The investment will include new suburban rail lines, cycle routes and motorway improvements, in order to maximise the economic benefits of High Speed 2 (HS2), which is due to open in 2026.
The new LRVs will expand the fleet in readiness for a number of forthcoming extensions to the existing network which runs between Wolverhampton St George’s and Birmingham Grand Central. These include:
- Westside - running from Birmingham Grand Central to Edgbaston, serving the Town Hall, Centenary Square, Brindley Place and Broad Street
- Eastside - branching off the existing city centre line to connect to the Birmingham Curzon HS2 station in Eastside, then on through Digbeth and north Solihull to the airport/HS2 Interchange
- Wednesbury - Dudley - Brierley Hill - connecting to the existing line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and
- Wolverhampton - along Pipers Row, serving the city’s bus station and redeveloped main line station.
There are currently 21 CAF Urbos 3 model trams operating on the Midland metro network. The first of those to be fitted with batteries was launched into operation in April 2018 while the other 20 vehicles are being retro-fitted with batteries in a rolling programme designed to ensure passenger services remain unaffected.
“We launched the UK’s first battery-powered tram earlier this year, and now we’re adding more to the network,” says WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Roger Lawrence. “We had to wait for the technology to catch up with our ambition, so we will retro-fit all our existing trams with batteries too. Eventually, this tender could treble the amount of trams operating on our network, potentially increasing our regional fleet from 21 to 71 trams, meaning more services and more stops as we extend the tram network for passengers across the West Midlands.”
With the battery technology removing the need for overhead catenary, the new trams will alleviate various challenges constructing the new network extensions such as travelling under the Five Ways roundabout and the new Curzon Street HS2 station.
TfWM is looking to appoint suppliers with tried-and-tested tram fleets in operation elsewhere in the world. Once a supplier is awarded the contract, around May 2019, there will be a two-year design and development process with the first of the new trams expected to enter service by mid 2021.