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Metrolink driver ignores a suspicious package

by Paul Wheatley - @Paul_D_Wheatley

We uncover a year of inconsistent responses to passengers who raise the alarm

A man on a "packed" tram in Manchester was furious after he reported a suspicious package. The driver did "nothing" initially, but then asked passengers to carry the package to him.

The incident happened on 20 February 2018. The first of two days of severe disruption which ended with worried travellers and fresh criticism of inconsistent security procedures on the network.

The desperate passenger took to Twitter to plead with Metrolink to respond to the abandoned bag. The tram carried the suspect package from Victoria at around 9:45am, just nine months after a terrorist atrocity killed twenty-two people nearby. But the driver ignored the passenger's emergency intercom warning, continuing through the city centre towards East Didsbury.

Metrolink security concerns

Vigilant passenger Greg Thorpe also found the @mcrMetrolink Twitter account unhelpful.

They told Greg that they needed him to obtain the tram number displayed above the driver's door, but he was unable to get to it on the busy commuter tram. Other Twitter users expressed concern about how the incident was handled.

Metrolink security concerns

Metrolink security concerns

Just five months after a bomb exploded on a London tube train at Parsons Green, the suspicious package protocol on Manchester’s busy network remains unclear. We've reviewed twelve months of Metrolink's dramatically inconsistent responses to similar threats and customer enquiries.

Months before the Parsons Green bomb, a Metrolink driver stopped his tram to assess an abandoned bag in this incident.

Metrolink security concerns

Metrolink advise "staff and customers alike" to "always remain vigilant" before asking customers to report anything suspicious to anti-terrorist contacts.

Metrolink security concerns

But in January a customer removed an abandoned bag from a tram himself.

Metrolink security concerns

Here a concerned passenger is advised to report a bag to the tram driver.

Metrolink security concerns

A passenger who saw no response to his report of an abandoned bag last November, asked Metrolink if security is taken seriously.

Metrolink security concerns

A passenger is advised to carry this bag to the driver.

Metrolink security concerns

Metrolink never replied to this late night Tweet.

Metrolink security concerns

Another passenger is advised to carry an abandoned bag to the driver.

Metrolink security concerns

Passengers "panic" as a large bag is left in the middle of a tram.

Metrolink security concerns

Here another passenger is asked to pass a bag to the driver.

Metrolink security concerns

What is the official procedure on the Metrotram? Surely it can't be right for members of the public to pick up a suspicious item and walk through a crowded train or along a busy platform with it?

It may be obvious to a passenger that a carrier bag of shopping is harmless lost property, however unless they leave their cab, Metrolink drivers can’t evaluate a potential threat. These reports indicate that drivers are continuing journeys or even asking passengers to handle items, on the strength of ambiguous verbal descriptions.

We contacted Manchester Metrolink for comment before publishing this article. We received an acknowledgement and await a further response.

Factsheet 2022/23

2022 factsheet Our 2022 Factsheet (PDF) about Manchester Pride is available (there won't be a new factsheet for 2023). Read about your right to access the Gay Village without buying a wristband, history & opinion .

Download the PDF version.

And here it is as two images (handy for sharing on social media): page 1 | page 2

Our factsheet from 2021 is still well-worth a look. It has four pages of facts, gossip and fun. Download it as a PDF here. See our factsheets page for other years.

Useful reading

The ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman in April 2015 (PDF). The Ombudsman decided that Manchester City Council had exceeded its powers by mentioning wristbands in a traffic order and that it was unlawful to restrict access to premises (businesses and homes).

Minutes of a meeting at Marketing Manchester in November 2002. These show that those present were told they couldn't charge people to enter public streets. However some of them went ahead and did so from 2003 onwards for a decade.

At the meeting were: Manchester City Council, GHT, the LGF (now known as the LGBT Foundation), Marketing Manchester, the organisers of Europride 2003. The advice seems to have come from the police. Yet the police apparently then turned a blind eye...

This document was unearthed at the Library Archives quite recently by a FactsMCR campaigner.

The media

Since the ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman in 2015 the media — both LGBT and mainstream — have stayed silent about the decade-long wristband fiddle and your rights. So some people continue to pay unnecessarily.

All your favourites know: GayStarNews, Pink News, Manchester Evening News, The Guardian, BBC and many more. In a letter to us, the BBC defended its journalist right not to report this. The same BBC that championed consumer rights at one time now prefers to cosy up to the civil-rights-infringing Manchester Pride, as a "sponsor" (the BBC says it doesn't give money).

These organisations don't need to lie. They simply ignore an issue completely. Or, they report some of the facts; perhaps popping in just one or two bits they don't like, to add a fake impression of balance. That's how they manipulate opinion in the direction they think it should go.

The veteran ITV reporter John Pilger says that "not reporting" is the most powerful form of censorship.

What else aren't they telling us?