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Light rail news roundup 1st April 2021 Thursday April 1, 2021

In light rail news this week – plans for more extensions to Manchester Metrolink and London Tramlink, major modernisation works on the (World Cup winning) Stourbridge Shuttle, NET support for mental health charity, full timetable restored in Tyne & Wear and Coventry VLR scheme set for testing prototype vehicle. 

The second Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ and recent peak in infections nationwide presented fresh challenges for light rail operators, members of a UKTram working group have heard.

At last week’s ‘virtual’ meeting of the organisation’s Light Rail Light Rail Operators Committee (LROC), representatives from Nottingham, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Docklands, Croydon, Manchester and the West Midlands reported an increase in staff correctly self-isolating as the vaccination roll out gathered pace.

Once again operators have risen to the challenges presented by the pandemic, but it has proved difficult to manage employee availability, even with reduced service frequency.

Anti-social behaviour was also reported as a growing concern across the country and you can read more about the topics covered in the meeting here.

In other light rail news:

Manchester Metrolink

New Metrolink connections between Media City, Salford Crescent and Manchester city centre could be created within a couple of decades the local media has reported.

Plans for a tram line connecting the Quays with the Crescent will be developed over the next five years as part of the city centre transport strategy for 2040 and Salford Crescent station could be transformed into an integrated transport hub with improved pedestrian and cycle infrastructure, bus and rail connectivity.

Other options for Metrolink connections in ‘inner Salford’ will also be explored and you can read the full story here.

Pre Metro

The UK’s only currently operating Very Light Rail (VLR) system, the Stourbridge Shuttle has seen some big changes over recent months.

The whole Branch Line has had major modernisation works, overseen by Network Rail. With new railway, new sleepers, and new ballast, the entire track was significantly upgraded to ensure service can run effectively, frequently, and smoothly.

Nearby foliage has also been removed and the two ‘Shuttle’ vehicles themselves have also been upgraded, with new seating; grab poles; and a visually distinctive colour scheme.

Click here to read the full story.


Nottingham’s tram network is aiming to help save lives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic by backing a campaign to raise awareness of a men’s mental health support group.

Suicide is currently the biggest killer of men under 45 and NET is sponsoring around 40 eye-catching posters, which will be displayed around the network, highlighting the work of Enlighten the Shadows.

The group was founded last year by Rory Green, a Community Protection Officer at Nottingham City Council and you can read the full story here.

In other news from Nottingham, from Sunday 28th March, anyone using a Robin Hood Pay as you go card will see a small increase in fares. Despite this change, the Robin Hood PAYG card still presents the cheapest option for customers wishing to travel for a single or day journey and full details can be found here.

Sheffield Supertram

Due to essential engineering works on the main track junction near Fitzalan Square/Ponds Forge, trams will be unable to operate from around 7-8pm on Saturday, April 3, and all day on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

During the works, replacement bus services will run and tram services are expected to operate as normal from the start of service on Tuesday, April 6.

Click here to read more.

Tyne & Wear Metro

The Tyne and Wear Metro is to restore a full timetable, with more trains providing more frequent services for customers following the completion of driver training that was delayed by the coronavirus lockdown.

Nexus, the public body which own and manages Metro, confirmed the new timetable will start from Sunday, April 11 now that 30 new drivers have passed the course and have officially started work.

It means that trains will run every six minutes through the centres of Newcastle and Gateshead and every 12 minutes system-wide on weekdays and you can read more here.

London Tramlink

South London leaders say they are looking at rolling out a new tram service after the stalling of plans to extend the Bakerloo Line.

Southwark Council is in talks with TfL about introducing trams in the borough – and opposition councillors are calling for it to happen before 2030, according to media reports.

In a motion put to full council the Southwark Liberal Democrats called on the leaders to look at a study on restoring a tram service in the borough and you can read the full story here.

Extension Projects

The West Midlands Metro extension linking Digbeth with the city centre will enter main construction later this spring when works to construct a tramway junction at Lower Bull Street and Corporation Street get underway.

To allow new track to be laid for the much-anticipated Birmingham Eastside Metro extension, Lower Bull Street will close to all traffic during construction while pedestrian access will be maintained at all times. This next phase of works will follow the completion of utility upgrades and diversions in the area.

Midland Metro Alliance (MMA), which is planning, designing and building the scheme on behalf of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), will carry out further works in the summer to connect the new tracks with the existing line at Bull Street ahead of passenger services opening to a new terminus in Edgbaston later this year.

The full story can be found here.

Proposed new systems

Coventry City Council’s prototype Very Light Rail vehicle, which has the potential to transform how people move about the city, is set to be moved ready for real on track testing.

Over the last two years researchers from WMG, University of Warwick together with TDi Ltd, have been designing and building the new Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle for Coventry City Council.

The vehicle is being moved from NP Aerospace in the city for some static software testing before moving to a dedicated track at BCIMO in Dudley.

The prototype vehicle has done a tour of Coventry so it could see its future operational home and you can read all about it here.

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