62 years after trams last ran through Birmingham city centre, Sunday 6 December will see trams return with the opening of the Bull Street stop on the city centre route extension. The £128 million extension through to New Street Station will open in 2016, after Christmas to avoid disruption as the rest of the route is tested. With over 5.5 million people expected to visit the Christmas German market this is a prudent move to avoid disruption and one welcomed by businesses who are expecting millions of visitors.
“There has been a tremendous effort from everyone involved in this project with people working around the clock in recent weeks. I would particularly like to thank Retail Birmingham for all its support and co-operation.
“It is because of that hard work that we will be able to start running trams into the city centre at Bull Street before Christmas.
“However, as with all tram extensions through city centres at the moment there are always unforeseen challenges and that makes it difficult to give an exact date for when we will run trams to New Street Station.”
It is fitting that HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the new stop and named a new tram at the end of November, having reigned for just over as many years as the city centre has been without running trams, http://www.railmagazine.com/news/network/2015/11/24/queen-names-tram-as-midland-metro-expansion-accelerates#sthash.k3VpzyLB.dpuf. The Queen named Tram 35 Angus Adams after the former chairman of Centro who died in 2012 and who was a key figure behind the extension.
I last reported on the Metro extension in May 2014, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2014/05/midland-metro-extension-update-may-2014.html, and there has been a lot of work since to ensure the metro extension will open this Sunday. The culmination of the hard work saw the first powered test run of the tram route to Bull Street on Tuesday 1 December, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-34979363. With the test run declared a success services will run to Bull Street from 08:00 on Sunday although the new stop at Snow Hill will not open until 2016, http://www.britishtramsonline.co.uk/news/?p=13310.
As well as new stops the extension will also see 25 new Urbos 3 trams, built in Spain by Constucciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) bought for £40 million.
The expansion of the route past New Street has already begun and work will allow trams to run to Centenary Square in 2019. It is this extension and the commitment to extend the route onwards to Five Ways as well as securing a new route that will link to the new HS2 station and onto the airport as well as the long planned route to Merry Hill that look to energise intracity movement and travel.
The fact that the metro does not serve New Street or any of the other main visitor destinations in Birmingham has meant that the system is largely unknown for those outside of the city and indeed it is unknown for many of its inhabitants. Having the Metro run through the city centre streets would give it a much higher status than it has now. It would act as its own advertisement and would get the public to start asking their local Councillors “when are we getting our line?”http://www.britishtramsonline.co.uk/midlandfarewell.html
An advert for the Metro from 1989 Centenary Celebration Guide.
The following is reproduced from contractor Balfour Beatty bulletin reporting on progress, http://www.balfourbeattymidlandmetro.com/index.php/contractor-bulletins and the works planned in January.