It has been confirmed that passenger services on the West Midlands Metro will resume during the week commencing Sunday 5th June – but it won’t be a full service as there will only be enough trams ready to allow a service to run from Wolverhampton St George’s to Bull Street (which will once again become a temporary terminus – is it the most permanent temporary terminus of all time?). This new date sees a slight delay from the previous assurances of late May after CAF informed Midland Metro Limited that they wouldn’t be able to get enough trams fixed after all.
It was 19th March when trams last ran on the West Midlands Metro. This was the day when all services were suspended (for the third time in less than a year) after the entire fleet of Urbos3 trams were withdrawn from service because of bodyside cracks. After initial investigations it was decided that all the trams – of the class of 21 vehicles – would need panels replaced and a program to ensure this could happen was swiftly put into place.
This included CAF engineers being flown in from across Europe to assist and at the time of the initial statements (March and early April) it was said they were also considering some trams away to allow more trams to be repaired at the same time. The sending away of trams didn’t transpire at the time, although just this week it has started with one – unidentified – tram leaving Wednesbury Depot on Monday 23rd May for another facility to help with the repairs. The question from this will of course be – why did it take over two months to decide to start sending the trams away? Its believed that up to five trams may be sent away.
In a statement released on 27th May, West Midlands Metro said: “This return to service has been enabled by the replacement of tram body panels progressing to schedule. We are now looking to accelerate repairs to get more trams back out on our network as quickly and safely as possible to restore a full service. We are working with CAF as the manufacturer to recruit more engineers to carry out the specialist repair work as well as moving trams off-site to a third-party facility – with the first of these having left the Wednesbury depot this week. With this acceleration we remain very confident that a full service will be in operation in good time ahead of this summer’s Commonwealth Games. We of course share passengers’ frustrations that the original timescale provided by CAF to restore a service next week has not been met. Despite assurances that enough trams would be available, they have now informed us that this is now not possible until the following week due to further snagging work required before the trams meet the quality standards required for acceptance into service.”
In observations out on the network the only Urbos3 which has been seen running since the service suspension has been 37 (which received repairs back in Spain after other damage). All other movements seem to have been of the new Urbos100 trams (which have had teething problems of their own). It can only be presumed that more examples are very close to being repaired if they have been confident enough to name a date – or at least a week in which trams will run, they’ve been very careful just to say it will be week commencing 5th June in the statement.
Originally it was said that they wouldn’t resume any service until at least 12-15 trams were available. But now that it’s a reduced service running only to Bull Street has this number now changed and are they content with a smaller operational fleet?
In order to get trams back into service as soon as possible its looking like a number will not have the blue vinyls in place around the doors. West Midlands Metro are keen to let would be passengers know that despite this they will be perfectly safe and reliable.
The West Midlands Metro statement concludes with another apology: “We would once again like to sincerely apologies for the inconvenience the suspension of service has caused. Further updates will be issued in due course.”
What’s not been revealed yet is the service frequency when trams do start running again. All we know is:
- Trams will start running again during week commencing Sunday 5th June (exact date to be confirmed)
- They will run from Wolverhampton St George’s to Bull Street only
- Some Urbos3s will return to service without their full vinyl fleet livery