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Archive for the ‘Midland Metro’ Category

Corporation Street hammer horror

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On 10 August BBC Midlands Today finally caught up with Birmingham’s Corporation Street Metro “maintenance” horror show, with reporter Ben Sidwell speaking to, inter alios, the appropriately named Peter Cushing of the Midland Metro Alliance.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog might recall that when the Metro tracks were originally being put in, Midlands Today offered up another case of nominative determinism when they interviewed John Daft, then of Balfour Beatty.

Mr Sidwell’s report claimed that nearly a quarter of the Birmingham City Centre Extension was being dug up and replaced at a cost of £5 million (the Beleben blog would suggest that it is going to be a lot more than a quarter, and a lot more than £5 million).

Written by beleben

August 11, 2021 at 10:52 am

Track lies matter

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From Monday 26 July until October 2021, West Midlands Metro trams will operate between Wolverhampton St George’s and Birmingham Upper Bull Street only.

MMA, proposed Eastside extension map

This, according to the operator’s website, is to allow tie-in of “the existing track to the Birmingham Eastside Extension which will connect Metro services with Digbeth and the new HS2 station at Curzon Street. There will also be track replacement work taking place on Corporation Street at the same time”.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

The disruptive and noisy works are being carried out day and night by Midland Metro Alliance, ignoring generally accepted ‘considerate construction’ norms.

Midland Metro Corporation Street track replacement, 2021

The usual lifespan of plain tramline is generally in excess of 20 years, but the Corporation Street tracks were only opened in 2016.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

So, what is going on?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

¿Que pasa?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

Was ist los?

Midland Metro Alliance Corporation Street track replacement self selected questions

What is happening, is a misinformation campaign by the Midland Metro Alliance and Transport for West Midlands, in which the track replacement is being portrayed as a scheduled and normal event. Which, of course, it isn’t. It is most definitely not normal for tram tracks to need to be ripped up and replaced after five years.

Part of TfWM statement shown on ITV Central News, 30 July 2021

On 30 July, the story made ITV Central’s 6 pm evening news, in which the reporter revealed that the track had “degraded far quicker than expected”. TfWM issued a preposterous, dishonest and legally dubious statement to ITV which claimed that “a significant section” of the Corporation Street track needed to be “realigned and replaced” to accommodate the delta junction at Bull Street. “Significant section”, meaning what exactly? As far as Union Street? New Street?

Upper Bull Street

So one might ask who, if anyone, at TfWM (Centro) was monitoring the construction activity when the tracks were originally laid in 2015 / 2016? Who is going to foot the bill for their replacement? And who at the West Midlands Combined Authority and / or TfWM decided it would be a good idea to conduct a public misinformation campaign, and cover up the facts?

Written by beleben

July 31, 2021 at 8:46 am

Andy Street’s ‘2040 metro and rail plan’

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Andy Street at Aldridge transport museum (picture from @Andy4WM twitter)

On 4 February, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street launched his ‘2040 plan for metro and rail in the West Midlands’ at Aldridge Transport Museum, before an audience which appeared to largely consist of museum staff and volunteers (?).

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Today I unveiled my 20 year plan to transform our metro and rail networks into a world-class comprehensive tube-style system serving our entire region. This plan is already underway with: Major expansion of the Metro in Birmingham and the Black Country.'

The event, part of Mr Street’s campaign for re-election, was not mentioned on that evening’s 6.30 pm BBC tv Midlands Today, but was briefly featured about halfway through ITV’s 6 pm Central News.

Andy4WM's metro and rail plan map 2040

The ‘£15 billion plan’ which includes new Metro (tram) lines and rail stations, and driverless pods and ‘very light’ rail, would be funded from central government, property developers, and ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’.

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Thank you for the encouragement and support for my 20 year metro and rail plan. We've started work on this job together and the foundations are literally being laid around the region, with the diggers in the ground. There's a long way to go but we are underway!'

An obvious difficulty with the idea of ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’ is that most of the additional infrastructure proposed by Mr Street would carry few passengers, generate very little income, and have to be subsidised from public funds.

There must be also be some questions about the disruption which would follow from implementing Mr Street’s scheme. If the HS2 railway is approved, as news reports suggest, there would be extensive transport disruption in central and east Birmingham over the next decade. Building Mr Street’s tram lines would in effect deepen and spread this disruption, across the wider area, for the next twenty years.



Written by beleben

February 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm

One-way ticket to Rotherham (and back)

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On 21 February 2018, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) announced that thirteen of its T69 Midland Metro trams had been sold for scrap by e-auction for £12,000. They had been “phased out” of service from 2014, as new Urbos 3 trams were delivered from Spain.

TfWM website, 'Former Midland Metro trams to make final journey following auction sale'

TfWM quoted councillor Roger Lawrence, West Midlands Combined Auhority lead member for transport, as saying: “After many years of service it’s sad the T69 trams are headed for the breakers yard, but in the absence of any buyers for them as a going concern this represents the best return for the council tax payer.”

But what was this “best return”?

It turns out that

  • the T69 tram lease was ‘contracted out’ to the Royal Bank of Scotland ‘through until September 2017’
  • moving the decommissioned T69s from the Metro depot at Wednesbury to storage at Long Marston cost “approximately” £2,000 per vehicle, paid from public funds
  • storing the trams at Long Marston cost “approximately” £35,500 per annum, paid from public funds
  • 99.5 per cent of the £12,000 raised from the sale of the trams went not to public funds, but to RBS bank.

How then, one might wonder, did TfWM end up paying £35,000 a year, to store someone else’s scrap metal?

Did TfWM have to pay leasing charges for the trams, even after they had been scrapped?

How much public money, altogether, was wasted?

At the time of writing, TfWM are refusing to release any more information, citing ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Written by beleben

November 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Midland Metro

HS2 transport benefits are “inconsequential” to the West Midlands public

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In an unexpected and somewhat ratneresque development, the programme manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority’s “HS2 Growth Delivery team” has admitted that the supposed transport benefits of the HS2 high speed railway are inconsequential for the vast majority of people in Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull, and Coventry.

Craig Wakeman: HS2 transport benefits are inconsequential to the vast majority of the people that live in the West Midlands Combined Authority

[What does High Speed Rail really mean to you?, Craig Wakeman, programme manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Delivery team, 30 July 2018]

When people think of HS2 they automatically think of the improvement it brings to people travelling to London, shorter travelling times and a big increase in the number of seats. In reality, these benefits are inconsequential to the vast majority of the four million people that live in the Combined Authority.

Four million people live in the Combined Authority area?

'2.8 million peple live in the WMCA area (2015)'

Anyway, according to Mr Wakeman, HS2’s benefits are

  • the “unlocking” of large areas of land for redevelopment in Bickenhill and around Curzon Street Station in Birmingham
  • the ‘creation of more than 100,000 new jobs’
  • ‘the National College for High Speed Rail, training 1,300 students annually once it is at full capacity’
  • ‘£1.2 billion of local transport connectivity investment by 2026, including Eastside and Brierley Hill tram extensions and seven ‘Sprint’ bus services carrying 23 million passengers a year’.

Where is the evidence that HS2 is a creator of 100,000 West Midlands jobs?

In its peak year, the construction of the line would briefly require about 25,000 workers in total (not just in the West Midlands). Around half, or more, of the construction and operating jobs seem likely to be taken by foreign workers.

Dependence of UK rail on EU labour

Greenfield development at Bickenhill. Is that a benefit, or periurban sprawl?

And how much land is there left to “unlock” around Curzon Street?

Most of the Eastside redevelopment was in hand well before HS2 – Millennium Point, the relocation of Birmingham City University (the polytechnic) and Matthew Boulton College.

Written by beleben

July 31, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Posted in HS2, Midland Metro, Politics

HS2 Bickenhill tramway costed at £872 million

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The meretricious extension of the West Midlands Metro tramway from Birmingham city centre to the Airport and the HS2 ‘Interchange’ station site at Middle Bickenhill is now costed at £872 million, according to the West Midlands Combined Authority. This sum is comprised of £137 million for the section from Corporation Street to Adderley Street, and £735 million for the rest.

Artist's impression of a West Midlands Metro tram in Digbeth

No buses operate over the proposed tram route to the airport, because of its indirectness and low demand, and fast trains from New Street to ‘Birmingham International’ (the airport station) take just 10 minutes. The National Express West Midlands X1 (former 900) buses are timed to reach the airport from central Birmingham in half an hour. Demand for travel from places such as Chelmsley Wood to the airport is low, as shown by the X12 bus running at 20-minute intervals, even at ‘peak’ time.

The airport tramway is part of the WMCA ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’, which has an estimated cost of £5.139 billion. This is additional to the cost of the “£55.7 billion” HS2 ‘Core Programme’, as are the HS2 expenditures of Network Rail and local authorities such as Cheshire East, Stoke, Sheffield, Greater Manchester, and Leeds.

Written by beleben

July 31, 2018 at 8:47 am

Midland Metro will become West Midlands Metro as services are taken over by Midland Metro

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'From Sunday June 24 [2018], the Midland Metro will become West Midlands Metro as services are taken over by Midland Metro'

It makes perfect sense in the twilight zone

Written by beleben

June 21, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Daft and you know it (part three)

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Part one | Part two

At the opening of the Midland Metro extension to Stephenson Street on 30 May, Centro chief James Aspinall told ITV Central News that trams will bring over three million extra people into the city and £50 billion of benefits to the region.

Central News, 30 May 2016: 'trams will bring £50 billion of benefits to the region'

Written by beleben

May 31, 2016 at 8:30 am

Posted in Midland Metro

Daft and you know it (part two)

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Balfour Beatty, Midland Metro, Birmingham City Centre extension to Stephenson St, faqs

The opening of the Bull Street to Stephenson Street section of the Midland Metro in central Birmingham was re-programmed to take place on 22 May 2016, but had to be cancelled because ‘anomalies in the track alignment needed to be addressed’.

According to Centro’s Network West Midlands website, public service to Stephenson Street has been rescheduled to commence on 30 May, with a six-minute frequency in the peak. (Before the first section of Midland Metro opened in 1999, Centro claimed there would be a ‘six-minute’ all-day service, but that appears never to have been achieved.)

Written by beleben

May 25, 2016 at 9:13 am

The wool over their eyes

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BBC News story (4 July 2001) about the Midland Metro electrocution risk caused by shoddy workSoon after the Midland Metro tramway opened in 1999, evidence of shoddy design and construction began to emerge. Ansaldo and Laing — the ‘A’ and the ‘L’ in the Altram consortium awarded the design-build-and-operate concession in 1995 — had effectively abandoned the tramway as early as 2002, leaving the remaining participant, Travel West Midlands, to pick up the operating losses (the Metro has never come close to carrying the 15 million passengers per annum originally expected).

In a desperate bid to stop TWM handing back the keys, Centro renegotiated the operating concession (the full terms of which have never been made public). The overhead lines had to be completely replaced, years early, at public expense, and the original “rubbish” trams are now being placed in store at Long Marston.

It has also transpired that the building of the street section between Wolverhampton and Priestfield was bodged, resulting in the need for early replacement of the track. During those replacement works in 2014, it was found the tramway had been built over unstable and potentially dangerous mine workings, which has resulted in continued closure of the northern extremity.

[Centro Press release]


Work progresses on replacing tram track in Wolverhampton

The laying of new Metro tram tracks over former mineworkings in Wolverhampton city centre has resumed after engineers devised a way of tackling the unstable and potentially dangerous site.

They were uncovered on the A41 Bilston Road between the junctions with Steelhouse Lane and Hospital Street in November as work progressed on replacing worn out tram tracks.

After intensive efforts to find a safe way of building over the mine, work is now underway with tram services scheduled to resume running into the St George’s terminus in March.

The old mineworkings were up to 40ft feet deep and filled with loose, uncompacted building rubble.

The old workings, which are up to 12m (40ft) deep, 55m (180ft) long and 20m (65ft) wide, are thought to date as far back as the Industrial Revolution, when coal and iron ore was mined extensively across the Black Country.

Centro, the region’s public transport co-ordinator which is behind the £4.5m track improvement scheme, consulted with specialist engineering consultants to assess how best to deal with them.

It also sought advice from other light rail systems in the UK and around the world to see if they had ever dealt with a similar problem and to identify the best solution.

Engineers have now devised a solution consisting of a geo-textile membrane and geogrid to stabilise the ground, in between layers of compacted hardcore and capped with a reinforced 5m wide concrete slab running through the 55m length of the workings.

Midland Metro programme director Paul Griffiths said at some point down the years the workings had been filled in with old building rubble then covered over without being marked on any known map or documents.

“The problem was that rubble was not compacted down, it was thrown in loose and covered over, and over time loose rubble shifts and creates voids,” he said.

“Having installed a modern new crossover south of The Royal we came to remove the foundation from the previous crossover and that’s when we found the mine workings.

“We had undertaken ground investigation in advance of the works including using ground penetrating radar, but this did not identify all the issues.

“It was only when we were able to open up the ground and make a full analysis that the sheer scale of the problem became clear.”

The timetable had already been hit by the discovery of unmarked public utility pipes and the discovery that the original track slab was not as strong as designed and required additional work to ensure it does not deteriorate in the future.

Originally planned to open in November, The Royal opened the following month.

However an announcement on when services would resume to St George’s could not be made until the evaluation of the workings and design of a solution was completed.

That happened this week (January 26-30) following intensive ground investigation and design work over Christmas and New Year.

Mr Griffiths said: “The design of the solution has been complicated by the location between the two carriageways of Bilston Road.

“This has prevented the material from simply being dug out as it could have damaged the integrity of the road.”

While this took place, rebuilding work of the new St George’s terminus was accelerated and new track laid heading out to The Royal.

Cllr Roger Horton, Centro lead member for rail, said: “The delays have been incredibly frustrating and we recognise the impact they have had on users of the Midland Metro for which we apologise.

“However these works have had to be done. An operational tram system has to have secure foundations, and now that this is being done the Midland Metro will provide Wolverhampton with a system it can be proud of for years to come.”

The original contractors pulled the wool over Centro’s eyes, resulting in huge costs for the public purse.

Written by beleben

February 12, 2015 at 4:08 pm