Days left for bosses to get trams back up and running as deadline nears

Just one week remains for transport bosses to get trams back up and running across the West Midlands.

West Midlands Metro's tram service is currently out of action
West Midlands Metro's tram service is currently out of action

A deadline was set by chiefs for them to be fixed by the end of May in time for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

West Midlands Metro services were suspended on March 19 after cracks were discovered on the bodywork – the third time in the space of a year – which sparked fury from people in the region.

The issues first reared its head on June 11 last year when all 21 trams were suddenly withdrawn due to cracks in the under-frame structure of the vehicles.

Four days later and a reduced service was started after inspections were completed and the affected trams were repaired, with many thinking the issue was sorted.

However, five months later almost to the day, all of the West Midlands Metro trams were pulled when more cracks were found again – requiring more repairs.

The Express & Star spoke to a tram driver who said they only found out the services would be stopped when it was publicly announced on November 11.

And this time the closure was much longer, initially announced as being for at least four weeks, with Metro chiefs coming under fire in the run-up to Christmas.

It emerged at a West Midlands Passenger Delivery Committee on November 15 the same model tram had failed in other cities. This led to criticism of bosses for not using trams from different manufacturers to allow services to continue while the carriages were fixed.

Trams did eventually start running again on December 15, more than a month after services were suspended, though once again with a skeleton service between Wolverhampton and Bull Street in Birmingham – with trains feeling the knock-on impact amid the popular Frankfurt Christmas Market.

Bosses hoped the full service would be up and running by the end of January, but it wasn't until February 12, more than three months after services were withdrawn, that the full service running all the way to Birmingham city centre.

And then a month later – on March 19 – the vehicles were pulled again due to "operational reasons" with chiefs later confirming cracks had been found in the bodywork of a number of trams.

Bosses say a detailed assessment of the tram fleet has been completed and a schedule of works has begun to replace cracked body panels.

Midland Metro Association (MMA), which operates the West Midlands Metro service, said at the time it asked the manufacturer, CAF, to replace the panels rather than repair existing ones to ensure the future reliability and robustness of the service.

Additional engineers from across the UK and overseas were drafted in to carry out the work.

MML has been contacted for a comment.

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