All West Midlands Metro services suspended from Saturday 13 November until further notice

In recent weeks we’ve been wondering when trams may return from Bull Street to Library and when we may see the extensions to Edgbaston Village and Wolverhampton Railway Station open, but the question to ask about the West Midlands Metro now is when will any trams run again? It was announced on Friday 12th November that there would no trams running at all on the complete line from Saturday 13th November – until further notice. Once again it would seem to be an issue with the cracks which were discovered earlier in the year with additional repairs now required.

The full statement on the West Midlands Metro website says:

We are sorry that there will be no Metro services from Saturday 13 November until further notice.

Earlier this year a repair programme was implemented to address cracks identified on several of our trams. As part of this work, it has become necessary for additional repairs to be carried out.

To ensure that we can continue to run a safe and reliable service, a decision has been made to remove all 21 trams from service until further notice.

This decision has not been taken lightly and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused.

Please be assured that every option has been fully considered to avoid suspending the service. As always, the safety of our customers and colleagues is our priority and this will never be compromised.

Your patience and understanding is very much appreciated while we work hard to resume services.

In recent days it had become apparent that there was an issue as a reduced service was operating with several tram failures seen. This reached its peak on the morning of Friday 12th November when only five trams were available to operate a limited service between Wolverhampton St George’s and Bull Street with busy trams seen across the network. It wasn’t until midday that updates were made regarding the reduced service but at that point there was no confirmation as to the reason why or even that it was being considered to close the complete line for a period. That announcement came during the afternoon and was met with shock – including from some drivers who were reported as saying the announcement was the first they knew of it.

As you will recall back in June, the complete fleet of trams was withdrawn for several days after the discovery of cracks on some of the CAF built Urbos3 vehicles. A repair programme was put in place at this time and it was just presumed that as the trams were returned to service and there were no major service changes in the five months since then that all repairs were completed and it was full steam ahead for the trams. But now it appears from the latest statements that these were only temporary repairs and recent inspections have shown that additional repairs are now needed – hence no trams for at least four weeks.

In a statement a spokesperson said: “Temporary repairs were carried out to return our fleet to service as soon as possible but inspections have found that more extensive and permanent repairs are now required. To ensure the future safety of our customers and colleagues, we have made the decision to suspend all services from 13 November 2021 to carry out these repairs. We are continuing to work alongside the tram manufacturer to understand the issues and carry out the repairs as quickly as possible. At this time we are unable to confirm when services will resume but we expect it will take at least four weeks.”

During this lengthy closure, the oh so familiar ticket acceptances on alternative public transport is again in place:

  • National Express bus service 74 between West Bromwich and Birmingham
  • National Express bus service 79 between Wolverhampton and West Bromwich
  • West Midlands Railway and Avanti train services between Wolverhampton and Birmingham

In response to this news Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is incredibly disappointing and frustrating for customers – but safety must come first. It is now critical that Midland Metro Ltd get the repairs done and restore a safe service ASAP. I am seeking urgent answers from them and the manufacturer as to what has gone so wrong.”

There are now so many questions which will be raised about why the same problem had come about just give months later and whether the initial repairs were expected to hold for longer. You also have to wonder whether a quicker commissioning programme on the new trams should have been introduced (so at least some form of service could have run) – as presumably they are not effected by the cracks on the original Urbos3 trams.

But the headline from all this is that anyone who relies on the West Midlands Metro will not be able to for at least four weeks. The next four weeks are often some of the busiest on public transport in the lead up to Christmas as people get out to do their shopping ahead of the big day. The opening of the extensions at either end before the end of 2021 as originally planned must now also be in serious doubt. Safety, of course, comes first but even when repairs are made what damage will there to be to the network’s reputation?

With only five trams out in service on 12th November scenes like this were not uncommon. (Photograph by Andy Walters)

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1 Response to All West Midlands Metro services suspended from Saturday 13 November until further notice

  1. andy walters says:

    Having been around the network now for many years I’ve seen and head many things.
    My track side photos have given the opertuinity
    to see the system close up.
    Over the years the track has in places deterated
    some places more than others, at present there are on leaving wolverhampton 5 speed restrictions in place going south bound to brum. The first is between the crescent and bilston, this section is due to have aproxxmily 300 fot of new rail both up & down line.
    The 2nd one going south is at Bradley lane this is a short section of very serious servere worn track on the left rail, only about 50ft long but because it’s upon leaving the stop it has a 4kph speed limit on it. The 3rd bad section of track is the longest and has been like it and been deterating is the tunnel, this has had worn track for 10 years that I know off, it is undulating and at the south end is very flat rail wheel burns from wheel slipping due constant water from above, this section was 70kph tramsvpassing over this section were always a rock & roll ride and the horendas noise from the bad rail. The tunnel now has a premanant 40kph on it. The fourth bad bit is just has you arrive at Dartmouth st, this has a permant 20kmph on it, this section or rail was replaced a few years back. The fifth speed restriction towards Birmingham is from soho benso road to jewllery Q. This is not track related but is now a permant restriction to lesson the “wires down problem” you have read about so so so many times.
    The same applies to Noth bound run with the exception of the speed limit from jewelry Q to soho.
    So it’s no surprising really that if had 1.5ton on each end of a Tram, and over bad track that has never really been maintened to high stantards ( I’ve never seen a tamping machine or any grinder or known of one) over my years around the system) that you will get cracks in bogies, Tram 37 has body cracks and went away from repair, but they haven’t mentioned those.
    In respect to staff not knowing what goes on, is surprisingly true, many find out what goes on from else were.

    The system has worn track, the ride has got worse, they have known it for years but just run the system, the easiest is slap a 40k board on it.

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