Posted 14th August 2015 | 3 Comments

Final bow for last original Midland Metro tram

WEST Midlanders living in Birmingham or the Black Country bade farewell to a familiar local icon today, as the last of the original fleet of Midland Metro trams made its final journey.

The Ansaldo Breda tram entered service as part of the Midland Metro fleet when the first line opened 16 years ago, but they have now all been replaced by a larger fleet of new trams from Spanish builder CAF.

The last of the old trams made its final journey in public service from Wolverhampton St George's to Birmingham Snow Hill this morning. From there, it carried invited guests back to Wednesbury depot for a special ceremony in which Centro and concession-holder National Express signed a new 50-point agreement for the next stage of Midland Metro development.

Apart from the new fleet, the system's first extension, through Birmingham city centre from Snow Hill to New Street station, is set to open by December.

This will be followed by more new lines, serving Centenary Square, Five Ways and eventually Digbeth, while at the other end of the line tram services are to be extended to Wolverhampton station. There are also plans to take trams to the new HS2 station at Birmingham Curzon, and a longer-term ambition to serve Birmingham Airport and the nearby National Exhibition Centre. Outgoing Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip told his audience at today's ceremony that long-standing proposals to build another extension to Dudley and Brierley Hill are also still alive.

Mr Inskip is planning to leave Centro at the end of the year, but he has not yet said what he plans to do next, although one Centro insider said: "Retirement is not on the agenda."

The new 50-point plan includes many pledges, including a cap on fares which should restrain future rises to the Retail Price Index plus 1 per cent, 'except in the case of exceptional external events'.

All trams will offer WiFi, while the new West Midlands 'Swift' smartcards will soon be accepted by tram conductors, who will also be able to deal with contactless credit and debit cards from next year. Fare dodgers will be less comfortable, because the penalty fare for ticketless travel will rise to £70.

All the objectives will be monitored by a new partnership board involving National Express, Centro and councillors, which will meet four times a year.

Although the last of the original fleet has now been withdrawn, Centro said the old trams will be mothballed rather than scrapped, while options for selling them continue to be explored.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Colin Redman, Market Harborough

    I think Ansaldo work on the Crewe-Chedale upgrade during the WCML upgrade and the failure of the Fyra high speed train says it all really.

  • Chris, London

    This really doesn't say anything for the build quality of Ansaldo products....

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield

    Given the problems with these (I well remember watching one pull into West Bromwich with the rain water swilling around in the headlamps!) & Manchester's 20XX second series of T68s (Analdo rather than Firema built), would you buy a used Fiat 500 from Ansaldo?