Published: 17th September 2014
Midland Metro, which currently operates between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton St. Georges Square, introduced the first units of a new fleet of trams into service on 5th September. They are part of a £40m order for 20 new ‘Urbos 3’ trams being built by CAF in Zaragoza, Spain. Four new ‘Urbos 3’ units are now in traffic while a further five are in the course of being commissioned at their Wednesbury Depot, where a new maintenance facility has been built for the new fleet. Deliveries of the remaining eleven units are expected at the rate of one per month, with full squadron service expected by autumn 2015.
The existing fleet of Ansaldo-built ’T-69’ trams, which have been in traffic since the Metro line opened 1999 will be phased out as the new units are phased into traffic. Currently 12 of the original fleet of 16 ’T-69s’ are in service. Withdrawn units will be placed in store at Long Marston in a serviceable condition as a contingency for any increase in future demand.
A major feature of the new ‘Urbos 3’ units is that are bigger than the Ansaldo ’T-69s’ and offer 210 seats, some 54 more than the ’T-69s’, as well as providing room for more standing passengers. They are also longer, quieter and provide a smoother ride.
Their introduction is a key component in the projected growth of the Midland Metro system over the coming years as a number of key extensions are in the pipeline. Perhaps the most important will be the new line from Birmingham Snow Hill, through the city centre, to the Stephenson Street entrance of New Street station which is due to open in the autumn of 2015, followed by a short extension inwards too Centenary Square in 2016.
This will enable passengers to travel into the heart of the city centre as well as forming a key transport interchange at New Street. It is projected that this extension alone will generate an additional £50m for the local economy as well as creating up to 1300 new jobs.
Plans for an extension in Wolverhampton to it’s new transport interchange situated alongside the railway station are well advanced. It is understood that the current St. Georges Square terminus will be retained. Also, £90m of Government funding has been obtained in connection with two further important extensions, the first from Centenary Square along Broad Street to Five Ways plus a city centre connection to the proposed new HS2 station at Curzon Street.
The event was marked by a ceremony at Midland Metro’s Wednesbury Depot which was attended by civic dignitaries, and representatives of Centro and CAF.