Trams soon to run in Birmingham City Centre

Trams are on track to return to the streets of Birmingham city centre in the autumn of 2015, with Testing runs between Snow Hill and New Street, on the new Midlands Metro extension.

Transport authority Centro, which is overseeing the development, stated that the track laying is now well underway and they expect to be ready to start testing the trams in October and gradually introduce the passenger service after that.
The extension will deliver an estimated 3.5 million passengers from the Black Country and West Birmingham into the heart of Birmingham’s shopping district - along Corporation Street.

Economic experts estimate the benefits of swift travel times and direct link to shops will lead to the creation of 1,500 Birmingham city centre jobs and benefit the West Midlands regional economy by £50 million a year.

The Metro is planned to further extend to Centenary Square, and along Broad Street, over the next five years, while further extension of the existing line into Wolverhampton city centre is also planned.

A further Birmingham line, to deliver trams to proposed High Speed 2 station at Curzon Street before heading out through Digbeth and on to the International Airport and NEC is also being planned.

The history of trams in Birmingham goes back to 1873 when the first tramway ran from Colmore Row (in the city centre) to what was then the city boundary at Hockley Brook, and used horse-drawn double-deck vehicles.  This route, together with an extension serving the residential southern side of the city (the Bristol Road service from Suffolk Street to Bournbrook), which opened in June 1876, were the only standard-gauge tramways to operate in Birmingham. These though were subsequently both converted to the narrower gauge that was soon to mainly used in the West Midlands.

The current existing tramway (Line 1), between Snow Hill in Birmingham to Wolverhampton opened on 30 May 1999, mostly using the former disused Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level Line.

Earlier in 1988 discussions about a three-line network was initially planned, and powers were also obtained to build two further routes. Firstly, an extension of Line 1 through the city-centre to Five Ways, then a second line, Midland Metro Line 2, running to Chelmsley Wood. and then Birmingham Airport. A third line, Line 3 was also proposed, running from Line 1 at Wolverhampton to Walsall, using much of the disused track bed of the Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway, and then, using the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill track bed of the South Staffordshire Line (which would close in 1993) running southwards to Dudley intersecting with Line 1 along the route. This would provide a direct link with the new Merry Hill Shopping Centre, which was built between 1984 and 1989.

Sadly over 25 years later, Line 2 and Line 3 have not been built. In 1997 Centro accepted that they were unable to get funding for the proposed lines, and therefore adopted a strategy of expanding the system in "bite-sized chunks", with the city-centre extension of Line 1 as the first priority. The intention was that the first decade of the 21st century would see the completion of the first of these projects.

Trams soon to run in Birmingham City Centre
WiderView Visual Media, Chris Roberts 16 September 2015
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