The first stage of Centro’s West Midlands tram line was opened in 1999 and runs between Birmingham Snow Hill Station and Wolverhampton Centre. I travelled on this route recently and was surprised how fast, yet pleasant and relaxing it was!
Links to the route, timetables and more details are provided at the end of this post.
A slideshow can be viewed which is opened in a separate window.
What is the Metro?
Main conurbations along the route are Snow Hill, Sandwell, West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Bilston, and Wolverhampton. The full route has 23 stops and is 20km long.
The trams run between Snow Hill and Wolverhampton, departing:
5:15am to just after midnight Monday to Saturday
8:00am to 11:45pm Sundays, Bank Holidays
from each terminus.
There’s a tram every 6-8 minutes during popular hours and at most every 15 minutes at other times. So, missing your planned tram isn’t too much of a problem. The full timetable is available online.
What’s more you should be able to rely on service promptness because, very largely, it has its own dedicated line with few chances of interruptions and no waiting for a free station platform!
The whole journey from Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton shopping centre, and vice versa, takes just 35 minutes at an average speed of 35kph. That’s usually quicker than by car, especially and substantially so during rush hours!
Centro says it carries more than 5.2 million passengers a year and 98-99% performance reliability.
What sort of experience is Metro travel?
Ticketing Using buses and trains when I haven’t done the journey before I find a little stressful and in need of research to find out the start/end stops I need and the timetables. But the Metro couldn’t be easier and more relaxing. Just climb aboard and take a seat. The conductor will spot you and will approach you to buy a ticket. No fear of being fined for not having a ticket. Longer term passes are available.
Interior comforts The interior is light, colourful, clean and in good condition with some high seats with good views of the outside world plus some lower ones to hide from it. Particular attention has been paid to facilitate mobility. There are 5 camera views of the doors and passengers cycling on TV screens so you can see who is getting on or being anti social. There is an automatic stop information voice to nudge you if you have your head in a book, plus a display of the next stop. The seats I found to be very comfortable for a 35 minute journey. You can look over the driver’s shoulder at the track ahead, an exciting new experience!
Performance The acceleration from a station is impressive feeling as fast as a car in traffic and is very smooth with a pleasing low volume whine adding to the effect of getting going FAST! Do not think that this is similar to mainline trains – it is much more rapid – 0 to 50kph in 10secs. Maximum speed is 70kmh which means you really feel that you’re getting somewhere fast! And, you won’t get bored because of the variety of scenery and an average of 90secs between stops.
I remarked to a conductor how well the sharing of the tarmaced carriageway between road vehicles and the trams appeared to work. He agreed but admitted that there have been moments. Like what I asked? As you would guess it is to do with car or van drivers jumping the traffic lights! When the Snowhill to New Street extension is built, the rolling stock will be able to stop more quickly….a good feature around Corporation Street in Birmingham,
Route The route passes through a mixture of scenes – factories, housing and pleasant green areas and in Wolverhampton shares the A41 Bilston Road for 2km running sometimes in the centre and other times sharing the carriage way with road vehicles the trams having priority.The Wolverhampton terminus is only 150 metres from the the Wulfrun Centre – the start of the main shopping area which is well worth a visit. Wolves FC Molineux ground is just over 1km to walk.
What are my conclusions?
The Metro experience is great. It is efficient, green, peaceful, passenger and bystander friendly and a really pleasurable experience – a rarity these days when dealing with large organisations.
Currently, the service is underused by the public. This could be for many reasons but the following seem sound:
There is a lack of advertising.
It is well hidden (especially below ground level at Snow Hill – but this is intrinsically a great attribute).
It does not extend to the active centre of Birmingham City, ie Bullring, Corporation Street, New Street and New Street Station for train interchange.
All of these can be overcome, I feel, if as expected the city extension to New Street Station is built. Then the Metro will be a true star of the West Midlands, one we can exhibit in business and tourist brochures and so increase the investment and tourist income to the region.
See previous post on this.
Editor: Geoff Caine