New Street testing to take place on 23rd April

In what must surely be the slowest tramway construction project in history it has been announced that crucial overnight testing of Midland Metro to New Street will take place on 23rd April – four months after it has been hoped the line would open to the public. No date for the line to actually open to passengers hasn’t been announced but it would seem that it will not be before May now.

The latest delay is caused by the need to have an overnight possession in the vicinity of New Street railway station when no trains are running and the earliest Network Rail have been able to grant this is 23rd April – and this is with Network Rail speeding up their process to allow for a possession to take place.

These overnight tests will ensure that Metro’s electronic systems don’t interfere with the equipment controlling trains using the railway and vice versa. Once these tests are deemed a success full commissioning and driver training will be able to commence with the line allowing passengers to travel during the “spring” (although admittedly the press release doesn’t state spring of which year!)

The first stage of the Midland Metro Birmingham City Centre extension opened to Bull Street in December but an eight week suspension of construction work to tie in with the busy Christmas shopping period meant the line through to New Street could not open at the same time.

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20 Responses to New Street testing to take place on 23rd April

  1. John Gilbert says:

    I just bet that this snail-like progress wouldn’t have happened in France, Germany …..or almost anywhere!! Poor old UK, always behind, always the fool!

  2. Nigel Pennick says:

    Once two systems interact, in this case the MM and NR, and have to find mutually agreeable common times to perform necessary tests, then it seems delays are inevitable. It is regrettable that the tests were not able to be performed much sooner – and what happens if the electronic systems do ‘interfere’? The same thing might happen when trams are eventually running on batteries further down the line. A final thought – why didn’t it happen when Metrolink, Tramlink and NET first ran trams next to NR operating lines?

    • Fred Fitter says:

      Hi Nigel
      You asked why testing didn’t happen when Metrolink first ran trams next to NR operating lines.
      There were many tests relative to NR (or BR as it was then)
      Before the first tram was released from the depot, there were tram load simulations using very large resistive banks placed where Metrolink passed over the Chat Moss line near Castlefield Junc.
      The Metrolink DC supplies from Victoria substation were monitored for any 50hz element, as the adjacent NR track circuits were 50hz. During this period the supply from Woodlands Road substation was not linked to Victoria substation. The instrumentation would detect any 50hz element getting into the traction supplies, particularly in the return rails, enabling the traction supply to be turned off. There was never the need to act on it.
      There were also testing along the tracks where Cornbrook Tram Stop now exists, as this was a section of Metrolink running parallel to NR tracks between their Oxford Road and Manchester United stations.
      There where restrictions imposed by NR on the DC breakers feeding the City centre Piccadilly branch which was lifted several month after the opening of the Piccadilly branch.
      When ph2 came on line, there were restrictions on the operation of Piccadilly substation, which was constructed as part of ph2, I personally spent many individual night shifts in the substation looking at the ceiling while NR were waiting for a “white period” to carry out tests on their track circuits.
      I would fully expect that all the other tramways needed to carry out similar testing with their NR neighbour’s
      Fred

  3. Paul says:

    Birmingham as a Christmas market near construction site and for the last two to three years centro/bcc decide to suspend work for safety reasons. This totals about 18 weeks when work could not take place.

    • Ken Jones says:

      Sorry Paul I don’t believe the Xmas markets and tram construction are linked. The Metro extension was already running late before they used the Markets as an excuse for the delay. They have just announced some trams on the system may be retro fitted with batteries to run on the Wolverhampton extension and the New Street extension. Once they find the Network Rail and Midland Metro systems are compatible then May opening could be delayed further while they wait for the batteries to be fitted. Why put up expensive tram poles and wires if they intend to run the extension on batteries? It’s a very slow build whatever the reason and the truth is cost / money. The NR and Metro run adjacent at stations like Jewelery Quarter and The Hawthorns as well as Birmingham Snow Hill without any problems.

      • tom says:

        I doubt this has anything to do with the Xmas Markets. There has been barely any men on the ground since Xmas shut down and the progress on the outstanding works has been painfully slow. I suspect the words ‘finances’ and ‘contractual Dispute’ are the buzz words at Centro Towers!

      • Kev says:

        They aren’t running this on batteries, its the next one.

  4. John Stewart says:

    Unbelievably slow progress. They need some Manchester project management.

  5. Richard Pywell says:

    Nigel, it did happen with Tramlink! Tracks on East Croydon bridge had to be ripped up and relayed after testing revealed that stray return currents were leaking into the metal bridge structure affecting NR equipment below the bridge. This delayed the opening of Tramlink. Fortunately once fixed it appears that the problem has not recurred. Safety of the equipment of both tram and any adjacent rail systems must always be paramount if trams as a transport mode are to earn and retain the public confidence they deserve. There are quite enough other inherent safety hazards to address (such as operating trams through pedestrianised areas, plus the general interaction with other road traffic) without suggesting that electrical safety should be compromised just to meet a promised opening date.

    • Nigel Pennick says:

      I remember the Croydon delay. All this is reminiscent of early electric tramway operation 110 years ago with complaints from the Greenwich Observatory and the like about ‘stray currents’ on the then new London County Council tramways, and lines in Greenwich being forced to electrify with double overhead wires, one being a return (later reduced to one). Elsewhere in Europe, in cities where they have operated electric trams continuously since the late 19th century, there must be normal protocols that are used to avoid such problems, and which the UK’s managements could learn from instead of re-inventing systems long since perfected elsewhere.

  6. Robert Jamieson says:

    This extension has become a total joke. It’s quite ridiculous that it can take so long for such a short bit of line. I’ve heard all the excuses, but the fact remains that there’s rarely any work in progress and somebody, somewhere, has no idea how such a project needs to be efficiently managed.

    No wonder trams are viewed so negatively in the UK.

  7. mike stone says:

    The wires had been erected before Christmas, although not usable. There are very few poles involved, most of the span wires are hung from buildings.

  8. Clifford Stead says:

    There`s an irony in the “wire free” operation to Centenary Square to protect historic views in a city that demolished so many beautiful buildings in the name of progress in the 1960`s. I don`t really get the hang up with overhead wires especially when you consider they are strung up down Prince`s Street in Edinburgh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I look forward to travelling on the New Street extension whenever that maybe.

  9. Paul says:

    The same will happen when the line its broad street as the line runs under broad street.

    • John Stewart says:

      The line beneath Broad Street is not electrified so I imagine that the tramway will get the “first served” priority.

      • Steve Hyde says:

        The requirement for testing is not related to whether the railway is electrified or not. The testing is to ensure that neither system creates any form of hazard to the other due to electro-magnetic interference. That includes all equipment including signalling, communications and if appropriate traction systems.

      • Steve Hyde says:

        Regarding my comment about whether the railway is electrified or not I see that the railway under Broad Street is electrified anyway as it is the main line north to Wolverhampton.

  10. MalcolmPlume says:

    Just saw the video of the Birmingham computer tram simulator …in comparison to the one Manchester metro had done this Birmingham one looks much lower quality …quite confusing since the same company did both? Maybe another cost cutting excercise.

  11. John Gilbert says:

    Regarding the pros and cons of overhead wires, it is to be hoped that this is now being advocated to improve the cityscape, rather than, as is usual in the UK, just to save money! In France it is most definitely for the former reason! So in Birmingham we shall look to see wires reintroduced beyond sensitive areas. In any case, as said elsewhere, most of the wires are suspended from buildings so no intrusive poles spoil the cityscape.