The change was introduced back in 2014, and not everyone knows what it means.

If you’ve ever waited for a tram in Greater Manchester, you may have looked up at the information board to see when the next one is going to arrive.

It’s because of something unique to the country’s largest tram system.

While the board clearly displays how long it is until the next trams, some services have "dbl" next to the time of the next departure.

The change was made in late 2014, and it’s to do with how the trams are formed.

What it means

While many Metrolink trams operate as single services, some are coupled together with another tram to form a "double" service – hence the "dbl".

According to Transport for Greater Manchester, it’s the only tram system in the UK to do this – all other systems only use single trams.

Some other systems do have the ability to couple trams, but it’s only used in an emergency or when a tram fails – not in regular operation.

These extra-long trams have double the capacity and are the reason why Metrolink platforms are so much longer.

So, if you see "dbl" on the departure board, you can wait further back on the platform, and you’ll still be able to get on the supersized tram.

The innovation means tram capacity can be doubled without needing to have more drivers, as a driver is only present in the front tram unit – with the driver’s seat left empty in the rear.

Because the two trams are designed to be operated separately, you can’t walk between them while the tram is in operation – you’ll have to get off and back on again if you want to move between the two.

Messenger Newspapers: A tram to Bury at Victoria station. Photo: TfGM A tram to Bury at Victoria station. Photo: TfGMA tram to Bury at Victoria station. Photo: TfGM A tram to Bury at Victoria station. Photo: TfGM

Single trams

According to Metrolink, not every tram can be a double service, with doubles distributed where demand is highest.

Before new Bombardier trams were introduced back in late 2009 to replace the ageing T-68 trams, some platforms had a lower level for the rear carriage, meaning retractable steps had to be used for those wanting to alight.

Now, all platforms are high-level with step-free boarding, whether you get on at the front or back.


The double tram system hasn’t been without incident.

On September 11, 2021, a man had to have his leg amputated after he fell into the gap between two coupled trams in Manchester City Centre.

Triple trams

If a double tram is too boring for your tastes, then stay on the look out for a rare sight – a triple tram.

Back in 2016, a triple tram was pictured travelling at Sale Water Park after the failure of one of the units meant it had to be pulled back to the depot.