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Trams not just for Tourists
Member Name: scuba_angel
Advantages: regular, fairly cheap
Disadvantages: occasional delays, peak times
So in my quest to find a new job (and getting a sodding tax disc from the DVLA) today I had to venture to the bright lights of Manchester city centre, my chosen method of transportation the metrolink from Radcliffe.
OK the metrolink for the uninitiated is the tram system that runs through Manchester city centre connecting Bury, Altrincham and Eccles with the city. The trams run on the Bury line roughly every 6minutes during the day and every 12 minutes at off peak times, from 6am until 11pm.
The trams are in the companies green and grey livery with a drivers cab at either end, they are simply two carriages long as the frequency of the trams negate the need for longer ones (plus any longer and they would be less practical for travelling through the city centre).
On each tram are rows of seats facing the drivers cab, so one carriage is always travelling backwards. There are two sets of doors on each side of the train roughly in the middle of each carriage (I think - there maybe four sets of doors but for some reason I can't picture where they would be if thats the case!). Above each door is a sign with a London Underground style map of the metrolink system, so there are no reasons for missing your stops. Each station is equipped with ticket machines as far as I am aware there are no manned ticket offices on the system, each machine should give change but like all machines the change can sometimes run low, and if you want to pay with coins the machines will accept all UK coins except 1p and 2p's. The ticket looks like a small bus ticket and is easy to lose in a pocket or handbag so keep it in a safe place. There arent regular ticket collectors just spot checks so it isn't worth taking the risk of not buying a ticket. The standard fare is around £20 if you dont have a valid ticket the first time you get caught after this the amount charged will increase until the fourth time you get caught when you will be prosecuted, but the offences are only kept on record for 12 months.
My journey today from Radcliffe to Trafford Bar cost me £3.50 return off peak but the peak time cost would have been £4.80. So not expensive at all and with the regular times you are almost certain not to have a long wait at the station. Of course there can be delays but personally I haven't experienced any as yet. I am uncertain as to whether you are meant to be I have never had any problems jumping on and off the trams at different stops in town centre (today I got off at St Peters Sq back on there then off again at Victoria before getting back on yet again to head back to Radcliffe) obviously within the limits of the ticket I bought.
They have the usual range of ticket types, adult, child, concession as well as season tickets for each type, and these can be bought from the website and from shops with a paypoint, but to buy one of these you have to join the travel club.
The Radcliffe station car park is pretty large, though at the moment sections are closed to allow work on the track over the bank holiday weekend. It should be mentioned here that there are major track works going on this summer but there are signs on each tram and at each station as well as on the website notifying you of the days that the trams wont be running.
The stations all have ramps leading to the platforms and the trams are level with the platform in most places, so are pretty good for disabled people or those with prams, if there are stations without the level platforms am sure the driver can assist.
I have used the trams to get home from evenings out in Manchester and I have always felt reasonably safe on the trams, on occasion I have seen police travelling on them whether this is for the safety of passengers or just the police moving around during their shifts I couldnt say but I do find it reassuring. They seem as clean as you would expect from public transport and seem to suffer remarkably little vandalism. Of course during rush hour I would imagine that they are packed and could be quite unpleasant to travel on but like any other mass transportation this is to be expected - its called rush hour for a reason!
Over all I quite like travelling on the metrolink during off peak times, its as quick as the train, cheaper from the local station, and the metrolink has far more carparking space not to mention that the 15 minute drive away from Bolton means its as quick to go up to Radcliffe when the roads are busy as it is to drive down to the trainstation (just 2miles away but the traffic can be a nightmare), and with the proposed charges for driving in to the city it is a far more attractive concept. So for me getting in to Manchester this has to be my preferred method.
Summary: A very different North West Tram service
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