ALL 21 CAF Urbos 3 five-section LRVs have again been withdrawn by Midland Metro in Birmingham, Britain, following the discovery of cracks. This is the third such instance in the past nine months.

The latest service suspension began on March 20, and it is currently unknown how long it will last. The previous suspension began on November 13, with the full service only resuming in mid-February. In June 2021 operation was suspended for four days after the initial discovery of cracks resulted in the removal from service of the LRV fleet, which dates from 2013-2015, for inspections and repairs.

West Midlands mayor Mr Andy Street confirmed in a statement that the cracks were around the doors. Midland Metro confirmed it was the older LRVs in its fleet that were affected. CAF has not replied to an inquiry from IRJ.

In a statement on March 21, Midland Metro said that services had been suspended so CAF could undertake detailed inspections. The operator called the inspections “precautionary” adding that it was aiming for the checks to be completed by the end of this week.

“Until we know the extent of the problem, and indeed what is going to be needed to deal with this repair, we cannot say exactly when the service will come back,” Street says.

Midland Metro requires 18 LRVs to operate a peak service, but has previously operated with a fleet of nine.

Street also confirmed that discussions would be held as to whether the introduction of newer LRVs, ordered in advance of the opening of extensions on the network, could be accelerated. Eight CAF Urbos 100 LRVs have been delivered to Birmingham of which five have been commissioned and have entered traffic. The remaining 13 are due by the end of 2023.

On March 18, Street announced that LRVs were expected to commence serving a new terminus in Edgbaston for the first time in June on a £68m, 1.3km extension from Centenary Square. Opening had been delayed from December due to the previous discovery of cracks. Testing was expected to begin in May, but sources suggest this is now unlikely.

CAF Urbos LRVs in operation Belgrade, Serbia, Besançon, France, and Sydney have also suffered issues with cracks in recent times.

Services have resumed in Sydney but with the 12 CAF LRVs temporarily replaced by six Alstom Citadis LRVs borrowed from another line in the city. The issue is with plates on the LRV bogie boxes that have developed fractures. Installation of reinforced plates is underway at Pyrmont depot with this work scheduled to be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.