Incident on the Eccles line

It was all going so well when I visited the new MediaCityUK tram stop on Monday evening… Admittedly, there were lots of staff overseeing the proceedings, including a man with a clipboard who was supervising each tram between Harbour City and Broadway stops, shuttling between the two stops taking a cab ride in every tram. This manual operation seemed to be working ok – imagine our surprise to hear that a tram was involved in an incident at Harbour City on Tuesday evening that led to the closure of the Eccles line until Wednesday morning and the continuing suspension of services to MediaCityUK. So what went wrong?

MediaCityUK spur track layout

The above image shows a rough diagram of the layout between Harbour City and Broadway, including the spur to MediaCityUK. Note the section of single track on the MediaCityUK line that must be traversed by trams in both directions. With the opening service pattern requiring all trams to call at MediaCityUK, this meant that trams in each direction would take turns occupying the single track section: trams at Broadway waited until the line was cleared by a tram heading towards Eccles from MediaCityUK. This would then head to MediaCityUK, the driver would change ends, and the tram would continue back towards Harbour City. Once there, the tram in the opposite direction from the city centre could proceed from Harbour City to MediaCityUK, change direction and head towards Broadway, with the cycle repeating.

Harbour City derailment

What we think happened is that a tram towards Eccles left Harbour City, but came to a stop with the front wheels beyond the points over which a tram in the opposite direction would cross to the left-hand track from the MediaCityUK spur – we understand that these are spring-loaded so automatically send Manchester-bound trams onto the left-hand track. For some reason the tram tried to reverse back to Harbour City, but the front wheels (now the rear wheels) attempted to take the divergence to the left whilst the other wheels didn’t. Unfortunately, the pole supporting the overhead wires was situated between the two tracks and so got side-swiped by the rear carriage which was beginning to run diagonally across the two lines. Not quite a derailment, but not quite an overhead line problem either.

A new signalling system is currently being fitted on certain parts of Metrolink, specifically around Cornbrook where the Altrincham and Eccles lines diverge and at the spur to MediaCityUK – though the latest Metrolink progress report to GMITA laconically reports that this is still undergoing testing, thus the personnel-intensive operation on the MediaCityUK branch. Interestingly, the new Tram Operating System will also feed into the tram information displays currently being fitted across the system – but they are not expected to come into operation in the city centre until Spring next year.

It looks like it could just be a case of human error, so we’re not sure whether there’ll be an investigation opened by the Rail Accident Investigation Board as there was when a Metrolink tram derailed at St. Peter’s Square in 2008. We’ll keep an eye out for an official report in any case.

About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
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7 Responses to Incident on the Eccles line

  1. Dave James says:

    Thanks for the explanation. Could it be that the driver suddenly realised that there was a Manchester bound tram in Media City. That would need to come along the track that he was setting off along so he tried to reverse to get out of it’s way?

    • James McCollom says:

      It’s one possible theory Dave – if there’s not a report from the RAIB then there’ll probably be one to GMITA: so we’ll follow up on that if and when it appears but for now don’t want to speculate too much.

  2. Watcherzero says:

    Excellent drawings!

  3. DuPuis says:


    Hello. I am Roger DuPuis, the blogger behind Trams Stop Here! Thanks again for your comment re: my blog and the Eccles line incident post. I’ll be adding a link to your blog and also checking back often.


  4. Pingback: The little things – follow @McrTransport on Twitter | Manchester Transport

  5. Pingback: MediaCityUK branch suspended – again | Manchester Transport

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