Currently of all the tram systems in the UK the one which is about to undergo the biggest expansion is West Midlands Metro with work underway on two lines – and more to come in the forthcoming years – at each end of the current system between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. These two extensions – Wolverhampton City Centre and Birmingham Westside – are now approaching their latest phases which will see new road closures for other traffic.
Firstly, the Wolverhampton City Centre extension moved on to Railway Drive from Monday 9th July with the road closed to through traffic (access still permitted) from the previous day. This is phase three of the works and is scheduled to continue until the autumn. Work is still continuing on phase two which has seen the first tracks laid on Pipers Row – this is on schedule and is due to be completed by the end of the school summer holidays. The whole line to Wolverhampton Railway Station is scheduled to open in 2020.
Meanwhile work on the Birmingham Westside extension – which will be a continuation of the current line to Grand Central through to Hagley Road, Edgbaston – is set to move to its next phase in September. This will see Paradise Circus closed to traffic in both directions from Monday 3rd September 2018 until summer 2019 as work gets underway on construction between Victoria Square and Centenary Square. In order to make things as smooth as possible for motorists traffic marshalls will be on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Westside extension will open in stages with the first phase between Grand Central and Victoria Square due to open in late 2019. The remainder of the route to Hagley Road will follow in 2021.
Both of these extensions will include overhead free sections – an operation that it seems West Midlands Metro have been trialling in recent weeks on the current line! – with all trams due to be fitted with batteries to allow operation on these sections. So far two have entered service with batteries fitted with a third under test.