Government fears impact of Midlands Tube closure on 2022 Commonwealth Games

Government ministers are in talks with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street over the failed West Midlands Underground. And they are seeking reassurance that the closure of the region’s light rail network will not cause problems when the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham begin on July 28.

Trudy Harrison, minister for the Department for Transport, said the government was receiving updates from the West Midlands Combined Authority, which runs the Tube and is chaired by the mayor. She said: “The Department was made aware of the closure of West Midland Underground on March 19, 2022. We have since spoken to Combined Authority officials to understand the evolving operational issues.

“We have been assured that ticket acceptance on alternative modes of transport is in place for Birmingham residents. We continue to monitor the situation, communicating with officials in the region as well as industry security experts, to understand its potential impact on the upcoming Commonwealth Games and to understand when services can resume.

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West Midlands Combined Authority bosses are confident services will be back up and running in time for the Games. They hope to provide a firm date soon, possibly next week, but said they expect the shutdown to last no more than eight weeks and services could resume much sooner. The Tube’s reopening is likely to be in stages, with services from Wolverhampton to Broad Street on the front line to reopen.

They certainly hope nothing else goes wrong, as the Metro is set to play a vital role in ensuring the region’s transport network can cope with the one million spectators expected to attend the Commonwealth Games events.

A transport plan drawn up by the Joint Authority states: “We will introduce additional temporary services to ease the pressure on the network and meet additional demand, while also introducing temporary measures to use the network efficiently and facilitate transport faster and more efficient. transition to sites.

“Our metro services will be extended at peak times and we will work with bus and train operators to understand the potential to provide additional temporary capacity and connectivity.

“These measures will help ensure that supply meets demand and that problems such as overcrowding and travel delays are avoided.”

The cracked trains were supplied by Spanish firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, commonly known as CAF, at a cost of £40million, and began operating in the area in 2013. CAF engineers are in the area to train British workers to speed up the repair programme, and Andy Street met CAF at the Underground depot in Wednesbury, Black Country this week.

But a Birmingham MP has suggested CAF should not be allowed to sell more light rail in the UK.

Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe asked transport ministers whether they had ‘assessed the potential merits of blocking the future award of manufacturing contracts to CAF in the context of recurring faults in their tram designs in the West Midlands and across Europe”.

Ms Harrison, speaking on behalf of the government, did not rule out the idea. She said: “We are working closely with regional and West Midland Metro officials to monitor the situation and fully understand the issues.”

The problem seems to lie with the trains, because as Mr McCabe suggested, they have also failed in other parts of the world where they have been used.

As reported by Birmingham Live, cracks were discovered in Urbos trains in the French town of Besançon in 2017. CAF trains are said to have ‘collapsed’ in Belgrade, Serbia, after screws burst. And Sydney, Australia, was forced to suspend its light rail system after cracks were discovered on Urbos trains.

And there are other train manufacturers to consider. For example, Tyne and Wear Metro buys trains from the Swiss company Stadler. There is even the option of buying light rail trains made here in the UK by Hitachi (a Japanese company, but they have a train manufacturing plant in Durham).

Meanwhile, calls are being made for a full debate in the House of Commons where West Midlands Tube issues can be analyzed in more detail.

Speaking in Parliament, Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western asked: ‘For the third time in the past nine months, trams operated by West Midlands Metro have been suspended, this time indefinitely.

“Tens of thousands of people across the region rely on these trams, including my constituents who travel to Birmingham and beyond. It seems that there were problems with the quality of the trams purchased, and there is also a colossal cost.

“Can we have a debate on the situation, including the role of the West Midlands Combined Authority?”

Cabinet Minister Mark Spencer has promised to take the matter directly to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. He said: “I am aware of the challenges the West Midlands tram system has faced. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport on his behalf and ensure that he gets a timely response.

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