I rather like light rail and tram solutions to public transport difficulties and thought that I’d spend the day going on the West Midlands Metro line which goes from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. An off-peak day pass cost £4.80 and it was easy enough to buy it on-line using the Metro’s app. There’s only the one line at the moment, but construction has started on additional lines given the popularity of the service.
The timetable at a stop in Birmingham, although the trams seemed to run to an erratic schedule throughout the day. Sometimes there were fifteen minutes between them, sometimes three minutes, although the boards at stations were clear and accurate. It takes 45 minutes to get from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, although I got on and off the service numerous times on my journey to explore the highlights of the urban settlements between the two cities.
Quite a sleek looking operation and there are 21 of these trams shuttling up and down the network
The tram’s interior. I was surprised to see that they’re using a conductor and driver on every service, which isn’t a set-up that I’ve seen often on tram or light rail. It’s possible to buy tickets on board using cash or card, but the set-up that I had to show my ticket several times over the day seemed a bit labour intensive compared to other systems. Having written that though, it makes the service feel safer to have staff always available and they were helpful and friendly. The tram stops along the route are though all unstaffed and have limited facilities at them.
It’s very hot at the moment and there’s no air conditioning other than in the driver’s cab. I know this as a customer commented to the conductor about the heat and he said they rely on opening windows to keep passengers cool, although the driver has air conditioning in his cab. The customer amused me by saying “as long as the staff are comfortable” in a manner that didn’t seem too rude. I didn’t think that the temperature on board was too bad though and the trams were clean and tidy. There were free Metro newspapers for those who want them, which is a handy coincidence given the name. There’s not a huge amount of seating on board the tram, but there are numerous places to stand, and most passengers aren’t on the service for too long.
As a transportation option, I thought that this was well used, easy to use and clearly popular, so I’m glad that it is being extended. I’m sure that there are many more similar projects that could be brought in across the country, especially if it allows for the re-opening of closed rail lines. There is sometimes talk, although unfortunately rarely serious, of a tram network in Norwich, which is something that I suspect would be very successful if the up-front cost could somehow be subsidised. Unfortunately, that up-front cost is huge and so I can’t imagine that it will ever happen.
There’s more about the planned extensions at https://metroalliance.co.uk/.