West Midlands Metro
West Midlands Metro (originally named Midland Metro) is a light-rail/tram line in the county of West Midlands, England. Opened on 30 May 1999, it currently consists of a single route, Line 1, which operates between the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton via the towns of West Bromwich and Wednesbury, running on a mixture of reopened disused railway line (the Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level Line) and on-street running in urban areas. The line originally terminated at Birmingham Snow Hill station, but an extension opened in 2016 now runs into Birmingham City Centre to terminate at Grand Central, outside Birmingham New Street station.
|Owner||Transport for West Midlands|
|Area served||Birmingham, Wolverhampton|
|Locale||West Midlands county|
|Transit type||Tram/Light rail|
|Number of lines||1 (1 more under construction)|
|Number of stations||26|
(7 more under construction and 19 more awaiting construction)
|Annual ridership||5.9 million (2018/19)|
|Began operation||30 May 1999|
|Operator(s)||Midland Metro Ltd|
Wholly-owned subsidiary of WMCA
|Number of vehicles||21 Urbos 3|
|System length||13 miles (21 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||Overhead line (750 V DC)|
|Top speed||70 km/h (43 mph)|
Extensions to Line 1, to Edgbaston at the southern end and Wolverhampton railway station in the north are currently under construction. Construction of a new Line 2 from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill was approved in March 2019.
- 1 History
- 2 Route
- 3 Infrastructure
- 4 Ticketing and fares
- 5 Rolling stock
- 6 Branding and livery
- 7 Usage
- 8 Operator
- 9 Expansion plans
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
There had been proposals for a light rail or Metro system in Birmingham and the Black Country put forward as early as the 1950s and 1960s, ironically at a time when some of the region's lines and services were beginning to be cut back. However, serious inquiry into the possibility started in 1981 when the West Midlands County Council and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive formed a joint planning committee to look at light rail as a means of solving the conurbation's congestion problems. In the summer of 1984 they produced a report entitled "Rapid Transit for the West Midlands" which set out ambitious proposals for a £500 million network of ten light rail routes which would be predominantly street running, but would include some underground sections in Birmingham city centre. One of the proposed routes would have used part of the existing line as far as West Bromwich.
The scheme suffered from several drawbacks, one being that three of the proposed routes, from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, Shirley, and Dorridge would take over existing railways, and would have included the conversion into a tramway of the Cross-City Line, between Aston and Blake Street, ending direct rail services to Lichfield. The northern section of the North Warwickshire Line was also to be converted as far as Shirley station, leaving a question mark over existing train services to Stratford-upon-Avon. Tram tracks would also run alongside the existing line to Solihull and Dorridge, with local train services ended.
The most serious drawback however, which proved fatal to the scheme, was that the first proposed route of the network, between Five Ways and Castle Bromwich via the city centre would have involved the demolition of 238 properties. This invoked strong opposition from local residents. The scheme was spearheaded by Wednesfield Labour councillor Phil Bateman, but was eventually abandoned in late 1985 in the face of public opposition, and the Transport Executive was unable to find a Member of Parliament willing to sponsor an enabling Bill.
Following the abolition of the West Midlands County Council and establishment of a new Passenger Transport Authority in 1986, a new light-rail scheme under the name "Midland Metro" was revived with a different set of lines. The first of up to 15 lines was intended to be operating by the end of 1993, and a network of 200 kilometres was planned to be in use by 2000.
In February 1988, it was announced that the first route, Line 1, would be between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, using much of the mothballed trackbed of the former Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level Line, a route not included in the 1984 recommended network, partly as at that stage the section between Wednesbury and Bilston was still in use, not closing until 1992. The Wednesbury to Birmingham section had closed back in 1972, and the section between Bilston and Wolverhampton was last used in 1983.
A three-line network was initially planned, and powers were also obtained to build two further routes. Firstly an extension of Line 1 through the city centre to Five Ways, then a second line, Midland Metro Line 2, running to Chelmsley Wood, and then Birmingham Airport. A third line, Line 3 was also proposed, running from Line 1 at Wolverhampton to Walsall, using much of the disused trackbed of the Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway, and then, using the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill trackbed of the South Staffordshire Line (which would close in 1993), running southwards to Dudley intersecting with Line 1 along the route. This would provide a direct link with the new Merry Hill Shopping Centre, which was built between 1984 and 1989.
Some 25 years later, Line 2 and Line 3 have not been built. In 1997 Centro accepted that they were unable to get funding for the proposed lines, and therefore adopted a strategy of expanding the system in "bite-sized chunks", with the city-centre extension of Line 1 as the first priority. The intention was that the first decade of the 21st century would see the completion of the first of these projects.
Work on the Birmingham Metro tram extension began in June 2012, launched by transport minister Norman Baker. The dig was begun at the junction of Corporation Street and Bull Street, with work to move water pipes and power cables.
On Sunday 6 December 2015, trams entered service on the extension to Bull Street.
A contract for the construction and operation of Line 1 was awarded to the Altram consortium in August 1995, and construction began three months later. The targeted completion date of August 1998 was missed by ten months, leading to compensation being paid by Altram.
The estimated construction cost in 1995 was £145 million (approximately £236 million in 2012 prices). Of this, loans and grants from central government accounted for £80m, the European Regional Development Fund contributed £31m, while the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority provided £17.1m and Altram contributed £11.4m.
Line 1, the 12.5-mile (20.1 km) Birmingham to Wolverhampton route, was originally opened on 31 May 1999, and runs mostly along the trackbed of the former Great Western Railway line between the two cities which was closed in 1972. Of the 23 tram stops, 11 roughly or directly match former railway stations. Originally, the line terminated at Birmingham Snow Hill station, using the space of one of the former rail platforms. However, in 2015-16, the line was extended across Birmingham city-centre to terminate at Birmingham New Street station.
At the southern end the terminus is Grand Central tram stop, which allows interchange with the National Rail network at Birmingham New Street station, it then runs on street through the city-centre to Birmingham Snow Hill station. From there, the line runs north-west, and for the first few miles it runs alongside the Birmingham to Worcester railway line, before the two diverge. Two stations on this stretch (Jewellery Quarter and The Hawthorns) are also tram/railway interchange stations.
At the northern end trams leave the railway trackbed at Priestfield to run along Bilston Road to St George's terminus in Bilston Street, Wolverhampton city centre. St George's has no direct interchange with other public transport, but the bus and railway stations can be reached on foot in a few minutes.
Mondays to Saturdays, services run at six to eight-minute intervals during the day. Evening and Sunday service is at fifteen-minute intervals. Trams take roughly 45 minutes to complete the route.
Track, signalling and depotEdit
Line 1 is a standard gauge double-track tramway. Trams are driven manually under a mix of line-of-sight and signals. Turnback crossovers along the line, including in the street section, have point indicators.
On the trackbed section Birmingham to Priestfield, signals are at Black Lake level crossing, and Wednesbury Parkway and Metro Centre. The street section has signals at every set of traffic lights, tied into the road signals to allow tram priority.
The tram stops are unstaffed raised platforms with two open-fronted cantilever shelters equipped with seats, a 'live' digital display of services, closed circuit television, and an intercom linked to Metro Centre.
Ticketing and faresEdit
Unlike many other tram and train networks in the UK, West Midlands Metro does not offer ticket machines or ticket offices at tram stops. Single, return, and all-day tickets are sold by on-tram conductors. Tickets valid for 1, 4, or 52 weeks are sold from seven "Travel Shops" located around the West Midlands, though only four are in locations served by the Metro.
Up until 2018 single, return, and day tickets could only be purchased with cash or Swift cards. Contactless payment cards are now accepted, though notes larger than £10 are not. Using a Swift card attracts a small discount, usually 10p.
As well as the above, West Midlands Metro accepts a range of interavailable Network West Midlands tickets such as nbus+Metro and nNetwork, which can be bought on buses and at railway stations, as well as on the trams.
Cash fares are distance-related. The scale was originally intended to be broadly comparable with buses, but this caused the system to run at a significant loss and fares rose. In January 2013 the adult single fare from Birmingham to Wolverhampton was £2 by bus and £3.60 by tram, although the tram journey is much quicker even when the bus routes are congestion-free. By 2016 the tram fare had risen to £4. In November 2013 Birmingham City Council indicated plans to introduce a smart-card system (similar to Transport for London's Oyster Card) to improve access, alongside a range of measures including a new Tube-style map and electric bus networks. This has now launched and is called the Swift card.
The West Midlands Metro is operated by a fleet of 21 Urbos 3 trams, constructed by the Spanish manufacturer CAF. The present fleet was introduced into service during 2014-15, replacing the original fleet of 16 Italian-built Ansaldobreda T-69 trams, which had entered service in 1999.
In February 2012, Centro announced that it was planning a £44.2-million replacement of the entire tram fleet. CAF was named preferred bidder for 19 to 25 Urbos 3 trams. A £40 million order for 20 was signed, with options for five more. The new fleet provides an increased service of 10 trams per hour in each direction, with an increased capacity of 210 passengers per tram, compared with the 156 passengers on the former T69 trams. The Urbos 3 trams are 33 metres long; 9 metres longer than the former T69 stock, and have a maximum operating speed of 70 km/h (43 mph).
In October 2019, WMCA awarded CAF the contract to supply the region with an additional 21 Urbos 3 trams worth £83.5 Million for the regions expanding network with the option to purchase a further 29. The contract includes technical support and battery management services over 30 years.
Sixteen of the T69s have been transferred to the tram test centre at Long Marston. With the last remaining tram (Tram 16), being retained as an engineering vehicle, before finally being moved to Long Marston in August 2019.
Branding and liveryEdit
The original Midland Metro branding consisted of a blue, green and red livery on tram vehicles with yellow doors. Upon the change to National Express operation in 2006, Midland Metro was rebranded with Network West Midlands livery, then a sub-brand of the transport authority Centro (passenger transport executive), and trams were painted in a magenta and silver livery with blue doors.
Since 2017, West Midlands Metro has adopted shared branding with other transport modes consisting of a common hexagonal logo formed from the letters WM. This common brand has been introduced in order to created a common identity for an integrated transport system for the region. Each mode bears a coloured variant of the logo: blue for trams, red for buses, orange for trains, magenta for roads, purple for taxis and green for cycling and walking initiatives. The primary typeface is LL Circular by Lineto.
The West Midlands Rail Executive and the West Midlands Trains train operating company have also adopted the brand to facilitate a possible future devolution of rail services from the Department for Transport to the WMCA.
From opening in 1999, usage averaged about five million passengers annually, and this number had reached a plateau. Following the opening of the extension into Birmingham city centre in June 2016, passenger numbers reportedly increased sharply. According to official figures, passenger numbers rose to over six million for the first time during 2016/17.
|Estimated passenger journeys made on West Midlands Metro per financial year|
|Estimates from the Department for Transport|
Since its opening in 1999, the Metro's existing line has not been as successful as hoped, attracting far fewer passengers than initially predicted. At the planning stage it was projected that the line would carry 14 to 20 million passengers per year, but it has actually carried around five million.
Numerous reasons have been suggested for the relative under performance of the line, including that the line has lacked visibility, being confined to Snow Hill station at the edge of Birmingham city centre, and is therefore relatively unknown. Other grounds for the line's underwhelming performance include the fact that there are quicker trains running between Birmingham and Wolverhampton and that the line did not serve New Street station, or any of Birmingham's major visitor attractions except for the Jewellery Quarter, which is already well-served by suburban trains. Nonetheless, overcrowding has sometimes occurred on trams at peak hours. It is hoped that the extension of Line One to New Street will greatly increase the number of passengers using the tram service to other destinations between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
When the Midland Metro system opened in 1999, it was originally operated by Altram, a joint venture of the infrastructure company John Laing, the engineering firm Ansaldo, and the transport group National Express. In 2006, Ansaldo and Laing officially withdrew from the venture after financial difficulties, and day-to-day operation was taken over by the remaining partner, National Express, who ran the system as National Express Midland Metro.
In October 2018, the National Express concession ended and the system was taken over by Transport for West Midlands, the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). Operation of Midland Metro was taken over by Midland Metro Ltd, a company wholly owned by WMCA, and the system was rebranded West Midlands Metro. WMCA subsequently set up a consortium various engineering and consultancy firms, the Midland Metro Alliance, to design and construct future network extensions.
Between 1999 and 2003, Altram operated Midland Metro unsuccessfully on a for-profit basis. It soon became evident that operating revenue would not cover costs, and in February 2003, auditors refused to sign off Midland Metro's accounts as a going concern. From 2006, under National Express, losses were largely covered by cross-subsidy from other parts of the National Express group.
The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) gave an overall cost estimate for British systems of £3.79 per light-rail vehicle-kilometre in 2003–2004, compared with £0.94 per bus kilometre in 2002–2003, according to Rapid Transit Monitor 2004. CfIT estimated that the fare required for Midland Metro to break even was twice that of Manchester Metrolink, London Tramlink and the Tyne & Wear Metro.
The Midland Metro Alliance was set up in 2017 by WMCA as a long-term framework agreement with transport contractors Colas Rail, Barhale, Thomas Vale, Auctus Management Group, Egis Rail, Tony Gee and Pell Frischman to design and construct future extensions of the West Midlands Metro system.
Line one expansionEdit
Birmingham City Centre extensionEdit
West Midlands Metro Line 1
Until 2016, the southern end of the Metro line terminated at Snow Hill station, on the periphery of Birmingham City Centre. From its inception, Midland Metro had failed to attain projected passenger numbers and to operate at a profit, and this was attributed to the fact that the line could not carry passengers all the way into the urban centre. The Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) was conceived to solve this problem by extending Line 1 into the streets of central Birmingham. Originally it was planned to terminate the extension at Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street railway station, but the plans were revised to continue the extension to Centenary Square. Eventually, Centro hoped to extend the line as far as Five Ways. A Transport and Works Order authorising the BCCE was made in July 2005, and Government approval was given in February 2012. A new fleet of trams and a new depot at Wednesbury were also authoirsed, with a budget of £128m, of which £75m was to be funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). Extension works began in June 2012.
The extension follows a new route south of St Paul's which diverges from the original line along a new viaduct which ascends to street level to the east of Snow Hill station. The former tram terminus at Snow Hill has been closed, which has freed up a fourth platform at Snow Hill which can be reinstated for railway use. Interchange between National Rail services and trams is now provided at Bull Street, approximately 320 metres (1,050 ft) from Snow Hill station. From Snow Hill the tramway runs along Colmore Circus, Upper Bull Street, Corporation Street and Stephenson Street, currently terminating at Grand Central, which opened on 30 May 2016. A temporary reversing spur in Stephenson Street allows trams to turn back for the return journey to Wolverhampton. On 19 November 2015, The Queen visited Birmingham and named one of the new trams.
The current phase of the City Centre extension is known as the Birmingham Westside extension. The first phase, an extension to Centenary Square, is currently under construction. It will run from Stephenson Street along Pinfold Street, through Victoria Square with a new stop at Birmingham Town Hall, along Paradise Street and Broad Street, terminating at Birmingham Library.
Phase 2 of the Birmingham Westside extension will continue the line from Birmingham Library along Broad Street to Hagley Road in Edgbaston (just west of Five Ways). Additional local enterprise partnership funding was made available in 2014 for the extension from Five Ways to Edgbaston.
In September 2017, the DfT allocated the remaining £60 million required for the extension to be fully funded. The extension will open in 2021 with stops at Town Hall, Birmingham Library, Brindleyplace, Five Ways and Edgbaston. Work commenced on 5 September 2017.
Wolverhampton City Centre loopEdit
The northern part of the Line 1 extension scheme is the addition of a tram line intro Wolverhampton city centre, currently under construction.
It was originally proposed in 2009 as a single-track loop running clockwise from the existing St George's terminus via Princess Street, Lichfield Street and Pipers Row (for Wolverhampton bus station), with a spur to Wolverhampton railway station. The scheme had an estimated cost £30 million. In 2010 Centro considered revised proposals University that involved an extended route along part of the Wolverhampton Ring Road, serving the University of Wolverhampton campus. The original loop scheme was selected and in 2012 Centro decided to proceed by constructing it in phases. A Transport and Works Act Order was approved in 2016, and in March 2014, a £2bn connectivity funding package was announced to support a number of transpoprt projects, including phase 1 of the Wolverhampton extension.
The first phase will see the construction of the eastern section of the Wolverhampton loop, consisting of a line branching off before the existing St. George's terminus and running north up Piper's Row to terminate at the railway station. Northbound trams will terminate alternately at the station and at St George's. The estimated completion date was 2015, although as of August 2019[update] this section is still under construction. The remaining part of the Wolverhampton loop will be completed at a later date, subject to funding.
It is proposed to extend the West Midlands Metro by constructing a new Line 2. Two schemes are currently being considered for expanding the tram network with a second line.
West Midlands Metro Line 2
Line Two Eastside Extension
In November 2013, Centro announced a proposal for a tram or bus rapid transit route from Birmingham city centre to Coventry, with a loop connecting the Birmingham Airport with Birmingham city centre via Small Heath and Lea Hall, and a line to Coventry. The line would also serve the planned High Speed 2 interchange at Birmingham Curzon Street In February 2014, it was announced that funding had been secured for the first phase of the Line 2 Eastside extension as far as Curzon Street. before a terminus at Adderley Street.
The new Line 2 would branch off from Line 1 a junction between Bull St and Corporation St. In 2014, Centro considered two proposed routes, one running via Bull Street and Carrs Lane and serving Moor Street station, and a more direct route via Bull Street and Albert Street, bypassing Moor Street.
A Transport and Works Act application has been submitted by the Metro Alliance for the first phase of the Line 2 Eastside extension, following the route via Albert Street and Curzon Street and terminating at Digbeth.
Wednesbury–Brierley Hill extensionEdit
West Midlands Metro Line 2
Wednesbury–Brierley Hill extension (WBHE) is an 11-kilometre (6.8 mi) line which will run south-west from Line 1, branching off east of Wednesbury Great Western Street. The route would be constructed on the track bed of the disused South Staffordshire Line, running through Tipton and close to the former Dudley Town station. The line would then run on-street into Dudley town centre, before following the A461 Southern Bypass to rejoin the railway corridor. After running along part of the former Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Line, the tram line would diverge south to serve the Waterfront Business Park and Merry Hill Shopping Centre, terminating at Brierley Hill. In 2012 the estimated cost of the WBHE was £268 million, and a frequency of 10 trams per hour was envisaged, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. A further extension to Stourbridge has also been proposed, with a junction at Canal Street, allowing trams to access the remainder of the South Staffordshire Line to Stourbridge Junction and possibly Stourbridge Town.
Network Rail have announced plans to reopen the South Staffordshire Line for the use of freight trains. Metro planners considered operating light rail trams on segregated tracks, but in 2011 put forward proposals to introduce tram-train operation on the route to allow Metro vehicles to share tracks with heavy rail freight trains.
Due to funding constraints, it was decided to construct Line 2 in phases, with the first section from Wednesbury to Dudley opening first. In early 2017, work began to clear vegetation and disused track from the former railway line. It is estimated that the entire line to Brierley Hill will be completed by 2023. The estimated cost of Line 2 is now £449 million.
Historic planned extensionsEdit
In 2004, the proposed Phase Two expansion included five routes:
- Birmingham City Centre to Great Barr
- A 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), 17-stop route from the city centre through Lancaster Circus and along the A34 corridor to the Birmingham/Walsall boundary, terminating near the M6 motorway junction 7. Transport for the West Midlands have since decided that a "West Midlands Sprint" concept, based on Bus Rapid Transit is the way forward for this route.
- Birmingham City Centre to Quinton
- A 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) route from the BCCE terminus at Five Ways along the Hagley Road to Quinton.
- Wolverhampton City Centre to Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury
- This 20.4 kilometres (12.7 mi) "5Ws" route would connect Wolverhampton city centre to Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury, and provide direct access to New Cross and Manor Hospitals, partially using the trackbed of the former Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway. This link was officially declared dead in the Express & Star on 23 October 2015.
- Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport
- (A45)- A 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) route from Birmingham Airport/ National Exhibition Centre and serving suburbs along the A45 road. Journey time from central Birmingham (Bull Street) to the airport was estimated at 29 minutes. This proposal has now been incorporated into the proposals for Line Two.
- (A47)- In September 2010, the Birmingham Post reported that a "£425 million rapid transit system" between Birmingham city centre and the airport "could involve a new light rail scheme". Centro strategy director Alex Burrows stated "the Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport Rapid Transit plan will deliver connectivity between the city centre, Birmingham Business Park and Chelmsley Wood".
In 2004-05, Birmingham City Council also evaluated the possibility of constructing an underground railway, and the scheme was advocated by the leader of the council, Mike Whitby, and deputy leader of the council, Paul Tilsley. A feasibility report by Jacobs Engineering and Deloitte concluded that the tunnelling scheme would be unaffordable and not meet government funding criteria.
- Coventry Very Light Rail - planned light rail system in Coventry
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