The first of the CAF built Urbos 3 trams for Midland Metro was officially launched at Wednesbury Depot on Wednesday 16th October by Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore. Numbered 17 – following on from the last of the Ansaldo built trams – the tram arrived from Spain after a four day, 1,000 mile journey by land, sea and land.
20 of the CAF constructed trams are being built for Midland Metro and they are due to enter service on the existing route next year ahead of the opening of the Birmingham city centre extension to New Street Station in 2015. Before they carry their first passengers, however, they will undergo extensive testing ahead of driver training.
Sir Albert Bore commented: “The delivery of the first tram is a real milestone because Metro has a key role to play in the on-going development of our transport network so that it can underpin economic growth right across the West Midlands. Work is already underway on the city centre extension, but we are now planning to take the Metro on further to Centenary Square as well as extending it through Wolverhampton city centre to the railway station.”
Geoff Inskip, Chief Executive of Centro, added: “The new trams and the forthcoming extensions mark the start of an exciting new chapter for the Midland Metro system which
together with improvements to our local heavy rail system can provide the transport connections we need to regenerate the West Midlands and secure the maximum economic benefits possible from the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail line.”
The Urbos 3 trams are a third bigger than the existing Ansaldo built vehicles carrying 200 passengers each as opposed to 156. They are being built by CAF at their factory in Zaragoza from where they are loaded onto two lorries for the journey to the UK. Unlike the Nottingham trams, also being built in Spain and arriving in the UK at Southampton, they are sailing from Santander to Plymouth, where they are met by the Police for escort all the way through to Wednesbury.
As part of the acquisition of these new trams the Wednesbury Depot has had to be extended at the cost of £14 million with a 42 metre extension to the east of the existing maintenance shed along with additional maintenance berths, four new stabling sidings and a separate testing and commissioning shed.
When all the new trams are introduced into service a new six minute interval service will be introduced on Midland Metro which, with the larger capacity of the trams, will see an 40% increase in capacity on the network and will help to ease peak time overcrowding.
The unveiling of the first of the new trams comes at a time when it looks like the next stage of extensions is about to be improved – as alluded to by Sir Albert Bore above. At a Cabinet meeting of Birmingham City Council, due to be held on Monday 21st October, it is expected that they will approve an extension of the extension currently being built. This will see trams running from New Street to Centenary Square at a cost of £42.4 million, the money is coming from the Enterprise Investment Plan. New tramstops will be built at the Town Hall and Centenary Square. A timeline of construction has yet to be announced.
* A video report on the new trams is available on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-24540370
and a photo of the new tram can be seen at http://railpicturelibrary.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/10/new-midland-metro-tram-unveiled