Urban realm improvements which will help transform Digbeth as part of the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension have been completed and new carriageway opened as the project progresses to the next stage of construction.
New paving has now been installed along the length of the northern side of Digbeth High Street allowing activity to switch to the opposite side of the busy thoroughfare ahead of track laying commencing later next year.
This significant step forward in the project means that all traffic travelling in and out of the city will now use the new carriageway laid as part of the overall scheme, with the opposite side of the road, adjacent to the coach station, soon to be transformed into a segregated tramway and pedestrian and public boulevard.
Construction for the extension has been ongoing on the Custard Factory side of Digbeth High Street and surrounding side streets since spades hit the ground in summer 2021, and since then the Midland Metro Alliance, which is building the scheme on behalf of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and Birmingham City Council, has made considerable progress including utility upgrades and diversions, the installation of the first section of rail and the demolition of the Hartwell’s building.
Michael Anderson, Metro Programme Director at TfWM, said: “It is great to see construction on the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension moving in the right direction. As with most construction projects of this kind it has not come without its challenges, but the completion of the main urban realm activity marks a new and exciting phase of this ambitious scheme and welcome improvement for business and residents in the area with a new and open aspect to Digbeth High Street. It means that the team can start to prepare for track to be laid on the opposite side of the high street which is when the extension will really start to take shape. This project will be a game-changer for those living, working and visiting the Eastside of the city, as its links with HS2 will help improve connectivity in the Digbeth area as well as to other parts of the region.”
The urban realm improvements are part of Birmingham City Council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership’s (GBSLEP) masterplan to regenerate the area. As well as new paving, these works will include the creation of wide areas of attractive public and green spaces together with improvements to walking and public transport provision.
Anita Bhalla, Interim Chair at GBSLEP, added: “With HS2’s new Curzon Station on the doorstop and its reputation as one of our leading regional creative clusters, Digbeth continues to attract major investment for new infrastructure. With the BBC announcing a move to the old Typhoo factory, the opening of a new world-class Creative Content Hub and Steven Knight building his studios, this part of Birmingham will be brimming with people looking to work, visit and live. Through the £15.7 million Enterprise Zone funding, we are maximising on the opportunity of the tram extension to Digbeth by creating better, greener spaces for visitors and residents as well as improving the environment for cyclists and pedestrians. This is critical to delivering on our mission to drive inclusive and sustainable growth for our region.”
Following the completion of the main urban realm works, all significant fencing on the northern side of the high street, which is close to popular venues such as the O2 Academy, has now been removed, while all of the side streets have also reopened to vehicular traffic, with the exception of Meriden Street where further construction activity including track laying will take place.
The activity on Digbeth High Street has been running concurrently with further Metro works in the Lower Bull Street and Dale End areas of the city centre, which has also seen significant progress with the start of works to demolish the Kings Parade building, urban realm improvements and the installation of a complex junction with the existing Metro route.
Hamish Falconer, Project Manager at the Midland Metro Alliance, said: “We are delighted that this phase of our street scene improvement works are now completed in Digbeth. The removal of the majority of the fencing in this section has allowed the area to be opened up further to pedestrians just in time for the festive period. Though urban realm activity on the northern side of the high street has been completed, works, such as the installation of planters, bus shelters and street furniture, will continue.”
Rose Rees, Head of Engagement and Skills, added: “We understand that our works can cause disruption to nearby businesses and I would like to thank them all for their patience and understanding. Our dedicated Stakeholder Liaison Officer for the route will continue to have a presence in the area and will be on hand to provide support where needed.”
The Birmingham Eastside Metro extension will run from Bull Street, in the city centre, to Digbeth, adding four new tram stops to the Metro network. More than half of the 1.7km route is planned to be free of overhead wires, similar to the extension from Grand Central to Centenary Square.
More information on the project can be found by visiting www.metroalliance.co.uk.