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Manchester trams halted by communications failure

A communications systems fault at Transport for Greater Manchester halted Metrolink tram services across the city on Sunday 14 May

Manchester’s Metrolink tram service was brought to a grinding halt on Sunday 14 May, following a major technical issue at its Trafford Park headquarters that caused the system controllers to lose sight of the trams.

According to the Manchester Evening News, a Metrolink-issued statement said that although tram drivers were able to talk to their controllers, the control centre had lost visibility of its assets.

“They are not able to see the position and location of the trams from the control room so for safety reasons they wouldn’t want them driving around the system,” said the statement.

This meant Metrolink was unable to operate its services safely, and had to suspend every service across Greater Manchester, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

In a formal statement, Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), said: “I’d like to apologise for the disruption to the network and the impact it has had on our customers.

“There was a technical systems failure which has affected communications between the control room and trams out on the network. As such, and to ensure the safety of our passengers and staff, we have halted all services and are now in the process of slowly returning all the vehicles to depots where possible,” he said.

As of Monday morning, the city’s tram service was operating as normal after extensive overnight work to repair the fault. “Looking ahead, we will conduct a review to look at what lessons can be learnt to avoid this type of issue occurring again,” said Vaughan.​

Read more about communications outages

Metrolink said the issue was not one it has seen before, but it believed it had been caused by a component attached to the control network sending out “spurious communications”, as a result of which the safety system correctly shut down. The organisation declined to comment further on the precise cause of the fault.

Metrolink runs a closed IT network, and insisted there was no indication it had come under any kind of cyber attack – a legitimate concern given the 12 May ransomware attack that stopped work at multiple NHS trusts across England.

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