Why do cars keep getting stuck on Manchester’s tram tracks?

Earlier this week, a car collided with a tram in Salford Quays, after driving onto the tram tracks. According to reports, the BMW knocked down a railing at the Exchange Quay stop before driving onto the tracks and hitting a tram on the Eccles line. Luckily, nobody was injured, but the accident caused a bunch of delays so people were understandably annoyed.


The thing is, this isn’t the first time this has happened in Manchester, quite the opposite. Over the past year or so, there seems to be a new story popping up every few weeks about cars ending up on Manchester’s extensive tram network.

Back in February, commuters were delayed after a car drove onto tram tracks in Wythenshawe, on the new Manchester airport line. While in November last year, four cars ended up on tram tracks in the space of a single week.

tram airport line

All of this begs the question, just why are so many cars ending up on Manchester’s tram tracks?

When I mentioned to Scott, my flatmate and resident public transport nerd, that I was writing a post about the recent issues with the trams, his first response was childish excitement that I was talking to him about trams. After he had calmed down though, he asked me a valid question: who is at fault for all these incidents? Are the tram lines not clear to motorists, or are motorists just stupid?

Personally, I think it’s pretty easy to spot tram tracks. Fair enough, there are some spots where the tram tracks run alongside the road, but usually it’s pretty clear where the road ends and the tram tracks begin. There are also signs, but it’s just common sense really.

The thing is, with this most recent incident, the motorist drove through a railing to get onto the tracks, so they definitely can’t use the excuse that they didn’t realise the tracks were there. I’ve also seen cars on the tram tracks by my flats, by the New Islington stop. One car had driven across the grass and down the line towards a tunnel. Again, clearly not a road.

tram ancoats

Are these motorists just stupid? Maybe they think they’re taking some crafty shortcut to save them waiting at traffic lights for 30 seconds? Either way, nobody wins in these situations. The tram has to stop, kicking passengers off and causing delays. Whoever is driving the car will be delayed as well, as they usually get stuck and have to be dragged off the tracks. Also, if the car is hit by a tram, you can bet it will cause a fair bit of damage.

I’ve lived in Manchester since 2008, and have watched the tram network grow considerably, spreading out across Greater Manchester, connecting the various suburbs to one and other. Since I live in Ancoats, I don’t need to get the trams that often, as I can just walk into town. They’re pretty handy when I need to venture further out though. But it definitely isn’t handy when you want to get a tram but can’t because some pillock has driven onto the tracks and gotten stuck.

So, motorists of Manchester, pay attention to where you’re driving, yeah? Learn the difference between a road and tram tracks? Maybe put your phone down and actually look where you’re going, and maybe you’ll stop ending up on the tracks.

Just a thought.