Archive for May, 2014

Nice Trams, Shame About The Seats


I recently travelled to Manchester to have a look at the recent extensions to its Metrolink tram network. The city that led to the revival of the tram in Britain (the first section opened in 1992) now has the largest such network. It embraces former heavy rail lines, reopened rail lines as well as new tramways. To operate this expanded system, a fleet of 94 shiny new trams built by Bombardier have been introduced. These have also replaced the initial fleet of vehicles, which though only 20 years old, are likely to go for scrap.

The level of investment that is going into the system is impressive and is to be welcomed. However, I found the seats in the new trams extremely hard and uncomfortable. In fact, they have the worst seats I have ever experienced on any form of public transport. The seats in the original trams were firm, but not as bad as this. Even the much loathed Pacer trains have better seats. While most journeys may be short, even as little as 10 minutes on one of these seats was unpleasant. The 90 minutes from East Didsbury to Rochdale was torture. If I lived in Rochdale and had to commute into Manchester, this would put me off using Metrolink: I’d use Northern’s trains instead.

Given the millions invested in the system’s expansion, it’s a shame a little bit more couldn’t have been spent on passenger comfort. The new trams cost £2 million each so the cost of the seating would surely have been a very small part of that. A major part of public transport enhancement is to try and get people out of their cars. A laudable aim. In my opinion this will only succeed if the buses, trams, trains etc have good quality seating, at least equivalent to, or preferably better, than the average car now has. I’m sorry to say it, but Metrolink falls down on this, and falls down hard.


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