The first of a new generation of Midland Metro trams went into service today (Friday, September 5) at an official ceremony attended by the leaders of Birmingham and Sandwell councils.
The four new trams are part of a £40 million fleet that will be gradually deployed over the next few months.
Midland Metro's 20 new Urbos 3 vehicles are bigger and offer a smoother, quieter ride than the existing models, according to a spokesman for Centro, the body responsible for delivery of public transport in the West Midlands.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, was joined by Coun Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, at the ribbon-cutting event at Birmingham Snow Hill Station.
Each new tram, built by Spanish manufacturer CAF, is a third bigger than the existing 16-strong fleet of Ansaldo Trasporti models, carrying 210 passengers compared to 156.
As the number of new trams being deployed increases it will also be possible for Centro to step up the frequency of the Metro to every six minutes throughout the day.
This will boost overall capacity by 40 per cent, easing the overcrowding that can sometimes occur at peak times due to the Metro’s popularity.
At least one new tram is arriving each month at the Midland Metro depot in Wednesbury from CAF’s factory in Zaragoza. The trams then undergo testing and commissioning before they can be put into service.
By early next year every tram running on the system will be a new Urbos 3.
Sir Albert, who is also a member of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, said: “Good transport links are vital for the West Midlands to compete globally and attract the inward investment needed to help secure economic growth and jobs.
“We also need to properly connect and feed into HS2 so we can secure the maximum economic benefits possible. The extension of the tram service, now agreed, will connect Wolverhampton and Sandwell, through Birmingham into the Curzon HS2 station.
“That’s why these new trams and the forthcoming Metro extensions are such good news, not just for passengers but for our regional economy as a whole.”