The Anonymous Widower

Who Needs Wires?

I went to Birmingham today to look at the recently-opened  extension of the West Midlands Metro, which runs from outside Birmingham New Street station to Birmingham Library on battery power.

Note.

  1. Pavements, tram stop furniture and other details need to be finished.
  2. There no wires between near to New Street station and the Birmingham Library tram stop.
  3. The route is double-track.
  4. The stops all have two platforms.
  5. The route will be extended past Birmingham Library and on to new stops at Brinfleyplace, Five Ways and Edgbaston,
  6. The last three pictures show the pantograph being lowered outside New Street station.

These are my thoughts on other areas.

Battery Installation

The batteries appear to be on the roof of the two end sections of the trams.

They don’t appear to be very large, so it looks to me that CAF have taken great trouble with the design.

After all, the batteries were fitted to the trams by maintenance staff at West Midlands Metro, after one tram was converted in Spain.

Battery Operation

I observed the following.

  • Birmingham Library tram stop doesn’t appear to have a charging station.
  • Trams running towards Birmingham Library tram stop, drop the pantopgraph at New Street station.
  • Although I didn’t see it, trams going in the other direction, probably raise the pantograh at New Street station.
  • I would assume that trams leave New Street station for Birmingham Library,  with full batteries, that have been charged on the way from Wolverhampton.
  • Trams appear to have no problem climbing from New Street station to the Town Hall tram stop.
  • If required trams could coast down the hill to New Street station.

The operation on battery power appears to be very simple.

Note that there are three other tram systems, that use these CAF Urbos 3 trams, that use batteries; Granada, Luxembourg and Seville.

There will surely be others, judging by the quality I saw in Birmingham.

Noise On Battery Power

Like other battery-powered vehicles, that I’ve ridden, they seem to be very quiet, when running on batteries. I suspect, that with the pantograph safely down in its hole, a lot of clanking and screeching doesn’t happen.

The Location Of The Temporary Terminus

The Birmingham Library tram stop makes an excellent temporary terminus.

  • It is at the top of the hill, so will surely attract passengers, not wanting to walk all the way up.
  • It is not far from the library, conference hall, conference centre and the restaurants on Brindleyplace.
  • The tracks can be easily extended to Edgbaston.
  • There is a crossover to allow trams to be turned back in either platform.
  • There are also no need for wires at the tram stop.

I also think, that if there are no wires on the extension from Birmingham Library tram stop, that the building of the extension could be much simpler.

The New Extension Opened Early

I’m fairly certain, that the newly-opened section of track is completely without wires.

  • Did this simplify testing and allow the extension to open a few days early, once staff training had been completed?
  • It certainly allows revenue to be collected earlier.
  • Have the battery modifications to the trams been designed so that the full extension can be handled on battery power?
  • Does this mean that the route can be built and tested in sections, by just laying the track and testing it?

If this is the plan, it is rather elegant and could save construction costs and testing time.

Extending The Edinburgh Tram

Is a similar construction plan to be used on the Edinburgh trams for their extension?

The trams are all built by CAF, which must help..

Conclusion

Birmingham must now have one of the best City Centre tram in the world.

  • The batteries are charged on the long run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
  • The changeover between battery and overhead power happens at a busy stop, so doesn’t delay the tram.
  • There is sufficient power to climb the hill from New Street station to Birmingham Library.

It’s a much better system than the MetroCentro in Seville, which was also built by CAF. But that is now twelve years old and is only about as long as Birmingham’s current section without wires.

These pictures show the charging system in Seville from my post called Seville’s Elegant Trams.

Seville’s trams have to charge the battery at every stop and I suspect the technology could be used in the West Midlands if needed.

Are we also seeing an innovative construction method for a tram system?

  • An electrified core is built first.
  • Battery trains can be tested on an electrified line with the pantograph down.
  • The initial line is then extended, as required at the ends using plain track and battery operation.
  • The extension is done gradually in sections to allow full testing.

It should be possible to save construction time and project cost.

December 13, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

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