We were doubtful on the timescale when it was announced the first tests on the Birmingham Westside extension would take place in August but that is exactly what has happened with Urbos3 28 making the first gauging test this week. This is without doubt a major milestone in the constriction of this line which is still scheduled to be welcoming its first passengers before 2019 is out.
The movement of 28 on the line beyond the stop at Grand Central is the first tram to run along Pinfold Street and into Victoria Square and this run took place to make sure that the tram could travel along the line and there were no gauging issues. In leaving the end of Stephenson Street, 28 also became the first tram on a modern UK tramway to run under its own power with a section of line deliberately constructed without any overhead wires.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Although there have been many milestones in this ambitious project to extend the tram network to the westside of Birmingham, this successful tram test marks a significant moment in the first phase of the project. It is fantastic to see that final preparations are now underway to start services from Grand Central to Centenary Square, with all the benefits that will bring to Birmingham city centre and the wider West Midlands economy.”
Phil Hewitt, Director of West Midlands Metro, added: “The overnight testing of the tram and track together is another demonstration of the progress being made on the project. It means we are even closer to delivering the Metro extension in the city centre, providing new opportunities for residents and businesses. In the next few weeks, the public will see our trams on the new extension as we complete all of the essential testing and training needed to ensure we are ready to carry passengers in December. The fact that these trials are being completed using battery power alone marks a major step forward for light rail across the country. It’s a real first for the West Midlands and opens up new opportunities to deliver tram routes in areas that may otherwise have proven challenging for aesthetic and engineering reasons.”
With this slow speed test having taken place – with it, as always with this type of test, happening in the early hours of the morning, and no major issues identified the testing and commissioning of the line will continue in the coming months. The full testing and commissioning programme will start in October ahead of the line’s scheduled opening in December 2019.