The boss of Metrolink has listened to what you think about the service - here's what he has to say
Aug. 12, 2019
After Manchester's Metrolink was named one of the best tram systems in the world, we asked you - the passengers - to tell us what you thought about it.
The response was overwhelming, with more than 500 people getting in touch with the Manchester Evening News to share their thoughts.
You told us what you like about it, what you don't and what you would change about it if you could - everything from extending the network to being allowed to bring dogs on board.
The M.E.N. has met with the head of the Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, to talk about the points raised by our readers.
This is what he has to say in response.
Danny also shares the things he thinks Metrolink can improve on, outlines where he'd like to see it extended to in future and what they are doing to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and explains why he never stops listening to what passengers have to say about it.
Metrolink switched to a zonal ticketing system earlier this year
By far the most common concern among those who responded was about the cost of tram tickets.
A number of passengers said they felt the introduction of the zoning system was actually costing them more money.
Danny says that although ticket prices were increased when the new zonal system was introduced in January - for the first time since 2014 - he believes the change offers better value for money for the majority of passengers.
Danny said: "Something like 80 per of people pay slightly less, ten per cent pay the same and ten per cent pay more.
"Some of the fares are more expensive, but zonal means you can make more journeys in a day, it capped out the cost.
"For example, if you live in Chorlton and work in Media City, you can make your journey to work but you don't have to pay any extra if you wanted to go into the city after work for a drink, so actually there's a lot more value.
"So while I accept that some people do pay more, it was in line with inflation plus one or two per cent, we are offering more value at the same time, and more opportunity to go to different places, because you don't have to travel from stop to stop, you can go to the zone.
"We went contactless last week and the only reason we could do that is because we went zonal.
"We made 60,000 journeys in the first week which is a huge number. We've seen already a big shift.
"It just makes it even more convenient.
"We need to now look at how to make it even simpler to make those journeys."
Extra trams during busy times
Early morning rush hour commuters using the Metrolink tram network at St Peters Square
A number of passengers got in touch to ask if more trams could be put on to cater for busier periods.
Danny explained how large events are planned for, and how the arrival of new trams next year will help.
"We have 120 trams," he said.
"Daily, we have about 110 in service with the rest kept back for maintenance.
"On event days we've operated around 115, so almost every vehicle out there.
"We do well when the events are on weekends, we're pretty good at football games but we do have a problem, especially with European games during the week, because we try to cater for commuters trying to get home so we have to have capacity going to where the demand is and sometimes that's not the same destination as a football game.
"We try to flex and get as much capacity as we can for events. The new trams will help us a lot as they will be out there as double units.
"I think we can do better. We are always looking at it, trying to learn lessons.
"The Trafford Park line will help for Trafford events the Wharfside stop will be nearest to Old Trafford so that will be a help, but we are always looking at it and always trying to do better."
Anti social behaviour
Police board a tram on the Rochdale Oldham line
One of the most frequently raised concerns among those who contacted us was the prevalence of anti-social behaviour on the network.
Danny admits it is an issue and says bosses are doing all they can to clamp down on it.
He says: "We do acknowledge that there is a problem with anti social behaviour, it affects some lines more than others.
"High profile recently has been Oldham and Rochdale, we work with Keolis Amey, look at all the data we have and deploy staff accordingly.
"We've taken on more staff, and we've really invigorated the relationship with GMP.
"All those bodies share information and are deployed depending on the time of day or intelligence
"Having a presence is the most effective thing.
"There are still high profile incidents happening around the place and we can't be everywhere, but we have managed to have a lot of coverage, and we see less and less incidents come through. We have to get the balance right across the network.
"It's not just Metrolink that has a problem, it's an issue across Greater Manchester and it happens to manifest itself on Metrolink.
Damage caused after a passenger 'went berserk' earlier this year
"It's an intimidating environment if someone is up to no good on the tram, we are doing our best to clamp down on it and the police are doing their best as well.
"As a rule, if they [staff] are there, it doesn't happen, it's a deterrent.
"There's often assaults on Metrolink staff so it's difficult for them to intervene in aggressive anti social behaviour, so the response is to call the police, and the police will arrive very quickly, we have that sort of relationship.
"If someone is not necessarily violent but up to no good, they ask them to move on and usually that is effective. If it escalates, that's when the police will be called.
"There are call points on every stop, and on the tram that get you to the driver, we also encourage people to call the police in an emergency
"I always encourage people to report things, because that then becomes data that can inform decisions.
"We do 400,000 ticket checks every month and we are catching more and more people.
"For every 100 tickets inspected only two are found to be travelling without tickets.
"In the future we could put [ticket barriers] on some key stations.
"It's our policy to be an open ticketed network and a lot don't lend themselves well to having barriers, it comes with maintenance, the cost would have to be paid for. It's not our policy right now but it could be
"Most of our infrastructure doesn't lend itself to ticket barriers. Our policy is just to make it easy for people to buy the tickets without boxing them in."
Extending the network
Work is ongoing on the Trafford Park line, which should open in early 2020
Many people who responded to the M.E.N. wanted to know if and when the trams would be extended to their area.
Here, Danny shares where he'd like to see the Metrolink go next, and how it fits in with ambitious plans to change public transport in Manchester over the next decade.
Danny says: "We're going to open the Trafford Park line next year, probably in the first half of 2020.
"In the background we've been working up business cases for the expansion of Metrolink, but also looking more broadly at what we call the 2040 vision which looks at all transport modes.
"That might mean we look at connections for people all across Greater Manchester, it might not be a tram, it might be improved bus services, it might be better train services, cycling and walking for example.
"Of the Metrolink schemes on there's Stockport. Middleton is a very strong possibility because we could extend from Crumpsall.
"There's an extension from the Trafford line to Port Salford; a really strong possibility around Manchester Airport completing a loop that brings Metrolink right through the airport.
"If HS2 ever does come, the station will be there and we could link with HS2.
"We've got an obvious extension Stalybridge from Ashton under Lyne, we are working up options for that.
"Media City gets busy, I believe there's a strong link if we were to carry it up to Salford Central.
"The Salfrod Quays area is a really strong attractor now, with massive growth, I think we could make improvements there.
Danny with a map of the existing lines
"All that could create a bigger network for us.
"When we open the Trafford Park line we'll have a tram every 45 seconds through St Peter's Square, so it really is tight, very high frequency.
"We'll reach a crunch point where we physically can't put any more trams in, so that's why we are looking at other options like tram-train, using some of the infrastructure that already exists around Greater Manchester.
"We could utilise the fantastic rail infrastructure better. It's a challenge to get the technology right, lots of work that needs to happen, so that's what we are doing next.
"One of the biggest challenges is capacity, in some areas people have to wait for a tram, they can't get on the first one so we are buying new trams.
"27 new vehicles are coming from March next year, what we are focused on is introducing the Trafford Park line and increasing capacity.
"We don't have a major capital pot available to us to keep expanding but we do have the funds to make business cases, so our ask now is from central government.
"We have great relationships with contractors. If we were to get funding we could carry on developing at the same pace we have in the past.
"There's no railways anywhere in the world that has expanded at the rate Metrolink has, and I'm proud of that.
"It's something Greater Manchester has proven it can do. if we get that funding we can carry on at that pace."
Will dogs ever be allowed on the trams?
Reader Janine Watson was among those who asked if dogs could one day be allowed on the trams. Pictured is her dog, Arco
At present only guide and assistance dogs, or cats and dogs which are being taken to the PDSA at Old Trafford, are allowed on the trams.
The readers called for all dogs to be allowed on the trams may be in for disappointment.
Danny says: "We did have a consultation on this. There were dog lovers who wanted to take dogs on trams, but there was another group who didn't and when we looked at it, the risks, we just felt that we should't allow dogs on trams other than assistance dogs.
"I don't think it's great for the animals. I saw a dog on a crowded train recently and the dog was very distressed. It wasn't a good experience for anybody, including the dog."
All night trams, ticket barriers and taking bikes on the trams
Piccadilly Metrolink Station
Many of the responses we received focused on the infrastructure of the network, as well as its availability.
Here Danny addresses the suggestion to keep trams running all night, and why he's not ruling anything out.
Danny said: "There could be (a 24-hour tram) we've looked at some very rough costs. We don't think there's a market right now to run all night long.
"We run services from 3am to the airport from the city centre and it's very under utilised. We could see a time when we run at least some lines 24 hours, we're not averse to the idea but there would be a lot of cost, we need to make sure it at least pays for itself because we have to make an operating surplus.
"We'd be very vary of having a blanket 24 hour service. Right now I don't think there's a market for it, but we will consult on it soon.
"If the demand is there, and I think it will be over time, we'd definitely do it. We're looking at slightly later services at Christmas time. I think there's scope to extend the operating times in future.
When it comes to bikes, Danny says there is no safe way to allow them on board and keep the system moving as it should.
He added: "We've got 120 trams, capacity is our biggest challenge, to use the trams best is to get it through the city centre as quick as possible, so if you introduce a process that introduces delays, if a tram has to stop for 45 seconds, then the next one will be delayed and they will build up in the system. I don't think it would work here.
"Having space for bikes and people doesn't go hand in hand. We need to move people, so unfortunately because we don't have the space, we don't have a safe way of carrying bikes.
"I think we need to integrate better with cycling and we need to make our stops more bike friendly so people can cycle to the stops and then get on a tram.
One suggestion - possibility influenced by the recent mini heatwave - was to have air conditioning on the trams.
Danny added: "We did seriously look at air conditioning for the new trams, but the power we would need to use doesn't really match our green credentials, especially when 100 per cent of our power is renewable energy, having air con is a bit of a luxury for the two days a year you'd actually need it in Manchester. It would drive up the cost as well."
Pride in the Metrolink
Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink, spoke to the M.E.N about passengers' concerns
The study which named Metrolink one of the best tram systems was carried out by Eurogroup Consulting.
It compared 32 different light rail networks and praised it for a number of factors, including its ticketing and pricing.
It was awarded a 66 points out of possible 100, ranking among the best.
Danny has of course welcomed the results, and says he feels Metrolink is something for 'Manchester to be proud of'.
Danny says: "That survey came out of the blue for us, I was really surprised and pleased to see the results, to find that we are comparable to some of those European cities was great news.
"Even though people do have their grievances, I think a lot of Manchester folk are quite proud of the system.
"We've got 44 million passengers a year now. That's double what we had in 2010, so we are obviously doing something right.
"Overall I think Metrolink is something for Manchester to be proud of.
"Even though it does have its problems, we take all that feedback on and make the changes to keep people happy in the future"
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