Light rail

Since 1991, when Manch­ester took de­liv­ery of the first sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion tram for Metrolink, more than 300 trams have en­tered ser­vice in the UK. ANDY COW­ARD looks at tram fleet de­vel­op­ment over the past 25 years

Rail (UK) - - Contents - RAIL pho­tog­ra­phy: STEVE KEMP

How the UK’s light rail fleets have de­vel­oped in the 25 years since Manch­ester took de­liv­ery of the first sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion tram.

Au­gust 29 marked the 25th an­niver­sary of sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion trams in the UK - on that day in 1991 Manch­ester Metrolink took de­liv­ery of Ital­ian-built Firema T68 tram 1001, the first of 26 trams pur­chased for the then-new rev­o­lu­tion­ary light rail sys­tem.

Although it would be more than seven months be­fore Metrolink car­ried its first pas­sen­gers be­tween Bury and Vic­to­ria (on April 6 1992), the ar­rival of 1001 to Manch­ester proved to be a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in the his­tory of tramways in the UK.

In the 25 years since, more than 300 trams have en­tered ser­vice on the seven UK mod­ern tramways. Some­what iron­i­cally, 48 sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion trams have al­ready been pre­ma­turely with­drawn from ser­vice by both Metrolink and Mid­land Metro, with a large num­ber of the orig­i­nal Metrolink T68 fleet - in­clud­ing 1001 - hav­ing been scrapped.

Manch­ester Metrolink

As the first sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion tramway, the trams or­dered for Metrolink were al­ways go­ing to be some­what ex­per­i­men­tal in terms of their con­struc­tion for the UK mar­ket, although the de­sign of the ve­hi­cles drew upon much ex­pe­ri­ence of UK rail op­er­a­tions and con­ti­nen­tal tramways.

As part of the de­sign, build, op­er­ate and main­tain con­tract for Metrolink, the win­ning GMA Group con­sor­tium was re­spon­si­ble for procur­ing the trams that would op­er­ate on Metrolink, with con­sor­tium mem­ber GEC Al­sthom work­ing in as­so­ci­a­tion with Greater Manch­ester Pas­sen­ger Trans­port Ex­ec­u­tive on the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the trams.

The con­tract to build the trams was awarded to Ital­ian train man­u­fac­turer Firema, with an or­der placed for 26 twin-car trams (to be num­bered 1001-1026) at a cost of £1 mil­lion each. Much of the mod­ern elec­tron­ics on the trams was pro­vided by GEC Al­sthom. They fea­tured two power bo­gies and an un­pow­ered centre bo­gie, built very much to a stan­dard of a heavy rail bo­gie, rather than a con­ven­tional tram bo­gie.

Con­struc­tion of the fleet was split be­tween sev­eral Firema plants across Italy, and they were built be­tween 1991 and early 1992. The first tram (1001) ar­rived in Manch­ester on Au­gust 29 1991, and over the fol­low­ing eight months all 26 trams were de­liv­ered to the city.

Due to a lack of spares and other is­sues, two of the trams (1014 and 1015) were ini­tially used as short-term spares donors, although by the end of 1992 both of these had also en­tered

T68 1001 was the first sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion tram to be de­liv­ered to the UK, ar­riv­ing in Manch­ester on Au­gust 29 1991. On July 20 1992, 1001 stands at Pic­cadilly Gar­dens on the first day of Metrolink ser­vices to Pic­cadilly station.

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