Centro, the West Midland transport authority in the UK, has reopened the Midland Metro after a two-week closure to carry out work on a £128m project to extend and modernise the tram system.
Work under the project includes the extension of all platforms by 100mm on the Metro line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham Snow Hill to accommodate a fleet of larger trams that are planned to be introduced.
Centro previously ordered a fleet of larger trams at a cost of £40m, which are scheduled to arrive in autumn 2013.
Spanish tram manufacturer Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocariles (CAF) won a contract from Centro in February 2012 to build and supply 25 Urbos 3 trams.
According to Centro, the extension of the platforms will enable both the old and new trams to operate along the route.
Centro Metro programme director Paul Griffiths said the extension will increase capacity for passengers in the region.
"This is a major step forward for this project and paves the way for the arrival of the new, bigger trams which passengers will start seeing on tracks next year," Griffiths said.
The new fleet of trams is expected to allow Centro to increase the system’s frequency to ten trams an hour throughout the day.
Starting from 2014, the new trams will start operations on the existing route from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, while the new route from Birmingham Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street station will be operational in 2015.
CAF started manufacturing the 25 new Urbos 3 trams in October 2012, which will replace the existing fleet of 16 Ansaldo Trasporti trams to meet an expected rise in passenger demand following the opening of the 1.3km extension.
Production of the trams is being carried out at CAF’s Zaragoza plant in Spain; the trams will be 33m long, compared to the 24m trams currently operating on the line.
Each Urbos 3 air-conditioned tram will have five sections that together can accommodate around 200 passengers, compared to the 156-passenger capacity of the current trams.
Image: The Midland Metro platform extension will help in accommodating new fleet of bigger trams from CAF scheduled to arrive in autumn 2013. Photo: courtesy of Centro.