|Opened||30 May 1999|
|Operator(s)||Travel Midland Metro|
|Rolling stock||Ansaldobreda T69|
|Line length||20.2 km (13 mi)|
|Track gauge||Standard gauge|
|Electrification||750 V DC OHLE|
|Operating speed||top 70 km/h (43 mph), average 35 km/h (22 mph)|
In the mid 1980s, after a brief experiment with guided buses, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (Centro) planned a tram line between Five Ways, just west of Birmingham city centre, and the Clock Garage, in the eastern suburbs. It would have involved large scale property demolition, and was to have been the first of a series of tramways known as the 'Light Rail Transit' system. However, sustained public opposition led to its abandonment before construction had started.
Following the establishment of a new Passenger Transport Authority in 1986, the project was revived under the name 'Midland Metro'. It would be the "largest infrastructure project in the West Midlands to the end of the century and beyond", and 200 km of tram lines would "transform public transport". The first of up to fifteen lines would be operating by the end of 1993, and a substantive network by 2000.
To reduce opposition, Midland Metro Line 1 would not require large scale demolition, as it would link Birmingham and Wolverhampton using a former railway trackbed for most of its length. It was thought that Parliamentary approval and funding for demolition-intensive routes would be easier after approval and funding for Line 1 was in place.
The Clock Garage line was subsequently revived in modified form, still requiring extensive demolition, as Midland Metro Line 2, with a new eastern terminus in Chelmsley Wood. The Act of Parliament for Line 1 received the Royal Assent in November 1989. In April 1990, an application for funding under Section 56 of the Transport Act 1968 was made, and £1.5 million was granted to the project. It was announced in March 1992 that a further £3 million was to be granted by central government, increasing the funding total to £4.5 million.
WMPTE's efforts to secure Parliamentary approval included providing free trips to Grenoble for MPs through the lobbying firm Ian Greer Associates . In September 1991, proposals were published to extend Line 1 to the Bullring shopping centre and build Line 2. There were complaints in parliament that constituents complaints were not properly considered by the committee.
Public opposition and rapidly mounting costs eventually forced the abandonment of Line 2 and Line 3 (Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Merry Hill).
|Midland Metro line one|
Line 1, the 12½ mile (20.2 km) Birmingham to Wolverhampton route, was opened on 31 May 1999, and runs mostly along the trackbed of the former Great Western Railway line between the two cities (which was severed in 1972), thus stopping any return of the former mainline.
At the southern end, the terminus is Birmingham Snow Hill station in Birmingham city centre. Platform 4 at the station had to be taken out of use to allow provision of the tram terminal and access track, reducing the railway's capacity and operating flexibility. The trams will soon move to their own dedicated area and platform 4 will return to rail usage.
At the northern end, trams move off the former railway formation to run along Bilston Road to a terminus in Bilston Street, called St Georges in Wolverhampton city centre. The original proposal had been to run into the former Wolverhampton Low Level station but this was abandoned. St Georges does not have interchange with other public transport, but the bus and railway stations can be reached on foot in a few minutes.
The control room and depot, called Metro Centre, near Wednesbury, Great Western Street tram stop, occupies land once used as railway sidings.
A contract covering construction and operation of this line was awarded to a consortium known as Altram in August 1995. Construction began three months later, with a targeted completion date of August 1998. This was missed by ten months, which should have led to compensation being paid by Altram. Altram was reported to owe £5.5million and be paying £24,500 a day in liquidated damages to Centro .
The outturn cost of Line 1 is also not known. In 1990 David Gilroy Bevan, a prominent supporter of Midland Metro, told Parliament that it would cost £60 million. Centro stated that it cost £145 million at 1995 prices, but this does not take account of items (such as a wheel lathe) that were deleted to reduce the headline sum.
At the time of Line 1's opening, Altram was a for-profit company owned by John Laing, Ansaldo, and West Midlands Travel. Claudio Artusi, vice president of Ansaldo Trasporti, had stated that his company was "fully committed to successfully implementing Line 1", and Martin Laing, chairman of Laing, had stated, "we will deliver a high quality light rail system".
Soon after opening, it became evident to all three partners that Metro operating revenues would not cover costs. In 2001 Ansaldo decided it was "not prepared to invest further monies in a loss-making venture which showed no prospect of ever becoming profitable". Laing "felt there was no economic future in Altram and that to contribute further funds would only increase its loss in what it believed to be a failing project". In February 2003 it was reported that the Metro's auditors refused to sign off its accounts as a going concern.
Ansaldo and Laing sought an exit, which was agreed some years later. Day-to-day operation of Metro is in the hands of TMM, with losses largely covered by cross subsidies from other parts of National Express's business.
NEG is responsible for Midland Metro losses until 2019. However, Centro intends to re-franchise the operation well before that date, as part of the 'Phase One' expansion. At a result, responsibility for future losses would transfer from NEG to the public purse.
Line 1's trams have an exemption from the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998, as they do not have suitable handrails in all required locations. In May 2009, Wolverhampton councillor Judith Rowley suggested that £40,700 had been wasted on a "flawed" access plan for improving existing disabled access to the Bilston Central tram stop, a claim denied by Nigel Pennington, Centro's director of rail and rapid transit.
Although patronage is much lower than was anticipated by Centro, Metro expansion remains central to its strategy. In 2006 Councillor Gary Clarke, chairman of 'Centro-PTA', stated that Metro would "make a real impact on our campaign to cut congestion for everyone". Fifteen percent of journeys were previously made by car, representing an estimated 1.2 million car journeys.. Trams account for fewer than 2% of journeys made by public transport in the West Midlands.
Centro has been seeking government funding for its Phase One expansion, comprising the 2.8 km Birmingham City Centre Extension (through Birmingham city centre linking Snow Hill, Birmingham New Street Station, and Five Ways), and the 11 km Brierley Hill Extension (a branch off Line 1, from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill town centre). An order authorising the City Centre Extension was made in July 2005.
Recruitment of a director to look for ways of funding Midland Metro expansion was abandoned in January 2009. The job holder would have been paid £100,000 per annum by Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, and Dudley councils, and Centro. 
In January 2009 Birmingham councillor Len Gregory said he would be prepared to "look seriously" at a proposal for an elevated monorail between New Street station and the Airport, instead of a Midland Metro line. Birmingham City Council's lead member on Centro, Councillor Len Clark, said he was "excited" by the Metrail AG monorail put forward by 'Birmingham Business Focus' (BBF). He thought that it would not take up as much space as a tramway, and would be less expensive. BBF director Neil Maybury envisaged monorails running along most of Birmingham's arterial roads.
Centro continued lobbying for government support for Midland Metro, and in July 2009 the Department for Transport declared, if newly prepared business cases were 'acceptable', it would pay £25 million towards the diminished Birmingham City Centre Extension, and £53 million towards the Wolverhampton loop, and 'up to' 25 replacement trams.
Centro's 2009 draft Integrated Public Transport Prospectus claimed that light rail typically cost between £10-20 million per kilometre, which did not accord with the estimates for the Phase One Extensions (£64.28 million/km, Birmingham City Centre, and £24.36 million/km, Brierley Hill).
|Midland Metro line one extension|
Birmingham City Council's support has been less than consistent. At times it has favoured building Midland Metro in tunnel in the city centre and there has been uncertainty about the route itself.
Centro's public position remained supportive of a street tramway to Edgbaston Shopping Centre, Five Ways, 13 minutes from Snow Hill. At points such as Suffolk Queensway, trams would go over the road on a bridge. As part of the 'Snowhill' land redevelopment adjacent to Snow Hill Station, part of a viaduct has been constructed to carry the line from the current alignment into the streets.
In March 2009, a much-shortened version of the BCCE, terminating in Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street station, was estimated to cost £60 million.
The BCCE would improve tram users' access to the shopping district around Corporation Street, but at the cost of worsened access for bus users, with up to ten stops having to be relocated away from the street. Over 30 bus routes, including those using Upper Bull Street as a terminus, would have to be re-routed.
Re-routing bus services for the BCCE has been a source of friction between Centro and National Express West Midlands, with an earlier attempt to redirect vehicles to a new 'bus mall' adjacent to Moor Street railway station having ended in disaster. Following a spate of accidents, the mall was closed down after two months and before it had fully opened, and all evidence of its existence erased. 
By January 2010, reference to the Stephenson Street to Five Ways section had been removed from the project page on the Centro website.. The revised business case states that this section has been dropped from the current plan as the New Street to Snow Hill section was the priority for investment .
The revised business case claimed that the existing trams could not be used in central Birmingham streets, despite their having been custom designed for the Midland Metro project (which included Birmingham street running from its inception). The 'requirement' for new trams further inflated the BCCE cost estimate, to £120 million, or £85,000 per metre. Various reasons were given by Centro for needing new trams, including the safety of braking performance of the existing vehicles if used on the City Centre Extension. Using the hazard brake the existing vehicles need 15m to stop from 30km/h speed .
After consideration by the Department for Transport, in March 2010 junior minister Chris Mole announced 'initial approval' of a government contribution of £81m to the project, now costed at £127m, including 20 new trams.
|Midland Metro Line Two|
From Line One in Wednesbury, the Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE) would follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, through Sandwell to the vicinity of the former Dudley Town station, then run on-street into Dudley town centre. It would leave Dudley using a route alongside the Southern Bypass to again access the existing railway corridor, leaving it once more for the approach to the Waterfront/Merry Hill area and Brierley Hill. The intended start of service date at one point was 2011.
Centro have stated that the WBHE would offer 10 trams per hour, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Journey time from Brierley Hill to West Bromwich was stated as 31 minutes. In December 2000, the capital cost of the Brierley Hill Extension was stated as £114.1 million, in 1999 prices. A Centro news release in March 2005 gave the cost as £139 million, but the following year the estimate had nearly doubled, to £268 million.
Some preliminary work was done in 2005-2006, with the reconstruction of the 50-year-old Tipton Road overbridge in Dudley. In early 2005 the project had no start or completion data assessed and parts of it still requirement approval of parliament. 
To avoid a "a reputational risk for Centro", its Director General, Geoff Inskip, proposed spending nearly £2 million on land for a car park at Dudley Port. The land for each parking space would cost about £30,000. As well as the compulsory purchase at Dudley Port, another £10 million would be used to fund seizure of other land required.
In 2008 Centro began repositioning the WBHE as a passenger and cargo tram-train project linking Wednesbury and Stourbridge, linked to the re-opening of the South Staffordshire railway from Bescot. It claimed, "Running freight trains on the proposed tram tracks will remove the need to build a separate track for freight alongside the Metro rails, cutting overall construction costs by around 20 per cent".. The "20% saving" estimate was made before the Department for Transport abandoned a trial of tram-trains on the Sheffield to Huddersfield railway, due to the vehicles being "presently unaffordable".
In the construction of Line 1, Centro took a contrary view of track sharing, having an expensive flyover built at Handsworth to ensure segregation of trams from occasional freight trains.
Centro's 'Wednesbury – Brierley Hill – Stourbridge Rapid Transit' map shows that trams would cross into (and out of) the path of freight trains ten times, on each return journey to Stourbridge.
In a Parliamentary debate on extending Midland Metro towards her constituency, Lynda Waltho, Labour MP for Stourbridge, stated that 17% of passengers had moved from car to Midland Metro in the first year of operation, and 37% in 2006, but gave no source for the figures. She added that the Brierley Hill route would cost £384 million to build - well above Centro's figure - and that the Metro was a good option where there was insufficient demand to justify a bus service, such as in the evenings.
It would take the form of a mainly single track loop-and-spur extension to Line 1, with an estimated cost of £30 million. By July 2009, it appeared that the loop had gained funding preference over the Brierley Hill route, with the distribution of a public leaflet giving basic details of the proposal.
Other Metro proposals have been made by Centro at various times, including the following.
A 10 km, 17-stop route planned from the city centre through Lancaster Circus and along the A34 corridor to the Birmingham/Walsall boundary area, terminating near the M6 motorway junction 7. The route was called "Varsity North" by Centro, and a "white elephant" by Khalid Mahmood.
A 14 km route from Birmingham Airport/ NEC and serving suburbs along the A45 road. Journey time from central Birmingham (Bull Street) to 'the Airport' was estimated at 29 minutes but the route map shows a terminus about 600 metres away, adjacent to Birmingham International railway station. Journey time by tram from the city centre to the Airport check-in would be similar to existing bus services, but not competitive with the rail service, as Birmingham International is only 10 minutes by train from central Birmingham.
This 20.4-km route, called "5Ws" by Centro, would connect Wolverhampton city centre to Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury, as well as providing direct access to New Cross and Manor Hospitals, partially using the trackbed of the former Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway.
Metro operates 16 T69 articulated two-section trams, which were built by Ansaldobreda in Italy. Numbered 01-16, they have a top speed of 43 mph (70 km/h). The short intersection in the centre is a vestige of the three-section design, abandoned as Line 1 costs increased. Each tram has three entrances on each side, and 56 seats. Only the centre portion is wheelchair accessible. An on-board loudspeaker system can deliver recorded announcements, and messages from the driver and Metro Centre. Safety equipment includes a dead man's handle.
The trams are driven manually under a mix of line of sight, and signals. Turnback loops along the line, including the street section, have points indicators. A set of loops located on the entirety of the line show the control room the location of all trams. The track bed section (Birmingham to Priestfield) is sparse for signalling. Signals are located at:
The street section has signals at every set of traffic lights, which are tied into the road signals to allow tram priority.
Weekday services run at eight-minute intervals, with a longer weekend and evening spacing. There is no service in the small hours of the morning.
The service operates to an 8-minute peak frequency, rather than the 6-minute all-day frequency promised by Centro in the planning stage. On the 8-minute frequency, the reliability in July 2009 figures) was described as 99.8% in a report on the Wolverhampton council website. Writing in May 1999, Robert J Tarr stated, "The 6 minute frequency service required under Altram's concession is due to be implemented within a couple of months".. Currently the 6-minute-all-day frequency service is proposed as part of the BCCE.
The fare scale was originally intended to be broadly comparable with buses, but this proved to be unfinanceable . In July 2008, the adult single fare from Birmingham to Wolverhampton was £1.50 by bus, £2.50 by tram.
|Fleet Number||Tram Name||Tram Type||Livery|
|01||Sir Frank Whittle||T69||Midland Metro|
|03||Ray Lewis||T69||Midland Metro|
|05||Sister Dora||T69||Network West Midlands|
|06||Alan Garner||T69||Midland Metro|
|07||Billy Wright||T69||Network West Midlands|
|08||Joseph Chamberlain||T69||Midland Metro|
|09||Jeff Astle||T69||Network West Midlands|
|10||John Stanley Webb||T69||Network West Midlands|
|11||Theresa Stewart||T69||Midland Metro|
|13||Anthony Nolan||T69||Midland Metro|
|14||James Eames||T69||Midland Metro|
|16||Gerwyn John||T69||Midland Metro|
Centro are planning a £44.2 million replacement of the entire tram fleet after less than 12 years of use  (This cost includes moving from 150 to 200 capacity per tram and additional vehicles to reach a 6 minute service pattern on the original and extended route). Vehicles on other urban rail systems generally have a life of 30 to 50 years, with Milan using carriages over 80 years old, and Buenos Aires running trains over 95 years old. In 2002 Andrew Steele, general manager of Midland Metro, said the Ansaldo trams were "crap", and had wiring like "plates of spaghetti".
By 2008 Travel Midland Metro was claiming its tramway was 'green', and the first British light rail line to be powered from 'renewable' sources. However, the sources were not identified. The parent company (National Express Group) website made a somewhat different claim. It stated that Midland Metro was "the first light rail system to use 'green tariff' electricity, making it effectively emissions free". The claim 'effectively emissions free' was not explained. The campaign group 'Friends of the Earth in the West Midlands' said it was greenwash, with the electricity produced in part from the burning of rubbish.
In the foreword to its five year Environmental Strategy, Centro chairman Councillor Gary Clarke and chief executive Geoff Inskip stated that Midland Metro's emissions were "practically zero". However, Centro later stated that it did not know how much energy Midland Metro consumed, or what its emissions were, and it publishes virtually no information about the environmental impact of the system. Although its stated objectives include monitoring environmental performance and "raising public awareness of environmental impacts of transport", the only statistic it gave was for carbon dioxide, implying that Midland Metro produces 65 grammes of CO2 per passenger kilometre.
The 65 gramme figure does not concern Midland Metro at all, but originates from 2007 central government DEFRA data which estimated carbon from Tyne and Wear Metro, Manchester Metrolink, Tramlink, and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in 2003. These systems are much more heavily used than Midland Metro, for example, the DLR carries eight times as many passengers per route kilometre.
It is not known to what extent Centro measures Midland Metro noise, and no details are given on its website. In a February 2010 response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Centro stated that it held "no information" on Metro noise monitoring and measurement. In a 2007 report to the Department for Transport by DeltaRail Group Limited, Centro's noise and vibration monitoring was listed as internal, subjective and 2-monthly, implying there was no use of instrumentation, or measurement outside the trams.
Travel Midland Metro stated that to reduce complaints about noise and vibration, especially on the street running section, workers re-ground rails over four nights in December 2007.
Noise was a significant factor in the opposition to earlier Midland Metro projects. For example, residents in Chelmsley Wood objected to the removal of landscaping to allow space for tram lines. The landscaping had been put in place to reduce people's exposure to noise from the M6 motorway. 
For the Birmingham City Centre Extension, new noise standards appear to have been specified, but Centro denied public access to most of the business case on the grounds of 'commercial confidentiality'.
Loss of green space has also featured in objections to Midland Metro expansion. The proposed Brierley Hill Extension would involve permanent loss of public open space, which would not be offset by creation of equivalent space elsewhere.
Visual impact of infrastructure was one of many issues mentioned in abortive consultation on tramway expansion carried out in 2003-2004.
According to the West Midlands Local Transport Plan 2, Midland Metro is a "fundamental element" of the "demand management and modal shift thrust" of the area's transport strategy. This reflects Centro's view that Midland Metro expansion could reduce private car usage, congestion, and emissions. The modal shift sought by Centro is therefore from private to public transport.
However, evidence from Line 1 showed potential for only a modest shift from car to tram, with the shift from existing-bus-and-rail to tram being about three times as big. In effect, for a large part of its traffic, Midland Metro cannibalised the existing public transport user base.
The substitutionality of car journeys by tram depends on numerous factors, such as whether the trip origin and/or destination is on a tram route, and the trip length. Because construction costs are, at minimum, £24 million per kilometre, a dense Midland Metro network is unlikely. Centro's draft Integrated Public Transport Prospectus gives 45 minutes as a limit for acceptable journey duration (this appears to be exclusive of waiting time). By this yardstick, journeys between points such as Stourbridge and Walsall using an expanded Midland Metro system would not be competitive, as they would take too long.
A report dated December 2003, and available on the website of the Passenger Transport Executive Group, presented data about capital costs and ridership for various tram systems. This suggested that the cost of converting a car journey to a journey involving Midland Metro (not necessarily car-free) was in excess of £45,000 per passenger (£90,000 per round trip). This may be an underestimate, for example, it is not clear whether park and ride infrastructure is included in the capital cost (much of this was added after the 1999 opening).
Unlike local rail services, bicycles are not permitted on Midland Metro.
Little is known about the planned life of Midland Metro, or resource use and pollution over the life cycle. The BCCE business case implied that the 1999 infrastructure was intended to be usable to 2018.
Centro has not published any details of material volumes, waste, or energy needs arising from building or extending the Metro. In the 'public' part of the BCCE documents, disposal of the Ansaldo trams was not discussed. If unsaleable, there would be a need to manage over 500 tonnes of waste.
Caution and proceed.
Turning left and proceed.
Turning right and proceed.
There have been several instances of trams colliding with road vehicles at crossings, and on the Wolverhampton street section. There has also been at least one collision between trams . Technical and maintenance failures, and vandalism, have led to some service disruptions. One of the most notable incidents took place in the summer of 2001, when electrocution risks due to drooping cables forced closure of the Wolverhampton section.
Criminal activity was not effectively planned for during Metro construction, with vandalism and theft being a problem even before the line opened. High levels of crime led to the removal of ticket machines from tram stops, and the fitting of closed circuit television to trams.
People living near Line 1 were promised compensation for noise, vibration, and antisocial behaviour, but according to a 2007 report in the Express and Star, had received nothing. DeltaRail implied that the 'concessionaire' has paid off an unknown number of complainants, described as "small", with the settlement linked to a confidentiality agreement.
In March 2009, fly-tipping and littering led campaigners in West Bromwich to call for action on cleaning up the system.
Policing is the responsibility of the British Transport Police in Wednesbury.
Travel information is available from the Traveline West Midlands website and call centre. A leaflet giving timetables and fares is usually available from local travel information offices. Until October 2008, Midland Metro had a monthly customer publication called Tram Lines.
The website run by Midland Metro has been marred by poor accessibility, and inaccurate information. As of 10 January 2010, it was showing ticket prices correct "as of 2nd January 2008" (fares were increased in January 2009 and on 2 January 2010), and claiming trams could carry up to 208 passengers (actual capacity is around 150) 
The publication of a Good Pubs Guide by Midland Metro has led to some people (notably students) using the tram for a pub crawl starting at one end and winding their way down the line to the other, stopping off at pubs along the way, in a similar fashion to the Sub-crawl in Glasgow (using the Glasgow Subway) or London's Circle line crawl.