Transport bosses in the West Midlands have signed contracts worth £83.5m for 21 new trams for the region’s Metro network.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) said the 21 third generation Urbos trams that have been ordered from manufacturer CAF will double the size of the current fleet.
It said passenger numbers have leapt from five to seven million a year following the opening of the Birmingham city centre extension to Grand Central in 2016 and further growth is expected as the network is extended.
The new trams are battery powered and designed to operate on new sections of the line between Grand Central and Hagley Road that are free of overhead cables.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street (pictured, third from left) said: ‘These new trams are a real game-changer for our expanding West Midlands Metro network and I am delighted we have put pen to paper with CAF.'
TfWM said the line is due to be extended to Centenary Square later this year, to Wolverhampton Rail Station next year, Hagley Road in 2021, while work is soon to begin on the major extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.
Tests were recently carried out along part of the extension to Centenary Square, which TfWM said was the first time in the country that a tram had used battery power to run along a modern line specifically built without overhead wires.
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) portfolio holder for transport (pictured, second from left), said: ‘This contract represents a huge step forward in our plans to serve even more communities across the region.
‘Our extensions in Birmingham and Wolverhampton city centres will enable more people to easily get to places they need for work and wonderful visitor attractions like the Library of Birmingham and Symphony Hall, while the extension to Brierley Hill will unlock opportunities for many people in the Black Country.’
The agreements between operator West Midlands Metro, which is owned by the WMCA, and CAF, which built the network’s existing trams, includes the new trams, plus technical support and battery management services over 30 years, with an option to purchase a further 29 trams as the network grows.
The battery management service agreement provides long-term maintenance, repair, overhaul, and renewal of the batteries powering the trams for the 30 year design life of the trams.
The first of the new trams is due to enter service in 2021.