Independent review launched as West Midlands Metro service remains suspended

It has now been over a week since the last trams ran on the West Midlands Metro network and with at least a further three weeks before any type of service resumes it has been announced that an independent review into the operations and governance of the system has been launched. The cracks on the CAF built Urbos3 trams are continuing to be looked at and repaired with one local newspaper suggesting that seven of the 21 strong fleet have already been completed – at least nine will be needed to operate any service.

The independent review has been called by the West Midlands Combined Authority who have asked Transport for West Midlands to conduct the review into WMCA’s oversight of the service. An industry expert will be employed to undertake the review which will look into the way TfWM manages the delivery of new extensions and operation of Metro services through a wholly owned company. This is to ensure TfWM has the right structure in place to hold both Metro delivery and operations to account.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The situation with the metro is incredibly disappointing and frustrating, and so on behalf of passengers I have asked for an independent review to establish what exactly has gone wrong and what changes need to be made in how those in authority are held to account to ensure we avoid this ever happening again. It is such an unsatisfactory situation, but I am determined to stand up for passengers and get their questions answered and the metro back in service ASAP.”

Mr Street went to the Wednesbury Depot on Thursday 18th November to see at first-hand the hard work of the team who are working on bringing the trams back into service safely. A report in the Express and Star has said that seven of the trams have already been repaired. The official press release from WMCA states that it is still planned that the service will resume within four weeks – this is not expected to include either of the extensions which it has originally been hoped would open before the end of 2021. The lines to Edgbaston Village (Birmingham Westside phase two) and Wolverhampton Railway Station now both look set to open during 2022.

Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The tram is an essential and valued part of our regional transport network. However I have had serious concerns about the metro construction for some time so welcome the independent review. The passengers and businesses have been badly let down and we owe it to them investigate this fully.”

As had been widely reported since the service suspension was first announced this is not the first set of Urbos3 trams which have had similar cracking problems. The Inner West Light Rail line in Sydney has recently announced an 18 month closure to allow repairs to take place whilst systems in Belgrade and Bescancon (France) have also had previous problems.

With no tram services running there has remained ticket acceptance for Metro ticket holders on both rail and bus services, although there have been reports of overcrowding on some of these services. Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st November did see an additional dedicated limited stop bus service run but this is just a short-term arrangement as a result of planned engineering works.

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1 Response to Independent review launched as West Midlands Metro service remains suspended

  1. johngilbert says:

    So the Birmingham trams are stopped due to cracks, probably not in any way like those on the Hitachi trains. But it does rather make you think. Is there something about the UK which requires compulsory disasters to new equipment? I would dearly love to see a comparative survey of European systems’ new equipment to see whether these cracks, or any other disasters etc. are a purely UK phenomenon. Must be something about these islands – the weather perhaps!!

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