Archive for the ‘Midland Metro’ Category
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.)
Soon 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.
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.
Birmingham City Council is ‘considering congestion charging as part of a range of options to tackle poor air quality from toxic surface transport emissions’, Transport Network reported.
[“Birmingham reveals congestion charging ‘a possibility'”, Dom Browne, 07 August 2014]
A Birmingham City Council spokesman told Transport Network congestion charging was ‘a possibility’ in terms of tackling Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) – linked to asthma and heart conditions – but was one of a range of options, which could also include the promotion of low emissions vehicles, and no decision would be made until the appropriate data had been captured.
[…] In a press statement Birmingham City Council said: ‘Birmingham acknowledges that certain areas of the city exceed the air quality limit value for nitrogen dioxide. This is an ongoing state of affairs. The primary source is emissions from road traffic with diesel vehicles providing the greatest contribution.
As Birmingham city council admit, the air quality problem is largely caused by diesel powered vehicles. Which, of course, includes the diesel buses that make up the city’s entire road public transport fleet, and diesel cars, which, amazingly, Labour and Conservative governments have been encouraging people to buy.
So, if the polluter-pays principle were applied, there would be a pollution tax imposed on diesel public transport, and on diesel cars. But the council is not looking at a pollution charge; it is looking at a ‘congestion charge’. The likely aim would surely be to raise funds for boondoggle schemes such as the HS2 / Curzon development, and a £500 million tramway to the airport. Because of embedded construction pollution, on a passenger-km basis, Centro’s airport Midland Metro would be the #1 polluting infrastructure project in central England.
Extension of the Midland Metro tram on-street in Birmingham city centre to Stephenson Street was featured on BBC Midlands Today (6 May 2014). The scheme, which has a crow-flies length of perhaps 600 metres, has cost more than £140 million of public cash, when new trams and bus stop relocation are factored in.
BBC Television’s footage from the Waterstones Stephenson Street worksite showed the extent of the disruption caused by building the tramway. The transport authority’s Paul Griffiths said that Centro was hoping to get funding for further tram extensions in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
On 27 April West Midlands transport authority Centro announced that a deal for Urbos 3 trams had been signed.
Centro and CAF formally sign deal for new Urbos 3 trams
Centro and CAF have formally signed contracts on a deal that will bring up to 25 new trams to the West Midlands.
The Spanish manufacturer will supply the Urbos 3 trams in a deal worth in the region of £40 million.
Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip and Antonio Campos, International Division Area Director for CAF, put pen to paper to seal the deal in a signing ceremony at Centro House in Birmingham.
The trams will replace the current 16-strong Ansaldo Trasporti fleet to deal with the expected growth in use of the Metro once the 1.3km (0.8 mile) extension between Snow Hill and New Street via Bull Street, Corporation Street, and Stephenson Street is open.
The new trams will start running from late 2014 on the current route from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, with the Midland Metro extension from Birmingham Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street station coming on line in 2015.
The extension is expected to boost the West Midlands economy by £50 million a year and create 1,300 sustainable new jobs.
Geoff Inskip said: “I am delighted that we have formally signed contracts for this exciting new chapter in the story of the Midland Metro.
“The new Urbos trams are high-quality vehicles which will be a superb addition to public transport in the Midlands.”
Antonio Campos, Commercial Director of CAF, said: “CAF are thrilled to be involved in the line extension project and believe the trams will make a significant contribution to improving transport links between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
“The Urbos 3 tram is a stylish vehicle and will add to the character of the West Midlands.”
The new, bigger trams will provide far greater passenger capacity between Birmingham and the Black Country.
The five section air-conditioned tram has a passenger capacity of approximately 200, compared to 156 on the current trams, has two dedicated spaces for wheelchair users and its features will be fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.
Each section will have passenger information and CCTV information and protection, and Passenger Assistance Units at each door.
CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocariles) is based in Zaragoza and has recently supplied trains for the UK market, including the Class 332 trains for the Heathrow Express and 64 Class 333 trains for Northern Rail.
The Urbos 3 is built in Zaragoza, Spain. CAF has trams successfully in use in cities around the world including Zaragoza, Seville and Belgrade and are currently manufacturing trams for Houston and Nantes.
CAF currently employs around 50 people in the UK at offices in Coventry, Edinburgh, and Belfast and will project manage the introduction of the new vehicles from Coventry.
What the press release doesn’t mention, is the seating provision on the Urbos 3 — which turns out to be pretty much the same as the existing Ansaldo trams.
John Vidal’s 19 March 2013 Guardian article about metropolitan air quality mentioned how official inaction has led to Great Britain air pollution barely improving in 20 years, and legal limits for NO2 being ‘regularly breached in most urban areas’. And in his article of 27 January 2013, Mr Vidal reported
Diesel fumes are significantly more damaging to health than those from petrol engines, according to research which shows that related air pollution contributes to lung disease, heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory problems.
The findings, published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, are an embarrassment for successive governments, which have encouraged a switch to diesel since 2001 by linking road and company car tax to CO2 emissions. Diesel engines have been billed as “green” by car makers, governments and environmental groups because they are more fuel-efficient and emit less CO2 than petrol. Vehicles with low fuel economy and high CO2 emissions are further penalised by higher fuel duty tax, while diesels with the lowest CO2 emissions are not subject to road tax or congestion charges. Insurance premiums are also affected by cars’ CO2 status. Last year diesel car sales overtook those of petrol-fuelled cars for the first time. Petrol car sales are now 15% lower than in 2011.
The inaction on air quality is not just an issue for central government. And diesel buses and HGVs are a big problem that local transport organisations, such as the Passenger Transport Executives have completely failed to get to grips with. In the West Midlands area, Centro has prioritised useless prestige projects such as Midland Metro, Sprint buses, and HS2, instead of trying to improve environment and air quality.