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Why Don't Our Trams Run Later?

We ask TfGM Metrolink Director, Peter Cushing why not?

Written by . Published on June 23rd 2013.


Why Don't Our Trams Run Later?
 

THE MetroLink is great, for the most part, and only set to get bigger and better. According to TfGM the network is “one of the most successful light rail systems in the UK, carrying around 22 million passengers every year.” That equates to around eight times the actual population of Greater Manchester – impressive stuff.

In these dizzy modern days of late-night shenanigans, perennial night-owls, midweek gorging and boozing, galleries kicking out at nine, theatres after ten and cinemas at nearly midnight. Not to mention all the bars and eateries. Are our trams running late enough?

Since the first lines opened to Bury and Altrincham in 1992, the network has more than doubled in size – and with the planned multi-million pound expansion of the system to stops like Manchester Airport and Ashton-under-Lyne, by 2016 the Metrolink is set to become the largest urban tram network in the UK.

Metrolink 2016Metrolink 2016

But one question that has been plaguing us during this whole 'big-bang' expansion programme is this - Why don't the trams just run a little later?

For example, the last tram on a Monday to Thursday from Piccadilly to the new East Didsbury station is at 11.16pm. If you dare to catch the last tram on a Sunday or Bank Holiday evening then you better be done in the city by 9.52pm – Hold on, the last tram on a Bank Holiday Sunday is before 10pm?

I’m sure that the last time we checked (which happened to be the last Bank Holiday Sunday) people did still like to go out in the city centre past 10pm on a Bank Holiday. This seems deficient at best, downright moronic at worst.

Quick the last bloody tram leaves at 9.52pmQuick the last bloody tram leaves at 9.52pm

In these dizzy modern days of late-night shenanigans, perennial night-owls, midweek gorging and boozing, galleries kicking out at nine, theatres after ten and cinemas at nearly midnight. Not to mention all the bars and eateries. Are our trams running late enough?

The night buses are certainly pulling their weight, with many services running from Piccadilly Gardens, Shudehill Interchange and other city centre stops until around 3.30am. But with around 80 percent of all public transport journeys in Greater Manchester made on bus, you’d hope they were.

Piccadilly Gardens: NightbusesPiccadilly Gardens: Nightbuses

So why aren’t the trams doing their bit for the city’s late-night revelry? As a city striving for a more thriving and vibrant late-night city centre, shouldn’t the Metrolink be trying to support Manchester’s late-night economy? Not only that, it’d certainly create more working hours for the Metrolink staff that needed them.

Transport for London has already cottoned on to the idea, with Tube services set to be extended until 2am under new plans revealed by TfL this year. Following the success of the later Olympic timetable last summer, TfL executive Mike Brown said, “The Tube is the artery of London and we want to make the city’s heart beat strongly and later on into the night.”

“It will be a real benefit for London’s night-time economy, either for people working late or enjoying themselves. If people want to buy that extra meal, cup of coffee or pint of beer, why wouldn’t we want to encourage that?” Hear, hear Mr Brown.

TubingTubing

So why not Manchester? We asked TfGM Metrolink Director, Peter Cushing, why the Metrolink trams didn’t run any later:

“One of the great things about Metrolink is that we can be flexible when it comes to meeting demand, particularly during major events.”

“On a routine basis, the six Metrolink lines in operation have various start and end times with some continuing to run past 1am on Saturday nights and, in our experience, that meets the current level of demand.

“We have assessed the demand for running services later across the board or throughout the week and it would not be sustainable. We also have to balance the need to carry out routine maintenance and cleaning of the tram fleet, which has to be done outside service hours.”

Peter CushingPeter Cushing

“But we do react to what is happening in the city and have extended our services to run later to cater for major events that people can get to by using the network. We did just that during the Stone Roses concerts at Heaton Park and it worked very well.”

Parklife attendees may very well beg to differ. Gargantuan queues plagued both the bus and tram services put on especially for the event over the weekend. Post-event queuing for both the Parklife Express buses and particularly at the Bowker Vale tram station were akin to a queue for free kisses from Cliff Richard on a Saga holidays cruise liner – immeasurably long.

We certainly doubt an extra hour of two of service added to certain routes around the network would pose a seriously detrimental effect on the 'routine maintenance and cleaning of the trams'.  That looks like a convenient brush off.

Regarding this bit - 'we have assessed the demand for running services later across the board', we asked TfGM if they’d ever indeed trialled the idea. They’re yet to respond (if they do respond we’ll be sure to post it).

Follow David Blake on twitter.

Full details of Metrolink times are available at http://www.metrolink.co.uk/tramtimes

Information for Nightbuses around the city is available here http://www.tfgm.com/buses/Pages/nightbus.aspx

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

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

You should also ask them what they mean by assessed. how exactly did they do that? I suspect the answer will be not very well. even if tram cleaning etc is an issue extending the trams untill 2am on friday and saturday nights shouldnt be too much of a problem.

Andy4152June 13th 2013.

Agreed, 2am at the weekends would be a start and certainly after closing time in the week. If Manchester wants to be an international city it has to start acting like one and at the heart of that is the transport system. The trams are fantastic BUT need to run later. It is a no-brainer. Who wants to be watching their watch on an evening out in case they miss the last tram.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Assessed? Interesting as i've never been asked. I'm a home owner who lives slap bang inbetween 3 new stops and a poll/questionnaire/information sheet hasn't been put through my door since 2008. Later trams through the week and at weekends is a no brainer as Andy4152 put it, poll it on Facebook and see what the overwhelming response is. I bet Metrolink never thought to do that and would appreciate the up to date assessment.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

This is the same TFGM that ignores criticism on Twitter but retweets praise....

Niall BallantyneJune 13th 2013.

I know some of the drivers and at the moment some work until 2:30am on a Friday and Saturday night. This is due to getting the trams back to the depots from outlying stations. Don't think there'd be many drivers who'd be willing to work until 3:30am if services were extended. Also trams getting in at that time wouldn't be cleaned in time to start service at 5am the next morning!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
suzyblewJune 13th 2013.

Just as well A and E doesn't work the same way!

Peter JacobsJune 13th 2013.

Then employ drivers/staff who are prepared to work through the night... As for the cleaning issue, there's always loads of spare trams at the Old Trafford depot.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

I'm sure there are some drivers who would be more than happy to be paid to work until that time , and later, if needed.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

All those 'spare' trams cannot yet be used in service! They have not been fitted with the old signalling equipment.

Caz50June 13th 2013.

As an big concert goer the times of the last trams are ridiculous, especially on a Sunday!! I would also like to point out that when MCR United are playing they put on extra carriages but taking the tram from Victoria to Altrincham after a concert is like playing a game of sardines!! as much as I like socialising arm pits and bad breath are not my idea of fun!! An evening out in MCR city centre is spoilt by clock watching in case you miss you tram home. Surely in this day and age a 2:00am finish would be more acceptable. The bus is not an option for me as the walk would be even further than it is now, we don’t have connecting local buses. Later trams please!!

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Can someone ask Cushing how they got away with reducing the frequency to every 12 minutes (from every 6) without widespread consultation?

10 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

No services have been reduced in frequency... Where did you get this from?

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Do some research, they used to be every 6 minutes during peak times, 12 minutes off peak. yours, BeenRidingTheMetSince92

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

No really, NO services have had their frequency reduced! It was only the Bury and Alty lines with 6 min peak frequencies, and they still have them!

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

^ What they said. Trams run Altrincham - Bury every 12 minutes, and Altrincham and Bury to Piccadilly every 12 minutes too. This gives combined frequency from all stops on these lines to the City Centre of every 6 minutes... The only thing that's changed since 92 is the Bury-Piccadilly has been extended to Droylsden.

AnonymousJune 14th 2013.

So why isn't there one at Altrincham every 6 minutes? I'll wait.

AnonymousJune 14th 2013.

Ah that's a different matter! Weather they always manage to KEEP to the 6 minute headway is another matter entirely :)

AnonymousJune 14th 2013.

whether*!

AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

Actually, for the last 2 weeks only 12 minutes services have been operating on all lines. Look at their website right now - 12 minutes services all round. Except for Eccles which simply has "a service".

AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

Should add to the above that this has been applying to peak times too, I use the trams to commute every day.

AnonymousJune 25th 2013.

Ummm... they list the routes, not the lines. Yesterday it said 12 min service between Altrincham and Bury 12 min service between Altrincham and Piccadilly So there's your 6 minute service on the Altrincham line...

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Night Shift!! stagger the shifts, there are enough people out of work I'm sure there would be plenty of people willing to do it, Metrolink charge enough for the tickets to pay people to clean on a night shift just like the supermarkets pay shelf stackers!!

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Yes, what a great idea, run the horrible noisy things even later, then those of us unlucky enough to have had a monstrosity of a line recently built behind our houses can get even less sleep. It's obviously not enough being woken not long after eventually falling asleep by another flying past then hearing the first one of the day two hours before needing to get up, let's run the bloody things all night. That'd be brilliant, we'd get absolutely no sleep then. That'd be even more considerate from the imbeciles at TFGM.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Yeah, how dare they inconvenience you by building a public transport network to meet the needs of a modern growing city.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Which line do you live near? While some of the old trams are exceptionally noisy these days, especially on the Eccles line, the new ones make hardly any noise at all.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

You try living right on the line Anon1, literally yards from the line, and see how you'd like it. It's meant to be modern transit yet the noise is unbelievable. But as long as you can get home at 2am sod everyone else who has hardly slept since the line has opened. Anon 2, The Didsbury line. We've been told they're new trams, if they are I dread to think how loud the old ones are.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

I do live next to the line, and have done for a lot longer than you have.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

Peter Cushing is under your bed. Mwah hahahaahaaaaa! Stop moaning. Nimby.

AnonymousJune 13th 2013.

I do live next to the line, and have done for a lot longer than you have.

Phil MurphyJune 13th 2013.

They're being cleaned? Oh right, we'll stay in the 14th century then. And this comes directly AFTER relocating to a much trumpetted multimillion pound state of the art tram base? Not only are there more trams out there, there are more budding cleaners, potential drivers and I'm sure wannabe TfGM metrolink directors that could ensure they're cleaned that little bit more efficiently so as to provide a more flexible timetable. Perhaps some of the rude, over-bearing and unnecessarily omnipresent ticket police could be redeployed into cleaning. Actually deploying them in a way that improves the customer experience instead of blighting it? I recently watched them surround a young man in a very intimidating way at St Peter's Square because he wasn't in possession of a ticket. He didn't even ride on a tram. But, the staff told me, he needed a ticket to STEP onto a tram, which he did while looking for the person he wanted to meet off the tram that wasn't familiar with that route or stop. Appalling behaviour by the staff that only abated when I intervened, and only then after a completely uncalled for confrontation. The likelihood of such instances is much increased on the Piccadilly - Altrincham line because people a rammed into the things like sardines in a tin. Absolutely rammed. It happens when there's any type of delay too. Anywhere. We pay good money for a relatively poor service. I see and get much better options and service when I travel to other European cities. Many of them have electronic signs telling you, accurately, what's going on. They've existed on the Piccadilly - Altrincham for ooooh probably a couple of years now. But they've never worked. Not very 21st century is it - standing there guessing? The speakers are quite inaudible a lot of the time. Particularly when there are running nearby, as they tend to do at tram stops. Some of the announcements verge on being genuinely fictional. It really hasn't improved much at all since Grahaom Stringer Aired His Views Here www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Metrolink-Bad-For-Citys-Image-Claims-MP…

AnonymousJune 23rd 2013.

I don't want to travel on a tram after midnight over a long weekend thank you. How much will security cost? And anyway people on Man Con are well known for not wishing traveling on Public Transport. They can't afford it (or the parking charge if they don't)

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

Security? what security? cost the same as it does the rest of the time I should think.

AnonymousJune 23rd 2013.

A notice has been posted now to confirm you need a ticket on the platforms.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 24th 2013.

but you cant buy one untill you are on the platform... how does that work!

LoopyluJune 23rd 2013.

I work reglaur shifts on weekends where I finish at 10pm. I also work the same hours on Bank Holidays. So I have to pay for a monthly tram pass of £73 and then pay extra to get home on the bus when metrolink can't be bothered running later. I am about one of 50 people in my office affected and this is just one city centre office - so i'm not sure who metrolink canvassed... Later trams please!

AnonymousJune 23rd 2013.

I would prefer the inequality of late night bus services be dealt with. The 192 and buses down the Oxford Road corridor run until the early hours of the morning most nights. All other main bus routs finish at midnight midweek. Main bus services running along major routs into the centre should run until 2am all week and I feel would be much safer for passengers than a lonely isolated tram. They would probably more economical to run than a tram service too as you could vary the frequency easier than that of a tram service and still provide people with a way of getting home to the commuter belt midweek without having to sell an organ.

1 Response: Reply To This...
MaggieJune 25th 2013.

Yes (yet another) anon, it's another typical example of the (Manchester) North/south divide. All transport services to the South of the city are better that those to the North - clearly, we should all eat more hummus and cous cous..............

tblzebraJune 24th 2013.

Would it be so difficult to run a later service on a Bank Holiday weekend Sunday? Or even every Sunday, until 11pm. I don't believe for one minute they've done any research about this, or other options suggested on here. '...in our experience, that meets the current level of demand.' says it all. Experience doesn't mean research, or that they've trialed other options. Their customer service department is a mis-named total joke.

tblzebraJune 24th 2013.

Why are paragraphs no longer working on here?

MJune 24th 2013.

Great news about the Tube extending until 2. I missed that one. As for the metrolink, if you don't provide a late night service people won't turn up to get it. The 23/A bus which links Didsbury and Chorlton is infrequent and not particularly busy yet they spend tens of millions on a tram which connects the two and (surprise, surprise) suddenly the punters appear. Having a last tram before 10 is pretty ridiculous. After making all that investment to build the thing you may as well pay for a little extra in staffing to keep it open longer. At the very least 'til past the old pub closing + kick out times (11:30-11:45 from the city centre). I would assume this was a given.

AnonymousJune 25th 2013.

I'm sure they've improved it a touch in the past 3 years, but given the chunky fares (I especially like that it's 90% the cost of a return to go one way...) you would think that they could at least trial extending the services by an hour and gauge effect. Mon-Thurs trams leaving Piccadilly at 11.30 is just that bit too early. Speaking of fares - there was supposed to be some plan to introduce a modern zoning system soon. It puts me off using the service quite a lot because unless you always make the same journey the cost bloody racks up!

AnonymousJune 25th 2013.

A zoning system is impossible in provincial cities without a franchising system for buses. Bus companies fix their own fares and routes. The proposed card is simply and expensive all system card which already exisits.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 25th 2013.

Forget the buses - nothing is stopping them implementing a zoning system on the trams alone. It's completely draconian that you have to buy season tickets based on a single journey between two fixed points. I lost you in your last sentence - do you have any details on any new systems that have been proposed?

Daniel WadsworthJune 25th 2013.

I wouldnt like trams to be running in the early hours when i am trying to sleep, they run right alongside my house.

Rick22June 25th 2013.

Does anyone know when they plan to update their rubbish phone app to include live tram information? i see they finally got round to adding boards with next tram information to the majority of the stops so surely they can update their App

CarolJune 25th 2013.

We've missed the last tram many a time, yes please even another hour would stop us having to walk home.

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