The other West Midlands Metro tram extension projects as new Birmingham stops open

Trams will start running on the West Midlands Metro's Birmingham extension today.

Trams will run along Pipers Row, Wolverhampton, to serve the city's railway and bus stations
Trams will run along Pipers Row, Wolverhampton, to serve the city's railway and bus stations

The network, which connects Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, West Bromwich and Birmingham, has been extended at the far end of the route.

After years of terminating at the Library in Birmingham's Centenary Square, the first tram was due to head from there towards Edgbaston Village at 7.48am on Sunday.

The opening marks the completion of phase two of the Birmingham Westside Metro. The new extension takes the line along Broad Street to Hagley Road, and adds three stops at Brindleyplace, Five Ways and the end of the line at Edgbaston Village.

But it's not the only extension currently being built for the region's tram network.

Here's a rundown on the other additions to the network.

Wolverhampton city centre

WOLVERHAMPTON PIC MNA PIC DAVID HAMILTON PIC EXPRESS AND STAR 24/5/22 Metro line extension work at Pipers Row, Wolverhampton..

The 700-metre stretch of line will run from just before the existing St George’s terminus towards the city's railway station, but has been delayed time and time again.

Once open it will see trams run along Pipers Row to a new stop opposite Wolverhampton bus station before continuing to the railway station.

The extension was first backed by then Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, now Lord McLoughlin, in 2016 with preparatory works starting in autumn 2017.

Construction of the new route started in 2018 and tracks were laid by the end of November the following year.

The short extension was originally due to open three years ago. Indeed, the West Midlands Metro website still says: "Work began in March 2018 and is scheduled for completion in late 2019," giving an indication of how much work has slipped, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Transport chiefs then pledged to have the extension to be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games, which start on July 28. However, that deadline has also been missed.

Major construction activity was finally completed earlier this month. Testing and commissioning is due to start after the conclusion of the Games on August 8, however no firm date has yet been set for the final works to be completed.

Wednesbury to Brierley Hill

Concrete being poured onto Castle Hill in April during the Metro extension work. Photo: Midland Metro Alliance

A much longer extension is the 11-km branch towards Brierley Hill via Dudley. The new route will diverge from the existing line east of the tram network's Wednesbury depot, with 7km of the route running over a long-disused railway.

Work on the £450-million route started in 2020 and is being carried out by Midland Metro Alliance. The first section of rail in Dudley was laid in February when 300 metres of track went down on Castle Hill.

Roadworks are also continuing on the Embankment, next to the Merry Hill shopping centre in Brierley Hill.

Again, the West Midlands Metro website shows the original planned completion date.

"Although the main construction work is yet to start, passenger services are planned to operate in time for when the region hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2022," it states.

The route is now expected to be opened up to passengers by 2024.

Upon completion there will be 10 new stations: Great Bridge, Dudley Port, Sedgley Road, Birmingham New Road, Dudley Town Centre, Flood Street, Cinder Bank, Waterfront, Merry Hill, and Brierley Hill.

Birmingham Eastside

An impression of the trams running along the Digbeth extension

Back in Birmingham, work has also started on the city's £227m Eastside extension, which will take passengers to Digbeth and eventually serve the planned HS2 station at Curzon Street. Trams will run from Bull Street towards Albert Street, Meridan Street and Digbeth High Street.

Construction work of the 1.7km route began in July last year, and more than half of it is planned to free of overhead wires.

The West Midlands Metro website says the aim is for passenger service to commence in 2023, however completion is now thought to be 2025.

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