Work to extend the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill has taken a further step forward following the demolition of another aged structure along the keenly-anticipated route.
The Tame Valley canal bridge is the fourth in a series of redundant structures to have been removed along the 11km line in recent months and follows the demolition of a similar installation on the Walsall Canal late last year which was completed ahead of schedule.
The Old Main Line Canal bridge in Tipton will be the last of the canal structures to be cleared as part of the scheme with work expected to get underway in February.
A crane arrived on site on Monday 18 January heralding the start of the demolition which will take several days to complete. The canal, which has been closed to boat and towpath traffic to allow the works to take place, is expected to reopen in the coming weeks.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “It is brilliant to see that despite the pandemic we are able to press ahead with the construction of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension. Not only is the extension the biggest light rail project in the UK, but it is also a creator of local jobs and driver of our regional economy at such a challenging time.
"The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension will be a huge connectivity boost for the people of Dudley and Sandwell, and it also forms a key part of my wider plans for public transport across the West Midlands after decades of under investment. I am delighted we have reached another milestone on the extension and want to say a huge thank you to all the staff who have helped make this happen despite the pandemic.”
Cllr Jackie Taylor, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for sustainable transport, added: “I am happy to see work is progressing well on the project.
"This extension will bring much-needed investment and regeneration to Sandwell and will make it easier for people to travel across the region using a sustainable mode of transport. As work takes place on the bridge, to combat any inconvenience, please plan your travel and consider walking or cycling if you are able to do so.”
The Midland Metro Alliance is working on behalf of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). It has continued to make significant progress on the project in recent weeks with work intensifying in several areas including the upgrade and diversion of utilities in Dudley, the demolition of old structures in Sandwell, and clearing the disused South Staffordshire Railway which will make up more than seven kilometres of the new tramway.
Hamish Falconer, assistant delivery manager, said: “This removal is part of a package of work which will eventually see three canal bridges replaced with stronger bridge decks. The 500-tonne crane was with us for one day to separately lift the existing steel structures spanning the canal, each weighing 33 tonnes.
"Following the removal of the old deck, the remaining structure will be cut to its new height, brick work cleaned and repaired ready to receive the new stronger replacement structure later this spring.”
Lee Allen, delivery manager, added: “The team have worked extremely hard to reach this important stage in the project and I am extremely proud of what they have achieved. These bridge works are essential to ensure that they can meet the needs of a modern light rail network and it is fantastic that we have continued to make great strides in construction for this highly-anticipated route, even through these challenging times.”
The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension will boost public transport in the Black Country, providing much-needed links to the existing heavy and light rail networks, and helping connect people to education, training and career opportunities further afield in the West Midlands.
The extension will also play its part in helping to regenerate the Sandwell, Dudley and Brierley Hill areas, making it more attractive to investors and providing easy access to the region’s many and varied attractions via public transport, including Dudley’s Canal and Tunnel Trust.
You can find out more about these works, including regular updates, by visiting www.metroalliance.co.uk.