not to sit for 1 hour on the A56. But all in all the tram service is rubbish and too pricey.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

I've just returned from New York and experienced public transport as it should be. The subway was immaculately clean (both stations and trains), efficient and runs 24 hours a day. It was only £17 for 7 days unlimited travel ANYWHERE on the network, at anytime. It puts our trams to shame. Oh how we laughed when we heard about the shambolic re-opening this week - wish I'd had a bet on it.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

I think that the trams are a great service, I work in the city centre and live in altrincham so use the trams considerably and only remember a handful of times when I have had issues (usually due to football fans rather than the service itself). Throughout Aug I have been getting on the train from Hale to Piccadilly (with a couple of very unpleasant bus journeys). Compared to the train the tram is brilliant. The train is usually late, cram-packed and only run every hour and I have to hike from Piccadilly to Spinningfields. The trams are quicker, more reliable, infinitely more frequent and cost the same (for a season ticket). No comparison in my mind. It is unfortunate that they have had issues with reinstating the service in September, but you only have to think about roadworks which take years and "leaves on the line" to realise we actually have a great thing going with the tram. And offering free fares is a nice gesture. Thank you metrolink. ps if you read the article properly, people with season tickets can get a refund.

east lancsSeptember 3rd 2009.

They're bloody useless aren't they? Hmm, so... instal ticketted barries like other cities/countries we've all been to, or... employ a load of meatheads to hold up the tram at rush hour, probably costing as much as they "make"? Tough one that...

FedUpSeptember 3rd 2009.

It's too little too late if you ask me (although of course will be applying for refund on my pass). Since APRIL my normal 25 minute journey is now 45 minutes. The replacement bus service in August was a joke - at least an hour long journey, and bizarrely cost me MORE than the tram ticket (£3.50 instead of £3.20 from Dane Road - Metrolink told me that this was because the bus company had set the prices, which I didn't believe for one moment). The icing on the cake was yesterday, where I had been waiting for an Altrincham tram for 20 minutes before I OVERHEARD one of the Metrolink people saying that trams were only running to Old Trafford. Which didn't help me to get my son from school in Sale, with now 20 minutes. When asked why they weren't telling people about this, I was told that the PA system wasn't working and that they were telling people at the other end of the platform. Really useful.Oh, and while I'm at it - has anyone else realised that Metrolink has never openly stated how long the work in the city centre was going to take? I believe they're currently saying it will be open in Mid-November -that will be 7.5 months we've put up with a substandard service at the same price. They really have no idea.Sorry, could go on for ages about this!!!

ELSeptember 3rd 2009.

I honestly feel that public transport in Manchester is getting worse, not better. So glad I don't use the tram anymore, the buses are bad enough.

emma graceSeptember 3rd 2009.

Oh how nice it is to not have to rely on this godawful system anymore! Honestly I wish I'd kept a tally of the amount of times the tram has made me late over the years...

BlameSeptember 3rd 2009.

I wonder how many people the metrolink staff will try and fine whilst it's 'free'

DominicSeptember 3rd 2009.

The metrolink service has always been under par and the upgrades of the tracks has been badly planned and a real shambles.. Serco & GMPTE has a lot to answer for and a few days free travel is really not going to cut it.. also people watch for price rises on the horizon... someone will have to pay for it..

AlistairSeptember 3rd 2009.

Well it's not like the majority of people actaully pay for a ticket anyway, let's be honest how often are they checking them now. Oh wow once at Victoria but never inbetween.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

As much as they hate us to know it, driving is still cheaper. My car was knackered the other day and I had to catch a train into Manchester - for the £22.20 cost for two returns, we could have filled the car with petrol and driven to Manchester and back until our eyes were sick of the sight of Kingsway...

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

While the tram has been suspended, I have been getting the train to either Piccadilly or Deansgate. What a difference. Way, way cheaper than the tram (£4.70 from Nav. Road, only £2.50 off peak!) and certainly more civilised! Ok, so I know this is no real help to anyone living closer into Manchester as Nav. Road is the last stop on the Alty line, and the hike from Piccadilly can be a bit much in the rain if you don't manage to catch the shuttle bus (which I never seem to do!), but all in all, I have actually enjoyed commuting over the last month and will continue to use the train.The thought of even stepping on a tram again fills me with dread - noisy, smelly and quite frankly, often dangerous. Too unreliable, too expensive........ just CR*P !!!

DescartesSeptember 3rd 2009.

Ah, I got as far as the bit about their making excuses and got all self righteous. hall hang my head in shame :(

ADSeptember 3rd 2009.


DescartesSeptember 3rd 2009.

Exactly AD, cheap attempt at seeming to offer something. I'd go one further, and say they should offer people travelling that week refunds against their passes.

AlexSeptember 3rd 2009.

Or drive in to work because it's cheaper, and the entire public transport infrastructure in Manchester is a joke

ADSeptember 3rd 2009.

A significant number of the people who suffered on teusday were probably regular passangers with travel passes - who wont get any benefit from the free service. maybe a discount could be offered to tram passangers when they next renew their travel passes?

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

And now the good folks of Oldham and all points around the Oldham Loop can look forward to this nonsense - oh yes, if they wait for several years for Metrolink to reach them, while in the meantime dragging in on the bus or driving. For this they are scrapping a perfectly sound standard gauge railway that can accommodate any train from anywhere in the country. But the Emperor's new clothes trick still works on every council official and newspaper editor : 'Oh look, something shiny!' Still, only a billion or two, eh? Must be better than a million or two to fix Oldham Mumps' crappy, dangerous access. Oh yes, and double the fare you used to pay.

Stu.September 3rd 2009.

I'm not a rail expert. But what new rails are in place...look far worse than the old ones. Scalextrics have better..They don't look smooth at all. We're in for a rough passage in them yellow submarines. One day they'll finish the world, then what happens to construction workers? :(

JSeptember 3rd 2009.

Yes anonymous, many trips on the tram are FREE for some people as well so they love it also!!

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

Cut some slack to the team at MPT. They are the consortium builidng the extensions. The section between G-Mex and Old Trafford was their patch during the blockade. It opened as planned on Tuesday morning. Lets hope it stays that for the rest of the project.

yomannnnnnnnnnSeptember 3rd 2009.


Ali McGowanSeptember 3rd 2009.

@ Dominic - is it not Stagecoach now, not Serco? At anyone else talking about fare dodging - as per previous posts, Stagecoach trams in Sheffield all have a conductor on board to take fares - reducing dodging - and making it feel a lot safer. It works. No meat-head inspectors, refurbished trams, a generally much nicer experience than Metrolink. I honestly wish Metrolink was the joined-up spanking new service our big conurbation needs - but London-centric transport policies and lack of vision by any GM council means we have a sh*te public transport system not worthy of our great metropolitan area. If only I had the cash...

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2009.

What a load of crap, I sent my week long pass for a refund, got a letter back yesterday, they're giving me a whopping £6 off my next pass (that's a bloody cheek as well, not even giving me my money back, they're just assuming I want to buy another pass, what if I don't ever want to travel with them again?!) They should just refund the whole cost. They were offering free travel on the Wednesday - which makes it 5 days they should be refunding, not 4 like they're claiming (unless they just really can't count and think Wed-Sun is four days!). Plus the service was beyond crap on the Tuesday, so they should be offering a refund for that anyway, which makes it 6 days... for the sake of good customer service they should just refund all 7 days!

JSeptember 3rd 2009.

If I had bought an annual tram ticket I would be demanding a rebate. Those poor s0ds....

RTFASeptember 3rd 2009.

Nothing like reading the full article eh? What does the last paragraph say again?

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