Midland Metro

Midland Metro

Midland Metro
Type Tram/light rail[1]
Status active
Locale West Midlands
Stations 23
Services 1
Daily ridership 14,000
Opened 30 May 1999
Owner Centro
Operator(s) Travel Midland Metro
Depot(s) Wednesbury
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)

The Midland Metro is a light-rail or tram line in the West Midlands of England between the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton via West Bromwich and Wednesbury. It is owned and promoted by Centro, and operated by West Midlands Travel Limited,[2] a subsidiary of the National Express Group (NEG), under the brand name Travel Midland Metro (TMM). The line averages about five million passengers annually, and this number appears to have reached a plateau,[3] about one third of that predicted by Centro in the planning stage.[4]



In the mid 1980s, around the same time as 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,[5] and was to have been the first of a series of tramways known as the 'Light Rail Transit' system.


Centro's proposals included converting the Hall Green to Shirley portion of the North Warwickshire railway to a tramway, and closing the remainder. A tramway to West Bromwich was to run along the Soho Road, with the parallel Great Western Railway right of way used for a by-pass. The Redditch to Lichfield rail service was to be discontinued, and its Aston to Sutton Coldfield section used as a tramway.[6]

The Clock Garage line, spearheaded by Wednesfield Labour councillor Phil Bateman,[7] was eventually abandoned in the face of heated public opposition,[8] with the Transport Executive being unable to find a Member of Parliament willing to sponsor an enabling Bill.[8]


Following the establishment of a new Passenger Transport Authority in 1986, Phil Bateman revealed a £400,000 light rail public relations campaign.[8] The project was revived under the name 'Midland Metro', with a different set of lines. It would be the "largest infrastructure project in the West Midlands to the end of the century and beyond", and 200 kilometres 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.[9]

Unlike the Clock Garage line, 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. The Wolverhampton corridor for Line 1, announced by the Passenger Transport Authority on 16 February 1988,[8] was not included in the 1985 recommended network.

The Clock Garage line was subsequently revived in modified form, still requiring extensive demolition,[10] as Midland Metro Line 2, with a new eastern terminus in Chelmsley Wood.[10] Line 2 was intended to be extended from Chelmsley Wood to Birmingham Airport.

WMPTE's efforts to secure Parliamentary approval included providing free trips to Grenoble for MPs through the lobbying firm Ian Greer Associates.[11] In September 1991, proposals were published to extend Line 1 to the Bullring shopping centre and build Line 2. Following complaints about public communication, Terry Davis, then MP for Hodge Hill, recounted that the PTE Director General, Robert J Tarr, had promised there would be "full consultation", but the promise had not been kept.[12] Mr Davis added that, against the advice of local MPs, the Executive decided to use "obscure Parliamentary procedure" to try to stop people objecting.[12]

Neither Line 2 nor Line 3 (Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Merry Hill) were built, and powers to build them lapsed in 1997.[13]

Centro's consultants have included WS Atkins, Kennedy Henderson [Parsons Brinckerhoff], and Faber Maunsell.[14]


A contract covering construction and operation of Midland Metro Line One was awarded to a consortium known as Altram in August 1995, and construction officially began three months later.[15]

The targeted completion date of August 1998 was missed by ten months, which should have led to compensation being paid by Altram. Although there was some speculation,[16] details of any payments made are not known.

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.[17] Centro stated that it cost £145 million at 1995 prices,[18] but this does not take account of post-opening works (such as Black Lake and Priestfield car parks),[19] or reflect deleted items, such as the centre section of T69 tramcars. Nearly all funding was from central government, European development and West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority sources.


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".[20]

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".[21] 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".[21] In February 2003, The Times reported that the Metro's auditors had refused to sign off its accounts as a going concern.[22] Michael J Parker, Centro communications chief during the project definition stage—subsequently Director General of Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (Nexus)—had stated that Midland Metro would be "highly profitable".[23]

Ansaldo and Laing had ceased practical involvement as early as 2003, but their official exit took place in 2006.[21] Day-to-day operation of the tramway is in the hands of Travel Midland Metro, with losses largely covered by cross subsidies from other parts of National Express's business.[21]

Public information about Midland Metro finances is limited, but the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) used an overall cost estimate for British systems of £3.79 per light rail vehicle kilometre in 2003-2004, compared with £0.94 per bus kilometre in 2002-2003, sourced from the publication Rapid Transit Monitor 2004. CfIT estimated that the fare required for Midland Metro to break even was twice that of Manchester Metrolink, Tramlink, and the Tyne and Wear Metro.[24]

In a lecture at Loughborough University on 24 November 2008, Andrew Forster, editor of Local Transport Today, sought to illustrate how solutions are formed according to the fields of those tasked with solving them through perceptual bias, for example a highways engineer will suggest a road, a public transport authority will suggest more public transport, an economist will suggest road pricing. Forster recounted a tale he heard about the development of the Birmingham Integrated Transport Strategy conducted by Birmingham City Council on behalf of the PTE from a representative of the PTE on the steering group instructed to lobby for Light Rail, he said the arguments for bus usage were weak and conceded that they may have been stronger had there been a representative from the bus industry on the Councils Steering Group. Forster argued that to best solve a problem required the widest possible range of viewpoints and periodic ongoing review as the nature or understanding of a problem may change during the length of development, and had Centro been more willing to engage its critics plans could have been refined.[25]


Line One

[v · d · e]Midland Metro Line One
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Wolverhampton St George's
Urban station on track
The Royal
Urban station on track
Urban station on track
The Crescent
Urban station on track
Bilston Central
Urban station on track
Urban station on track
Bradley Lane
Urban bridge over water
Walsall Canal
Urban station on track
Wednesbury Parkway
Urban station on track
Wednesbury Great Western Street
Urban bridge over water
Tame Valley Canal
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Black Lake Tunnel (412 yards)
Urban station on track
Black Lake
Urban bridge over water
Ridgacre Canal
Urban station on track
Dudley Street Guns Village
Urban station on track
Dartmouth Street
Urban station on track
Lodge Road West Bromwich Town Hall
Urban station on track
West Bromwich Central
Urban station on track
Trinity Way
Urban station on track
Kenrick Park
Waterway under motorway
M5 motorway
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The Hawthorns National Rail
Urban station on track
Handsworth Booth Street
Urban station on track
Winson Green Outer Circle
Urban station on track
Soho Benson Road
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Jewellery Quarter National Rail
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Hockley Tunnel 1 (136 Yards)
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Hockley Tunnel 2 (160 Yards)
Urban station on track
St Paul's
Urban bridge over water
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
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Birmingham Snow Hill National Rail

Line 1, the 12.5-mile (20.1 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. Of the 23 tram stops, eleven roughly or directly match former stations on the Great Western line.[26] The line is for passenger use only.


At the southern end, the terminus is Birmingham Snow Hill station in Birmingham city centre, where Platform 4 was taken out of use to allow provision of the tram terminal and access track.

At the northern end, trams move off the former railway formation at Priestfield to run along Bilston Road to a terminus in Bilston Street, called St Georges in Wolverhampton city centre. 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 original proposal had been to run into the former Wolverhampton Low Level station, but this was abandoned,[27] and the trackbed north of Priestfield, including Low Level station, was not safeguarded by Centro.

Service pattern

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. Trams take 35 minutes to complete the entire route, there being no limited stop services.

A six-minute frequency was promised by Centro in the planning stage. On the eight-minute frequency, the reliability in July 2009 figures, was described as 99.8% in a report on the Wolverhampton council website.[28] 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".[29]


Cash fares are distance-related. The scale was originally intended to be broadly comparable with buses, but this proved to be unfinanceable.[30] Progressive fare increases made Midland Metro the most expensive public transport in the West Midlands, serving some of the most deprived areas.[31] In July 2008, the adult single fare from Birmingham to Wolverhampton was £1.50 by bus, £2.50 by tram. The second fare increase of 2010, in July, brought the whole line single fare to £3.20,[32] compared with £1.70 for bus[33] and £2.90 for train.[34]


In 2008, Centro reported Midland Metro 'journey satisfaction rating' of 83%, compared to 76% for local rail, and 63% for bus.[35] This was not reflected in Metro patronage, which showed zero growth over the period to 2010 (1999–2000, 4.8 million passengers; 2009–2010, 4.7 million passengers).[36] In a similar timeframe, local rail patronage increased by nearly 30% but bus usage fell by 11%.[37][38] In 2006 Centro set a target of 5.8 million passengers for 2010–2011, stating "new commercial and residential developments in Bilston and West Bromwich should boost ridership".[39]

At 10.5 km, Metro average journey length is the joint highest of any British light rail system.[40] On the busiest part of the Midland Metro route, bus passengers outnumber tram travellers by about three to one,[41] although the Birmingham 74/79 bus (Upper Bull Street) and tram (Snow Hill) termini are close together.[42]


Track, signalling, and depot

Line 1 is a 1435mm double track tramway, apart from a short section of single track at the approach to the Snow Hill terminus. Trams are driven manually under a mix of line of sight, and signals. Turnback crossovers along the line, including the street section, have point indicators.

On the track bed section, Birmingham to Priestfield, signals are located at the Snow Hill single line extremities, Black Lake level crossing, and Wednesbury Parkway and Metro Centre. The street section has signals at every set of traffic lights, which are tied into the road signals to allow tram priority.

The control room, stabling point, and depot, called Metro Centre, near Wednesbury, Great Western Street tram stop, occupies land once used as railway sidings.


In July 2010 Centro announced overhead line renewals costing £0.43m and a £0.53m investment in upgrading communications and signalling equipment,[43] requiring Midland Metro's closure for one week (between Birmingham Snow Hill and Black Lake in autumn 2010, and Black Lake and Priestfield in spring 2011).[44]


Tram stops have no permanent staff presence. Most stops have two open (cantilever) shelters equipped with a few seats, and around 5 bike stands, but no lockers. There is also public address, a 'live' digital display of services, closed circuit television, and an intercom linked to Metro Centre.[18] The platforms are of a height to allow level access to the trams' low floor centre portion.

At the time of opening, stops were equipped with ticket machines of poor quality,[45] which were replaced by onboard conductors, issuing bus-style tickets.


Midland Metro tram 14 leaving Snow Hill railway station tram stop
Midland Metro tram 05 approaching West Bromwich tram stop
Tram 13 on former railway section.

Metro operates sixteen Ansaldobreda T69 articulated two-section trams, which were built in Caserta,[46] Italy. The 38 tonne[46] tramcars rest on three bogies, and have a top speed of 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph). There is a full width driver's compartment at each end.

The short intersection built over the middle, unpowered, bogie is a vestige of the three-section design, abandoned as Line 1 costs increased. Each tram has three 1.25 metre wide[46] entrances on each side, with twin plug doors.

Only the centre portion of the tramcar - 0.35 metres above track level - is wheelchair accessible, as the extremities - being 0.85 metres above track level - are reached by a small staircase. An on-board loudspeaker is used to deliver messages from the driver and Metro Centre, and a recorded announcement of every stop.[46]

Centro stated that Midland Metro was "designed to provide similar comfort levels to those experienced in a car".[31] In practice, however, tramcar occupancy in commuting periods is mainly standee, with seating only accounting for 56 of the 158-person capacity.[47] Longitudinal seats in the tramcar face the door openings, making for a potentially uncomfortable journey,[46] and there is no internal partitioning to reduce draughts.[48]

Each tram includes a dead man's handle and three braking systems. Using the hazard brake, fifteen metres is required to stop from a speed of 30 kilometres per hour.[49] In the Rail Accident Investigation Branch report into an accident at New Swan Lane Level Crossing, it emerged that tram drivers were reluctant to use a rapid deceleration brake, because of the potential for serious or fatal injuries to persons on board.[49] However, the implications for Midland Metro operation in complex pedestrian cross traffic, such as the proposed Birmingham City Centre Extension, are not discussed in Centro's October 2009 business case.

In 2002 Andrew Steele, general manager of Midland Metro, said the Ansaldo trams were "crap", and had wiring like "plates of spaghetti".[50]

Centro announced that they were planning a £44.2-million replacement of the entire tram fleet after less than twelve years of use.[51] 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. The replacements would be able to carry 50 more passengers than the 150-person T69 but, like that design, most of the capacity is for standees. Additional vehicles would allow the six-minute daytime service originally promised for 1999.

Proposed extensions

Although patronage is much lower than was anticipated by Centro, Metro expansion has remained 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".[52] Fifteen percent of trips were previously made by car, representing an estimated 1.2 million journeys.[53] As there are about 1100 million journeys by car annually in the West Midlands,[54] the volume cut in road traffic achieved by Line 1 was, at most, 0.1%. Trams account for fewer than 2% of journeys made by public transport in the county,[54] and a similar percentage of peak hour journeys to central Birmingham.[55]

Phase One Expansion

Centro has been seeking government funding for its Phase One expansion, comprising the 2.8-kilometre (1.7 mi) Birmingham City Centre Extension (through Birmingham city centre linking Snow Hill, Birmingham New Street Station, and Five Ways), and the 11-kilometre (6.8 mi) 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.[56]

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.[57]

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.[58] The study cautioned that "The potential loss of traffic turning lanes, particularly in the city centre, could require significant traffic management measures to mitigate the effects."

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.[59]

Centro's 2009 draft Integrated Public Transport Prospectus claimed that light rail typically cost between £10-20 million per kilometre,[60] which did not accord with the 2009 estimates for the Phase One Extensions. For example, the "11 km" Brierley Hill tram-train was costed at £341 million[61] (£31 million/km).

As of September 2010, Centro's website claimed the Brierley Hill and Birmingham City Centre extensions would be built as a "joint project", and would "recoup their costs within the first four years of operation".[62]

Line One (Birmingham City Centre) Extension

[v · d · e]Midland Metro line one extension
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to St Paul's on current Line One
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Snow Hill (St Chad's) National Rail
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Bull Street
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Corporation Street
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Birmingham New Street National Rail

The Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) is a proposed addition to the existing Line One that would bring trams into the streets of central Birmingham, terminating at Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street railway station. It is a shortened version of an earlier proposal which would have seen the tramway continue to Edgbaston Shopping Centre, Five Ways.[63] The Birmingham Post reported that the BCCE would remove around 420,000 car journeys per year from the roads, according to[who?].[64]

In 2003-4, Centro submitted plans for the full Birmingham City Centre Extension to a public inquiry, with a cost estimate of about £56 million.[65] By June 2005, the estimate had reached £72 million,[66] and Centro stated it had to convince the government that it could keep development costs under control.[67] Following this statement, costs escalated rapidly, and three years later, had reached £180 million.[68]

Birmingham City Council's support for a street tramway to Five Ways was less than consistent. At times it favoured building Midland Metro in tunnel in the city centre,[69] and there was uncertainty about the route itself. Mike Whitby, council leader from June 2004, showed little enthusiasm for the full BCCE, or trams in general.[70] His preference was for an underground railway, which he claimed would be faster, and much cheaper to operate.[71] In February 2005, Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Tilsley, who became deputy leader of Birmingham council later that year, stated that a "proper" underground was needed, and that people would not stand for the "mayhem" that building a street tramway would cause.[72]

The city council commissioned Jacobs Engineering[73] and Deloitte to look into the feasibility of underground trams, but in June 2005, the Birmingham Post reported that tunnelling would be unaffordable and not meet government funding criteria. Mr Whitby stated that he would challenge the way the studies had been carried out,[71] but the eventual outcome was his reluctant acceptance of a street tramway. In March 2006, the Birmingham Post reported continued council unease about BCCE feasibility, and the cost of necessary highway alterations.[74] By September 2008, the council's interest had shifted from the 'full' BCCE[70] to a shortened version providing a link between New Street and Snow Hill stations (which do not have a connecting train service).

Although its public position remained supportive, by January 2010, reference to the Stephenson Street to Five Ways section had been removed from the project page on the Centro website.[75] Centro had been working on a revised business case for the shortened variant only, which was submitted to government in October 2009.

Shortened version

In March 2009, the shortened version of the BCCE, terminating in Stephenson Street, was estimated to cost £60 million.[76] It would diverge from the existing line between Snow Hill and St Paul's stops. 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.[77] The viaduct would allow the fourth platform at Snow Hill to be reinstated for railway use.[78] In September 2010, contractor Balfour Beatty started building a new deck to complete the viaduct.[79]

From Snow Hill, the tramway would run along Colmore Circus, Upper Bull Street, Corporation Street, and Stephenson Place, providing three additional stops. The present Snow Hill tram terminal would be replaced by a fourth new stop near to St Chad's Circus, on the Hockley side of Great Charles Street. Access to Snow Hill railway station would be by means of its "second entrance", on which building started in 2005.[80]

The BCCE would provide a tram link between Birmingham New Street and Snow Hill railway station which do not have a linking train service. It 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[81] 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,[82] with an earlier attempt to redirect vehicles to a new 'bus mall'[83] adjacent to Moor Street railway station having ended in disaster.[84] 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.[85]

The October 2009 version of the business case claimed[47] 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,[86] to £120 million. Previous versions of the business case made no mention of a requirement to replace the existing carriages[65] and Centro produced artists' impressions of the current Ansaldo trams running on the BCCE.

The revised business case saw Centro giving various reasons for needing new trams, including the safety of braking performance of the existing vehicles if used on the City Centre Extension.[47] However, the BCCE would be problematic in safety for any type of tram, as it includes heavy and complex pedestrian cross-traffic, narrow streets,[87][88] difficult gradients,[47] and abrupt turns.[87]

After consideration by the Department for Transport,[89] in March 2010 then junior minister Chris Mole announced "initial approval" of a government contribution of £81m to the project, now costed at £127m. According to the Railway Gazette, this included 20 new trams,[90] but the Central Office of Information statement mentioned only "improvements to the tram carriages"[91] rather than new trams.

By 12 May 2010, following the general election, the funding announcement content was "unavailable" on the Central Office of Information website.[92]

On 10 June 2010 the Birmingham Post reported the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, as requesting that work on the BCCE should be suspended pending a review. The report did not state whether Centro intended to comply with the request.[93] A press release from Centro, updated on 18 June 2010, showed Centro officials observing digging re-starting at Snow Hill, in apparent contravention of Mr Hammond's statement[94] that work would be stopped on schemes-under-review, to protect taxpayers’ money.[93] On 20 October 2010 the BBC reported that chancellor George Osborne had given a "firm commitment" to support the extension,[95] but the transport newspaper 'Railnews' claimed that funding[96] appeared to depend on receipt of a "best and final offer" from Centro.[97] In February 2011, with the estimate having risen to £129 million, the government made £75 million available, leaving Centro to raise the rest from other sources.[98]

Wolverhampton city centre loop

A tramway serving Wolverhampton's bus and rail stations, part of the Phase Two Extensions, was made a separate project following stagnation of the project to build a line to Walsall. It was to take the form of a mainly single track loop-and-spur extension to Line 1, with an estimated cost of £30 million.[99] By July 2009, the loop had gained funding preference over the Brierley Hill route, with the distribution of a public leaflet giving basic details of the proposal.[100]

Centro had hoped to complete the scheme by 2014,[101] but in May 2010 Wolverhampton 'regeneration' councillor Paddy Bradley stated it was "on the back burner". Although its 2009 brochure included a route plan and stopping points, Centro's porte-parole Steve Swingler said "We expect to announce the preferred route later in the summer".[102]

The plan entailed southbound passengers boarding in Wolverhampton being first taken around the city centre, and to the railway station. In July 2010, Centro Director General Geoff Inskip hinted that the scheme would be reworked by taking it to "places people need to go, such as the University", and not taking passengers to the train station and back "if they don't actually need to go there".[103] The reworked scheme, costing £50 million instead of £30 million, might be routed over part of the ring road.[103] Nothing more was heard of the revised plan, and the November 2010 draft Local Transport Plan reverted to a Wolverhampton loop costing £31 million.

Wednesbury - Stourbridge Extension

[v · d · e]Midland Metro Brierley Hill/Stourbridge Extension
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Joins existing Line One
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Tame Valley Canal
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Golds Hill
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Walsall Canal
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Great Bridge
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Horseley Road
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Dudley Port National Rail
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Birmingham New Main Line Canal (under aqueduct)
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Sedgley Road
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Birmingham Old Main Line Canal
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Birmingham New Road
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Tipton Road
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Dudley Town Centre for Dudley Bus station
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Flood Street
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New Road
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Unknown BSicon "uexWBRÜCKE"
Parkhead Viaduct
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Pedmore Road
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Canal Street
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Merry Hill
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Brierley Hill
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Brettell Lane
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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.[104]

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,[105] giving a Brierley Hill - Birmingham time of 44 minutes, similar to the existing bus-rail journey via Cradley Heath.

In December 2000, the capital cost of the Brierley Hill Extension was stated as £114.1 million, in 1999 prices.[106] A Centro news release in March 2005 gave the cost as £139 million,[107] but the following year the estimate had nearly doubled, to £268 million.[108]

In early 2005, the project had no start or completion date assessed, and parts still required the approval of Parliament.[109] Some preliminary work was done in 2005-2006, with the reconstruction of the 50-year-old Tipton Road overbridge in Dudley.

In August 2008, Centro Director General Geoff Inskip revealed plans to put a charge on new houses near tram routes, stating that a £2,500 levy per dwelling could raise over £25 million by 2026.[110] In October 2008, to avoid a "a reputational risk for Centro", Mr Inskip proposed spending nearly £2 million on land for a car park at Dudley Port.[111] 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 purchase of other land required.[112]

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".[113] The report giving this figure assumed that track sharing issues could be resolved.[114] The "20 per cent saving" estimate preceded a 27% increase in project cost, to £341 million.[61]

In the construction of Line 1, Centro took a contrary view of track sharing, having a flyover built at Handsworth to ensure segregation of trams from occasional freight trains.[115] Track sharing was a feature of the original Wednesbury - Brierley Hill Extension, but by spring 2001, had been abandoned for unspecified reasons.[116]

In October 2010, the 'Black Country Joint Core Strategy'[117] cast further doubt on implementation of the Brierley Hill Extension.[118]

In March 2011, the business plan for the reopening of the South Staffordshire Line between Walsall and Stourbridge for the Midland Metro was submitted to Network Rail.[119] Trams would share the line with freight trains, and a decision from Network Rail on the scheme between Stourbridge and Walsall is due in the summer.

Follow-on extensions

Phase Two Expansion

In 2004, the proposed Phase Two expansion included five routes:[120]

Birmingham city centre to Great Barr

A 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), 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.[121]

Birmingham city centre to Quinton

A 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) route planned to run from the Birmingham City Centre Extension terminus at Five Ways along the Hagley Road to Quinton.

Wolverhampton city centre to Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury

This 20.4 kilometres (12.7 mi) 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.

Birmingham city centre to Birmingham Airport (A45)

A 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) 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,[122] but the route map shows a terminus about 600 metres away, adjacent to Birmingham International railway station.[123] 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.

Birmingham city centre to Birmingham Airport (A47)

In September 2010, the Birmingham Post reported that a "£425 million rapid transit system" between Birmingham city centre and the airport "could involve a new light rail scheme".[124] Centro strategy director Alex Burrows stated "the Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport Rapid Transit plan will deliver connectivity between the city centre, Birmingham Business Park and Chelmsley Wood".[125] Centro's Airport Midland Metro project page had no mention of this corridor.[122] Bus journeys to Chelmsley Wood from the Airport take 10 minutes,[126] from the city centre, 33 minutes.[127]

Local Transport Plan 3

In November 2010, Centro began a period of consultation on the new Local Transport Plan, covering the period 2011 to 2026 ("LTP3").[128] The draft plan summary[129] listed the Brierley Hill Extension, 5Ws line, Birmingham Airport Rapid Transit (i.e., via Chelmsley Wood), Wolverhampton loop, and 'Coventry Rapid Transit Spine' as priorities for the period 2016 to 2026. There was no mention of the A45 Midland Metro Airport line, which had been in the Phase Two Expansion since at least 2003.[130] By 12 January 2011, the Midland Metro future routes web page[131] had also been cleared of any reference to the A45 line.

As with Alex Burrows' earlier announcement, the Birmingham Airport Rapid Transit was described as 'rapid transit' rather than 'Midland Metro'. The cost was given as £457 million, up from £425 million in September 2010.



By 2008 Travel Midland Metro was claiming its tramway was 'green', and the first British light rail line to be powered from 'renewable' sources.[132] 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".[133] 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.[134]

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".[135] However, Centro later stated that it did not know how much energy Midland Metro consumed, or what its emissions were,[136] 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.[137]

The 65 gramme figure does not concern Midland Metro at all, but originates from[138] 2007 central government DEFRA data which estimated carbon from Tyne and Wear Metro, Manchester Metrolink, Tramlink, and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in 2003.[139] These systems are much more heavily used than Midland Metro,[140] for example, the DLR carries eight times as many passengers per route kilometre.


Information about Midland Metro noise is scant. 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,[141] and Centro's 2009-2014 Environmental Strategy[135] contains no information on the topic.

The most recent information available appears to be a report on British light rail noise, dated 21 August 2007, for the Department for Transport.[142] The report, by DeltaRail Group Limited, stated that noise measurements were performed according to ISO3095, and the wayside noise levels of a tram at 65 km/h should not exceed 75dB(A) at 7.5 metres.

People living near Line 1 were promised compensation for noise, vibration, and antisocial behaviour,[143] but according to a May 2007 report in the Express and Star, had received nothing.[144] DeltaRail's report[142] stated that the concessionaire had paid off a small number of complainants, with settlement linked to a confidentiality agreement. The numbers are unknown.[145]

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.[146]

For the Birmingham City Centre Extension, new noise standards were specified, but Centro has denied public access to them.[142] None of over 20 appendices of the business case[147] were made available from Centro's project webpage.

Green space

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,[148] which would not be offset by creation of equivalent space elsewhere. In his report of the public inquiry into the extension, the inspector, Mr G Self, concluded that the loss of some public open space was "justified by the wider benefits".

Visual impact

Visual impact of infrastructure was one of many issues mentioned in abortive consultation on tramway expansion carried out in 2003-2004.[149] Since then, Centro has provided little information about visual impact of Midland Metro extensions. For example, trees in Corporation Street, Upper Bull Street,[150] and Pinfold Street lie in the path of BCCE overhead line equipment, but tree felling is not mentioned in the publicly available part of the October 2009 business case. Track alignment plans showed that all twelve trees in lower Corporation Street are in jeopardy, and six in other streets.[151]

Modal shift

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.[152] 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 large.[153] In effect, for a large part of its traffic, Midland Metro cannibalised the existing public transport user base. A 2003 government report reached a similar conclusion on light rail having a limited impact on road congestion, pollution, and accidents.[154]

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. Centro's draft Integrated Public Transport Prospectus gives 45 minutes as a limit for acceptable journey duration[155] (this appears to be exclusive of waiting time). By this measure, 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).[156] 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).


Although Centro has recently emphasised 'healthy' modes of travel,[157] options for cyclists are limited. Unlike local rail services, carriage of bicycles is not permitted, except for foldable bikes that have been fully compacted.[158]

At some rail stations, a few cycle lockers are available to provide a degree of protection against bad weather and theft. However, as of June 2010, no Midland Metro stop had cycle lockers (apart from The Hawthorns, shared with national rail).[159] Most stops in suburban areas had around five Sheffield stands 'brackets' (metal bars), in the open air (at Wolverhampton St Georges, three; at Snow Hill, zero).


Centro stated that an "independent study" had found that "Midland Metro extensions have the potential to create nearly 15,000 jobs and add over half a billion pounds to the region's economy".[160] However, the study,[161] undertaken by a company called CEBR Limited, was commissioned by Centro itself,[161] with a brief to investigate "the wider economic impacts" that the Phase One and Phase Two schemes "could have".

The study claimed to be able to quantify the effects in the year 2026, by economic sector and geographical area, but made no mention of probability of outcome, or any peer review process. In the planning stage of Midland Metro Line 1, economic and regeneration claims had been part of Centro's promotion, but Centro's BCCE business case contained no ex post data from Line 1. Centro's "Monitoring the Impacts" paper[153] also omitted examining whether Line 1's promised economic benefits had materialised.

Safety and security

Accidents and service disruptions

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.[162]

Technical and maintenance failures, weather, 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.[163]

Crime and antisocial behaviour

Criminal activity was not effectively planned for during Metro construction, with vandalism and theft being a problem even before the line opened.[164] In March 2009, fly-tipping and littering led campaigners in West Bromwich to call for action on cleaning up the system.[165]

In April 2010, thieves disrupted services by stealing £5,000 of trackside equipment at Wednesbury.[166] In September 2010, the Priestfield stop was targeted, with thieves escaping with cable from a substation.[167]

Midland Metro car parks are covered by a closed circuit television system, but this has not prevented thefts from vehicles.[168]

Policing is the responsibility of the British Transport Police from Wolverhampton and Birmingham City Centre.

Emergency procedure

In the run up to opening of Line 1, an unknown number of emergency scenarios were played out out with volunteers.[169] Evacuation from several sections, such as the Hill Top tunnel, in the event of power failure appears to depend on passengers, including wheelchair passengers, being able to clamber up or down a steep bank.[170]

Publications and information

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. Travel Midland Metro also published a guide[171] to pub crawling the line.

The Midland Metro website has featured poor accessibility, and inaccurate information. It was redesigned in October 2010,[172] though still not complying with accessibility guidelines.


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