THE EXTENSION of the West Midlands Metro from Grand Central to the Library stop at Centenary Square opened to passengers on 11 December.

Look, no wires: Midlands Metro tram No 35 on shadow test running, having passed the Town Hall, turns into Pinfold Street from Paradise Street on Birmingham’s new Westside extension on 6 December 2019.
Tony Miles

Driver route familiarisation and timetable testing had begun at the start of December, when a new timetable was introduced on the system. From that point trams terminating at the Grand Central stop outside Birmingham New Street station continued out of service along the extension, which includes a stop at the Town Hall before reaching the Library terminus. Trams operate every six minutes at peak times, with the extension connecting passengers to the Library of Birmingham, Symphony Hall, ICC, Birmingham Rep, the Council House and Town Hall and offices in and around Centenary Square and Victoria Square.

The Centenary Square extension operates on battery power throughout, becoming the first tramway in the UK to do so, with the CAF Urbos trams being retrofitted with batteries at Wednesbury depot. Testing of the new section has included a restart of a fully loaded tram running on battery power on the steep gradient leading from Pinfold Street into Victoria Square.

Construction of the extension was by the Midland Metro Alliance, which is planning, designing and delivering extensions to the network on behalf of Transport for West Midlands. Work on the Westside extension began in 2017, and continues on the remaining section of the extension to Hagley Road in Edgbaston. Running along Broad Street with stops at Brindleyplace, Five Ways and Edgbaston Village, this is due to open in 2021. Preliminary works on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension serving Dudley are due to begin next year, whilst final activities will take place on the extension in Wolverhampton to serve the bus and railway stations.