Midland Metro gets £5 million for track replacement

The Department for Transport are to give £5 million in funding to Midland Metro to allow for track replacement in the Bilston Road area of Wolverhampton this summer. The tracks in this area are now 15 years old and are said to be badly worn and if not replaced soon the Metro service reliability would suffer in the future.

Baroness Kramer, Transport Minister, made the announcement during a visit to Birmingham to see the latest progress on the Midland Metro extension to New Street: “This tram line is really important to the local economy. It provides a frequent link to key areas of employment, development and regeneration. The £5m we are providing today will both help to maintain the A41, a key route in Wolverhampton and will also ensure that the Midland Metro system continues to be an efficient and attractive way for people to get around.”

It is planned that the work to replace the track will take place during the school summer holidays when Midland Metro traditionally carries fewer passengers. The work will include the replacement of the track, including crossovers, and will also see road resurfacing.

Cllr Roger Horton, Centro’s lead member for Rail and Metro, said: “These are exciting times for the Metro and I’m delighted that the Minister has been able to come and see how the tram is helping to transform the city. But the funding announced today will bring real benefits for the five million passengers who already use the Metro. The track upgrade in Wolverhampton will mean more comfort for passengers and will be particularly noticeable in terms of less noise and vibration when our new fleet of trams start going into service later this year.”

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7 Responses to Midland Metro gets £5 million for track replacement

  1. Bobus says:

    These tracks are not yet 15 years old and have not carried particularly heavy loads. Despite having operated trams continuously for more than a century, Jonny Foreigner cannot possibly know as much as we Brits, so how come he makes similar tracks last more than 50 years? Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, is it not time we went, cap in hand, to ask advice? Bobus

  2. John Stewart says:

    With this news following the comprehensive re-railing at Sheffield, I have to ask why tramway rail does not seem to last as long as rail on heavy rail lines despite substantially lower axle weights. Also, this type of renewal should be financed by a sinking fund, not by having to go to the DfT as though it were something totally unexpected.

    • freel07 says:

      Firstly in the case of Midland Metro one of the problems is that the T69s have monomotor bogies with both axles driven by the same motor. These require careful management of wheel diameters and can create rail corrugation. The Bilston Road track has a history of bad corrugation and each time it is ground out life is taken out of the rail.

      Secondly I am not convinced that ‘Jonny Foreigner’ makes rail last 50 years. The difference is that he probably has a rolling programme of renewals which is something the accountants who rule in the UK will not allow. Because all the systems are operated on a contracted basis the cheapest price always wins and guess what gets left out in every case. Unfortunately we in the UK are very bad a maintaining what we build. That isn’t just confined to tramways either.

  3. Hendrik-Jan Halkes says:

    The axle weight is lower indeed, but there are other contributing factors: more frequent passages (every 5 minutes), stronger curvature, lower weight/construction dimensions of the rail itself. The fact that only one type of vehicule is used could also be a factor in this as certain wear patterns seem to reinforce themselves. Wheels with different diameters, wear patterns together with variations in axle load might prevent this special type of wear. Unfortunately I wasn’t long enough in the business to see this theory proven or rejected. The road crossing might not cause much wear on the railhead but many heavy lorries going across could have their effect on the fixings and therefore the whole construction.

  4. Paul says:

    I think it will lead to early work ready for the extension to wolverhampton station, which starts in 2015

  5. TM says:

    Nothing to do with axle weights; in fact the frequency of passes makes the axle loadings similar to some heavy rail lines.

    For a start, tram rail has a smaller head profile (80lb / sq yd) compared to heavy rail (133 lb / sq yd).

    Corrugation occurs irrespective of whether wheels have free rotational independence or not, wear rates (as per corrugation) occurs as a result of tractive and braking effort and in tramways flange contact in curves.

    Corrugation is also more prominent on tramway systems especially in embedded track due to higher track stiffnesses. Grinding does remove some material from the rail head, but this is negligible in the life of the rail.

    Rail life can vary depending upon a number of factors; it is highly unlikely that it will last for 50 years, 30 is more realistic for plain line and less for curves, but it is dependent on a number of factors including wheel passes, axle loads, lubrication, curvature and the external environment. Some locations on the heavy rail network, the high rails are replaced very six months!

  6. Ian M says:

    The trouble always seemed to be road debris in the rail channel that the flange sits in, gravel/small stones etc it was dire going to Wolves for ages then they had a shut down and cleared out the crap, it went better for a while..

    Would also be nice to see our new trams out working rather than sat on the shed for a year, while they try to run a service with 12 or less trams in service..

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