After much rumour and debate it has now been confirmed by Centro that Midland Metro services should return to the full length of the route to Wolverhampton St George’s in March. The official announcement states that work has resumed on relaying the tracks along Bilston Road after engineers devised a way of tackling the unstable and potentially dangerous site.
Work had begun at the start of September in the track replacement work and at the time it was thought that all works would be completed within 12 weeks with the section between Priestfield and The Royal finished earlier. However during the initial phase of the work mine workings were discovered under the trackbed which led the job to be halted whilst investigations were undertaken. Trams did return to The Royal in mid-December but at that time no estimate was given for the full re-opening.
The problems of the mine workings were compounded by the fact that they had been filled by old building rubble at some point without being marked on any known document. Paul Griffiths, Midland Metro programme director, said: “The problem was that rubble was not compacted down, it was thrown in loose and covered over, and over time loose rubble shifts and creates voids. Having installed a modern new crossover south of The Royal we came to remove the foundation from the previous crossover and that’s when we found the mine workings. We had undertaken ground investigation in advance of the works including using ground penetrating radar, but this did not identify all the issues. It was only when we were able to open up the ground and make a full analysis that the sheer scale of the problem became clear. The design of the solution has been complicated by the location between the two carriageways of Bilston Road. This has prevented the material from simply being dug out as it could have damaged the integrity of the road.”
No exact date has been announced for the re-opening but at least March is a bit more precise than as soon as possible!