If you wander around Bull Street, Corporation Street and Stephenson Street (the street outside the New Street Station entrance), you will now see signs that the Metro track is at last being laid.Image:New tram as it will appear in Stephenson Street. Photo courtesy of Centro.
For what seems like years the above three streets have been dug up, filled in and dug up again almost incessantly – every day saw a new trench appearing like the sinkholes in people’s gardens that have been making the national headlines recently – next day it was gone and another appeared close by.
All this disruption was to enable essential preliminary work to mains services – moving all pipework and cabling from under the line of the metro tracks.
Hopefully those days are almost behind us and the more exciting works are in progress.
Drainage and duct installation is now under way followed by track laying. Road planing or removal of the existing carriageway is in progress in the streets. Where possible a concrete nibbler and vacuum excavation machine to remove the debris have been used instead of hand-held jack hammers. These reduce noise and the time taken.
Interestingly Severn Trent has mined a concrete tunnel under Stephenson Street to take the pipes because trenching was not possible.
The tunnels are excavated by hand and timber frames installed as the tunnel grows. Concrete piping is then installed inside the frames and then the spaces outside the tunnel are filled with concrete.
This was how the Great Escape tunnel was constructed, apparently.
Watertones in Stephenson Street
Built in 1968/9 originally the head offices of Midland Bank, it is on the inside of the corner of Stephenson Street opposite the ramp. It appears that there is insufficient space to accommodate the sweep of the track around the corner as well as a pedestrian pavement.
Luckily, the original building was stepped back on the ground floor around the corner with the upper stories supported by tubular pillars. At some point in time the ground floor was extended to the pillars and fake carved wooden ones erected with large windows in between as it appears today (left). These will be removed in the next week.
Other construction inside the building at cellar level (left) involves installation of large steel reinforcing beams, new foundations for vertical columns and a new curved wall above which will be the pavement.
The poster I photographed (left) at the site is an artist’s impression of how the corner will look eventually.
Track laying has commenced in Bull Street and Stephenson Street. This involves laying a concrete base then the steel track is located on sleepers, although the exact method seems to vary from place to place.
Concrete pouring into the track forms in Stephenson Street (below left).
Track laid in Bull Street (below right).
Incidentally, in order to limit obstruction, the two track lanes in Corporation Street will be laid separately ie down the whole of one side first followed by the second side.
20 new trams costing £40m will operate on the system between Stephenson Street and St George’s, Wolverhampton. These are being built in Zaragova, Spain, and 3 have already been delivered and are under test. The trams are a third larger with space for 200 passengers. The interior floor is now largely flat and hence greatly facilitates access.
Below – Artist’s impression of the new tram and the new spacious and flat floored interior.
(Images courtesy of Centro.)
From Stephenson Street to Centenary Square
The funding for this extension is now in place and the plans have been passed by the City Council. There will be two new stops, at Victoria Square and at the terminus in Centenary Square. Completion 2019.
From Bull Street/Corporation Street to Eastside
Plans are being prepared for an extension from the corner of Bull Street and Corporation Street to Curzon Street and crossing over the HS2 station to terminate in Fazeley Street in Digbeth. Completion 2025.
This will run from St Georges to the station. Completion unknown.
For further information see Balfour Beatty Blog Spot and Centro-Metro News.
Article by Geoff Caine