Transport for General Manchester (TfGM) has revealed that for the past seven years the Metrolink transit system has actually been a massive social experiment.
The scientific study, completed in partnership with The University of Manchester and partially funded by The Government, was designed to study the long-term resilience and reaction of the general public in the face of relentless adverse conditions.
“The Government approached us in 2004 with a pot of cash”, said TfGM’s Director of Operations Marsha Sparvagn. “They wanted to replicate the kind of harsh and unpleasant conditions the public may have to face if Britain ever faced a national decline, possibly due to a natural or social disaster, and see how they coped. We’re always up for a giggle so we gave it a whirl.”
Between 2005 and 2012 TfGM enacted a plan which involved subjecting the public to daily unpleasant and mentally disturbing situations, with a team of scientists at The University of Manchester carefully monitoring the results.
“It was just a case of working out what pissed people off”, said Sparvagn. “We have around 300 trams available at Metrolink HQ, but we tend to always send out between 60 and 90 each day just to make sure they were extremely busy and infrequent. And those incredibly dirty, smelly people who come and sit next to you? Actors. We even have around 800 children employed to play the part of obnoxious school kids who are told to swear at you as you attempt your commute. Needless to say, a light dusting of snow doesn’t stop a tram. But it was one of around 70 fake reasons that we used to needlessly stop trams for an hour or two at a time.”
“We always presumed we’d be caught out well before the study was due to conclude”, admitted Sparvagn. “I find it amazing how the public didn’t cotton on to the fact that this was a clearly a test. Constant swallowing of money by ticket machines, zero adherence to timetables, at least three breakdowns a day? We thought we were being too obvious. And we assumed that most people would guess that the complete lack of any digital display giving you information about forthcoming trams was a sure sign that we were fucking with you. Have you ever seen any mass transit system without that type of technology? And yet people seemed fooled by it all.”
Sparvagn smiles when recalling one technique employed during the experiment.
“Some evenings at the Piccadilly Metrolink station we’d just send out tram after tram after tram all to Altrincham. We would use hidden cameras to watch the passengers waiting for Bury and Eccles trams getting more and more irate, yet their patience was astonishing. Some would wait for up to two hours before wandering off to find alternative transport. Never once did they seem to suspect that this was an experiment.”
“We’re amazed at the results”, said Professor Stephen Manderson, who leads The University of Manchester’s Social Research Department.
“Identical experiments were set up at the same time in Bonn, Germany and Arequipa in the Southern region of Peru. In both cases the public reaction was so strong that the experiments were called off after 12 and 18 months respectively. Bonn even saw some rioting. There is certainly something about the will, determination and never give up attitude of the Mancunian mindset which meant we could carry on the experiment for the full seven years. These people would piss in the face of social breakdown.”
The Government is set to use the Metrolink study findings in a new advisory paper on how our armed forces personnel cope with living for months on end in war-torn regions such as Afghanistan and Iraq.