The Princess Royal opens the new Midland Metro tram service.
The Princess chats to tram driver Sandra Askham, from Penn, Wolverhampton,
on the platform at Wednesbury, who was driving the tram to Snow
A massive new business boom for Wolverhampton was predicted as
the long-awaited Midland Metro tram got off to a flying start on
its maiden trip to Birmingham at the end of May.
Wolverhampton's mayor, Peter Bilson said the sleek new system
would boost town centre shopping.
He said motorists in Birmingham and Bilston could leave their
cars in the car parks and let the 145 million tram system take the
Within three hours of starting the service the system was struggling
to deal with the huge numbers of people wanting to ride on the first
Metro spokesman, Phil Bateman, said so many people wanted to jump
aboard that the trams were struggling to deal with them. Queues
built up at several stations as people waited patiently for the
chance to get aboard.
Councillor Bilson was one of a host of civic dignitaries who packed
the tram on its first official journey into Wolverhampton - and
it glided to a halt in the town dead on time.
Dozens of people gathered at the West Bromwich Central stop when
the tram burst through a tape at the launch - and after the trip,
Councillor Bilson voted it "a very smooth ride."
He pointed out that the Wolverhampton section of the route was
particularly interesting because it ran on the road.
"It's certainly going to bring a lot of business to Wolverhampton
in terms of shoppers," he said, adding that it would also hopefully
ease car congestion on the road.
Passengers got an early start as they boarded the first fare-paying
tram out of the town and many of them carried cameras to record
the historic journey.
The first to buy a ticket was Philip Elverd, from Upper Road,
Meole Brace, Shrewsbury, a member of the Tram and Light Railway
"I was the first person to buy a ticket and am really going to
enjoy this historic run," he said.
But on the first day, as a special concession, the public was
allowed to travel on the tram free of charge for six hours.
Ten of the 23 stops were in Sandwell and the borough also housed
the hub of the system. The depot and offices of the Metro, where
16 trams are based, was in Potters Lane, Wednesbury.
It was the first time the trams had returned to the streets of
the Midlands for nearly 50 years - and years of planning, months
of snags and setbacks, and weeks of dummy runs had preceded the
The trams were planned to run every ten minutes in both directions
initially with the frequency being increased to six minutes later
in the year.
The key to its success was seen as being the number of people
who use the tram in the car-dominated and congested region.
The tram fleet took 35 minutes for each end-to-end journey with
a top speed of 47mph. They have a passenger capacity of 158 , of
which 56 are seated - and the return fare costs 2.40, with tickets
being available from machines that give change.
Finishing a labour of love . . . In 1999 Sylvia Everitt of
Rawnsley put the final stitches into her 30-foot, 11-panel Millennium
Tapestry, recording life in her beloved county from 1000 to 2000 AD.
first I worked in oil paints, then I decided to paint with a needle
and thread instead. The idea for the tapestry came in 1994. They
were talking about the millennium on television, which was quite
a rare subject in those days. I thought, why not do a Bayeux Tapestry
"It's taken me tens of thousands of hours and enough stitches
to go round the world a couple of times but I've been very lucky
"The strange thing is how it moves people. The commonest word
in letters is how 'privileged' people feel when they see it. I have
taken it around and seen people proposing a vote of thanks with
tears running down their face. I don't entirely understand it but
it obviously means a great deal.
"It begins with the 11th century rape of Staffordshire by the
Normans when the whole county was laid waste. It ends with JCB,
the Express & Star and a Spitfire."
Tale of Wolverhampton's 'one and only serious air raid' On
April 27, 1999, things came full circle for a reminder of the most
terrible war in history. A piece of casing from a bomb dropped on
Wolverhampton was handed back to the town.
Former old boy of the Royal Wolverhampton School, Reverend Cannon
Dr Brian Murray, regaled the school with the story of the area's
"one and only serious air raid" as he presented a piece of wartime
shrapnel from the raid to the chairman of the Board of Governors,
Dr Donald Huffer, on Founders Day.
Cannon Murray, a pupil from 1934 to 1945, recalled the night in
the spring of 1941 when houses at the bottom of the school playing
field were obliterated by German bombs.
The Cannon recalled that he was with his classmates studying "prep"
on the fateful night and, as the lads become more and more restless,
they would plead to pay a call of nature in the nearby covered yard.
"In order to leave our particular room we had to pass through
an archway," he went on. "Since this led to the opening of two doors
there were two inevitable flashes of light as each 'desperate' boy
passed through the tunnel.
"My form had always contended that the crew of the stray German
bomber dropped the stick of three bombs because they saw the light
from the tunnel," the Cannon recalled.
"My elder brother, Malcolm Murray, has always held that the bomber
aimed at the lights on the school's clock tower, and that they were
extinguished immediately after the raid and not lit up again until
Cannon Murray said the sound that he and the other boys heard
overhead was not a British plane, and the result was that houses
at the bottom of the school playing fields were obliterated by the
Fortunately no one was home," he went on , adding that his younger
brother, Maurice Murray, was in the Junior School at the time -
just a few yards from the blast.
But Cannon Murray and his classmates dived under their desks at
the sound of the bombs. The following day pupils went down to the
damaged area to scratch among the debris for souvenirs.
"Malcolm and I had to contain our delight when we literally unearthed
on the roof of a collapsed garage a piece of shrapnel some 16 inches
by four inches," he said, adding that he and his brother managed
to hide their prized piece of shrapnel, fearing that some older
boy might take it away from them.
Later they sneaked it into a case and took it home.
Cannon Murray said since then the shrapnel had been shifted from
one garage or garden shed to another and was largely forgotten.
He said that when Dr Huffer mentioned the memorabilia cupboard
he and his brothers decided the shrapnel should go back to the school.
The former pupil said he hoped the shrapnel would "evoke many
memories of that night long ago when all at the school were in peril
of their lives."