Earlier this month Centro confirmed that the rail replacement works on Midland Metro between The Royal and Wolverhampton St George’s were delayed after the discovery of mine workings underneath the track bed on Bilston Road. It was originally planned that the works would take up to 12 weeks (which takes it up until this weekend) and that trams would able to run through to The Royal ahead of this although obviously this has now not been possible.
The mine workings were discovered by contractors on the line just past The Royal stop on the A41 Bilston Road near the junction with Stenhouse Lane and it is thought they could date back to the 18th century. The discovery meant that an investigation had to be undertaken into just how deep the workings were and whether they could just be filled in and work continued.
Paul Griffiths, Midland Metro programme director, commented: “It is one of those situations where, while you might suspect there is something there, you are completely in the dark until you start digging up the ground. There is a history of minor settlement under the track in this section and, while it has not been an issue in the past, for this replacement programme we are digging deeper in this area to remove old parts of the rail and the associated foundations. It is a problem that we cannot ignore – the ground will have to be excavated then filled in properly to provide a strong and durable base for the track.”
These mine workings – which are believed to be the remnants of the coal, limestone or iron ore mines that criss-cross Wolverhampton and the Black Country – are just one of several factors which have delayed the work. The strength of the foundations under the old track was worse than anticipated and there were also unmarked utilities and a culvert discovered causing more work than anticipated.
Contractors are working longer hours and extra staff have been employed to complete the work but despite this is not anticipated that trams will reach The Royal before December and currently no estimate has been released on a full re-opening.
Mr Griffiths added: “We regret the delay but the discovery of this shaft is the latest in a string of complications. Unfortunately with an operational tram route it is not possible to have a full picture of what is in the ground until services have been stopped and the old track removed. However once work is complete we will have a rail in place that will have a working life of 30 years and a track formation that will provide a reliable service into Wolverhampton.”