City transport chiefs approved plans to buy a further 12 new trams for Manchester's Metrolink system on Friday.
The move will see some of the network’s 32 older T68 models, which have been running since the line first opened in 1992, begin to be replaced by new trams as early as 2013 to 2014.
Councillors in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which oversees Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), approved the move claiming the yellow Bombardier M5000s would mean less disruption on the network as they are four times less likely to cause disruptions.
“The first of the new Bombardier trams have delivered significant improvements for passengers,” said chair of the TfGM committee Councillor Andrew Fender.
“As the investment in trebling the size of the network starts to come to fruition, the time has now come for the original vehicles to enter a well-earned retirement,” he added.
Estimated costs are being reported at £24million for the new trams, with TfGM already having spent £124million on 62 M5000s for the expanding network
However, the original T68s come with a ‘design life’ of 30 years meaning they are not due to be replaced until 2022.
Christine McCormack from Bowker Vale claimed that delays coupled with a lack of seating on the new trams had adversely impacted on the service.
“It’s really very uncomfortable,” she said. “With the amount of people that get on and there being no one there to supervise them, it’s a wonder there’s not been a serious accident by now.”
However, TfGM committee’s capital projects and policy sub-committee chairman Roger Jones argued that “vast majority” of disruptions on are down to the reliability of older vehicles.
In August, the operating company for Metrolink, Stagecoach Group, in a shock move sold its stake to the state-owned French public transport giant RATP for an undisclosed sum.
Stagecoach’s original contract was not due to run out until July 2017 and was worth an estimated £16.2million in assets. It came in the middle of the current £1.4billion ‘big bang’ Metrolink expansion project which today’s announcement forms part of.