With just two months to go until the end of the year we shouldn’t have too long to wait before passengers are able to travel on the first phase of the West Midlands Metro extension to Centenary Square – especially now the first tram has made it all the way with the first gauging run taking place utilising Urbos3 20.
20 ran overnight on Wednesday 23rd/Thursday 24th October becoming the first tram to travel on the track between Victoria Square and Centenary Square in the process. Previously tests had only been able to run from Grand Central to Victoria Square but work has now progressed sufficiently opening up the track for full testing to really get going. This whole section of line has been built without overhead and so trams will be running using battery power and part of these tests will be to ensure that they have sufficient charge to run there and back – although it will be pretty catastrophic if they don’t at this stage!
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, stayed up late to enjoy a ride on one of those first runs: “It was very exciting to see the testing of the tram, showing just how close we are to finishing construction on the extension of the West Midlands Metro line to Centenary Square. This project is on time and will, in December, be bringing passengers to the International Convention Centre (ICC), HSBC Bank and the Library of Birmingham. This latest addition to the line, which will soon be heading out along Broad Street towards Edgbaston, offers residents a genuinely viable alternative to the car in Birmingham city centre. With further extensions planned towards Birmingham Airport and a new Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line, our Metro network is expanding rapidly and helping to revolutionise transport across the West Midlands.”
We’ve reported on this extension many times previously but it is worth stating again that this is just the first phase of the Birmingham Westside extension which will reach Hagley Road, Edgbaston in 2021. The line is an extension of the current city centre line running beyond Grand Central up Pinfold Street into Victoria Square and then on to Centenary Square. Phase one will see new stops open at Victoria Square and Centenary Square. As mentioned above there will be no overhead wires installed on this section.
Peter Cushing, now Director of West Midlands Metro and previously of the Metrolink Director at Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “Testing and commissioning is a crucial phase of the project and I am delighted the trials have now progressed to Centenary Square. Over the coming weeks, as well as providing the opportunity for the vital testing of tracks, signals and other infrastructure, the extensive programme will also move to daytime running, allowing people to get used to trams travelling at low speeds through different areas of the city centre ahead of services commencing later this year.”
The next stage will see this testing continuing in the coming weeks before eventual driver training and full shadow running. Services are due to start in December at a date yet to be officially announced.