TRAMS started running on the Midland Metro extension to New Street on the late May Bank Holiday Monday, without any prelaunch publicity.
The project to bring trams from Snow Hill into the city centre should have been completed last year, and encountered a further snag when a planned launch on 22 May was delayed again by the discovery of ‘minor track anomolies’.
However, it was possible to bring trams past Snow Hill as far as a temporary terminus at Bull Street in December, and passenger figures have risen in response.
The arrival of trams in service at New Street station marks only the end of the first stage of the system’s expansion. Centro chiefs learnt last Thursday (26 May) that the Department for Transport has given formal approval for the next extension, which will take trams to Centenary Square and on which work has already started. Funding has also been earmarked to extend the route further along Broad Street, past Five Ways and on to Edgbaston by 2021.
The line is also to be extended in Wolverhampton from the present St George’s terminus on the edge of the city centre to the bus and railway stations.
Meanwhile, more Birmingham developments are set to follow, with further tramway extensions being planned to the new HS2 station at Curzon Street and also through Digbeth.
Until now, Midland Metro had been unusual in that no part of its single line ran through a city centre, unlike similar developments in cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Nottingham.
The New Street presence will now give Midland Metro a higher profile, transport chiefs believe. Peter Coates, managing director of National Express West Midlands which operates the Metro on behalf of Centro, said: “Since we started running to Bull Street, we’ve seen 23 per cent more passengers on the trams. Now the extension is open we look forward to passenger numbers continuing to grow.”
Councillor Richard Worrall, Metro lead member for the transport delivery committee, said “It’s wonderful to see the Metro running all the way between Wolverhampton Birmingham New Street.
“It’s obviously great news for Birmingham — but also for the wider West Midlands. This extension is expected to create more than 1,300 sustainable new jobs and boost the regional economy by more than £50 million a year.”
Centro managing director James Aspinall said the extension was just the start of a major expansion, thanks to the regional devolution deal struck with the Government.
“We will see £1.2 billion invested in public transport over the next 10 years,” he said.
“This will mean important new Metro links in Wolverhampton as well as Edgbaston and to Brierley Hill. Passengers will be able to get straight to the High Speed 2 rail stations in Birmingham and the NEC/Airport by 2026. This is a marvellous boost for the region.”