The longest autumn
In June 2015, the Birmingham Mail reported that construction work on the Midland Metro Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) between Snow Hill and New Street was on time, ‘with full passenger service up and running by the end of year’.
Centro, and the Birmingham Mail, must surely have known that full passenger service was not going to be ‘up and running by the end of 2015’. That would have been obvious from a walk along Corporation Street, anytime during the summer of 2015.
Now Centro have issued a press release stating that the “go-ahead for a series of crucial safety checks has been secured, paving the way for a spring (2016) opening”.
[Centro press release: Spring opening for next leg of city centre tram extension, 18 Feb 2016]
[…] Centro, the region’s transport delivery body, has been given the green light by Network Rail to run essential overnight testing of the electrical systems along the new Midland Metro route on April 23.
The granting of the ‘possession’ will ensure that the Metro’s electronic systems do not interfere with those controlling trains using New Street Station. The work will also check that Network Rail’s systems do not interfere with the Metro.
Centro’s Metro programme director, Phil Hewitt, said: “The only way we can carry out this work is by getting a possession, when no trains are running, from Network Rail and we are grateful to them for speeding up the process and cutting the length of time you usually have to wait.
“This is a crucial piece of work because once done it clears the way for us to carry out the final testing, commissioning of, and staff training for the new extension. Once that process is completed we can start running trams down to New Street Station.”
Trams returned to the streets of Birmingham for the first time in more than 60 years in December when the Midland Metro started running to a new stop in Bull Street.
But work to complete the remainder of the route along Corporation Street and Stephenson Street to New Street Station was suspended for eight weeks in the run up to Christmas to provide a more attractive environment for shoppers. Work restarted in the New Year.
Centro press releases always seem to be fighting a losing battle with the truth. Did work really “stop for eight weeks” in the Christmas period? If so, what was the “stop” date?