Transport for West Midlands have started the tendering process for additional trams to cover services on the numerous extensions of West Midlands Metro now under construction and planning. They are initially looking for 18 trams with the option for a further 32 – all of which must be capable of battery operation, which considering several of the lines will feature sections without overhead isn’t exactly the most surprising announcement of the year!
TfWM are looking to appoint suppliers with tried and tested tram fleets in operation elsewhere in the world. Although you would expect CAF – builders of the current fleet of 21 Urbos3 trams – to be in pole position as they have previously worked successfully to supply trams for the West Midlands Metro there is no guarantee that they will win the contract and we could be in a position where there is a split fleet.
The timeline of the procurement will see a supplier being awarded the contract around May 2019 followed by a two year design and development process. It is then expected that the first of the new trams will enter service in summer 2021.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “The West Midlands is leading the way on sustainable public transport in this country. We launched the UK’s first battery-powered tram earlier this year, and now we’re adding more to the network. We had to wait for the technology to catch up with our ambition – so we will retro-fit all our existing trams with batteries too. Eventually, this tender could treble the amount of trams operating on our network – potentially increasing our regional fleet from 21 to 71 trams – meaning more services and more stops as we extend the tram network for passengers across the West Midlands.”
The expanded fleet of trams will be need to cater for the extensions currently under construction. These include the Wolverhampton City Centre extension to the railway station, Birmingham Westside (from Grand Central to Edgbaston, due to open in two stages), Birmingham Eastside (to Digbeth branching off the current city centre line close to Bull Street) and Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.