Midland Metro - track relaying

crosscity

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Walking through Birmingham today, I was surprised to find the track around the New St stop (Grand Central) is being relayed, after only five years of use. There would be no trams running anyway as the 'Delta Junction' at the top end of Corporation Street is being put in between now and some time in October.

I'm wondering why the track has been ripped up. Is it because it is worn and if so, why? Or is it because the layout needs to be remodelled? Because the line would be closed anyway, there is silence about why this is happening. Has there been a big blunder with the original works?
 
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P Binnersley

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From Midland Metro Alliance FAQ (https://metroalliance.co.uk/cstr/)
Why now?

Main construction is now underway on Lower Bull Street for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension and part of these works will involve the closure of the Metro line at Bull Street for approximately 11 weeks during the summer.

In order to minimise future disruption, additional maintenance and essential improvement of the existing Metro line will also be carried out simultaneously along Corporation Street. This work would have been needed in the next few years but carrying it out at the same time as the Bull Street line closure will reduce the impact on passenger services.
I suspect there is also a overall cost saving of doing the work in one go.

Interestingly they are using preformed concrete slabs to form the new track bed. This may make rail replacement easier in the future.
 

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crosscity

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From Midland Metro Alliance FAQ (https://metroalliance.co.uk/cstr/)

I suspect there is also a overall cost saving of doing the work in one go.

Interestingly they are using preformed concrete slabs to form the new track bed. This may make rail replacement easier in the future.
You make a fair point about doing a number of jobs in one go with fewer overheads and less passenger disruption. Still my basic question goes unanswered. How long is 'reasonable' for a newly-laid tramway to need digging up and re-laid? Five years just seems too short a time. Let's hope once the trams are up and running again the tracks are good for much longer.
 

Sprinter107

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The Birmingham Mail was asking the same question, as why the track hasn't lasted longer, but no one seems to know.
 

edwin_m

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Is this only the tight curve from Corporation Street into Stephenson Street, or the straight bits as well? Tight curves tend to get heavy wear but short sections can be replaced in a few days, as has happened in Nottingham.
 

Sprinter107

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Is this only the tight curve from Corporation Street into Stephenson Street, or the straight bits as well? Tight curves tend to get heavy wear but short sections can be replaced in a few days, as has happened in Nottingham.
Its from Bull Street, all along Corporation Street to the stop in Stephenson Street.
 

HSTEd

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If they are installing a new track system on the extensions that is better than the historical one they might just be taking the opportunity of the track being out of use to replace it with the new stuff.
 

P Binnersley

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The new track system is "edilon)(sedra Corkelast®" (https://www.edilonsedra.com/track-system/edilonsedra-usts-for-tram-in-street/)

The advantages claimed on the website include:
- Reduction of ground/structure borne noise
- Optimum electrical insulation resulting in no stray current problems (sewage, water/gas pipes, etc.)

So the problem with the existing track might not be wear (and would explain why they are going into little detail about the reason).
 

edwin_m

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The new track system is "edilon)(sedra Corkelast®" (https://www.edilonsedra.com/track-system/edilonsedra-usts-for-tram-in-street/)

The advantages claimed on the website include:
- Reduction of ground/structure borne noise
- Optimum electrical insulation resulting in no stray current problems (sewage, water/gas pipes, etc.)

So the problem with the existing track might not be wear (and would explain why they are going into little detail about the reason).
As far as I know all the modern UK tramways have been laid with rail encapsulated in Edilon or something very similar, for the reasons quoted. Usually it is pre-encapsulated, after Metrolink had problems with a version that was poured around the rail after laying, when they tried to do that on a wet day. There are some problems, such as a tendency for the rail to rotate outwards on curves as a vehicle passes over, unless tiebars are also fitted.
 

P Binnersley

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Corporation street was laid in 2014 using traditional sleepers (concrete blocks with metal spacer) on a concreted foundation. There doers appear to be some "sealant" around the rail, which must have been poured in after the rail was laid. This would look like the method you said had problems.

The second photo shows the final arrangement (above) and temporarily encased in tarmac (lower) while work was paused for the Birmingham Xmas market.
 

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option

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Locally it's believed to be a 'build quality' issue, which could lead to legal action, so they're being quiet about it.
 

Cherry_Picker

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2021 version of that 2014 photo. I’m not sure if they are building the track to a better standard or this is just a different step in its development. The base certainly seems sturdier.
 

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P Binnersley

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The new system has rails in slots in cast concrete blocks and looks to be a much higher quality. Interestingly they seem to have reverted to the original style "sleepers" for the curve from Corporation Street into Stephenson Street.
 

Cherry_Picker

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Just as a bit of idle speculation:

The fairly sharp curve at the bottom of Corporation Street where the tram turns to line up with New Street station is being laid with the smaller blocks identical in style to the ones used on the straight bit of track in the 2014 photo. This makes sense due to the severity of the curve, but I wonder if they were ever meant to be used on the straight run down Corporation Street? They look nowhere near as sturdy as the ones in the 2021 photo.
 

P Binnersley

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Track work is now complete and welded apart from one 4" (100mm) gap near the new junction (oops?). The main work seems to pouring the sealant around the rails.

The extension is complete and wired but some work is still needed with traffic signals where the tracks cross the outbound Hagley Road at the Five Ways round about. One platform at Edgbaston Village is still a hole while underground services are being installed.

There is a new concrete lined hole in the middle of the Five Ways island. It has pink barriers so presumably Metro related. There seems to be cable trucking so it may be some kind of switch / transformer room.
 

Mojo

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Does anyone know when the line to Library will reopen? The Midland Metro website says October but no more detail. Does that look achievable from the works on the ground?
 

P Binnersley

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I spoke to a conductor today and he said 28th October, which is a week behind schedule. Track is completed and they were laying the tarmac today to make up the road surface.
The German market starts on 4th November and they have to be finished by then.
 

DaveHarries

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I spoke to a conductor today and he said 28th October, which is a week behind schedule. Track is completed and they were laying the tarmac today to make up the road surface.
The German market starts on 4th November and they have to be finished by then.
Thanks for the tip about the Christmas market: I am glad to hear that it is still planned to happen. The rest of the year I am not keen on going to Birmingham for work (I find it a bit of a slog, especially if I have to drive both ways, although I will take it if asked to) but the chance of a German Bratwurst for lunch makes things easier!! I should think that the trams will be bringing in a good number of passengers for it too.

Dave
 

duncanp

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Thanks for the tip about the Christmas market: I am glad to hear that it is still planned to happen. The rest of the year I am not keen on going to Birmingham for work (I find it a bit of a slog, especially if I have to drive both ways, although I will take it if asked to) but the chance of a German Bratwurst for lunch makes things easier!! I should think that the trams will be bringing in a good number of passengers for it too.

Dave

In some ways it is good that there is a bit of leeway built into the schedule, so that they can overrun by a week and still finish in time for the Christmas Market.

Whatever you might think about the Christmas Market (and I know that not everyone is a fan of it) it is a good thing that it is back again this year, as it is a sign that things are slowly returning to normal.

On a related note, does anyone have any news on when the extension to Edgbaston Village is due to open. The last I heard was that services are due to start running in "late 2021", but somewhat concerningly National Express West Midlands buses, on their website, are now saying that the associated diversions of bus services is "...ongoing until early 2022..."
 

P Binnersley

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According to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce things are progressing well.

The extension looks virtually finished and I think the substation is the last major step.
 

duncanp

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According to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce things are progressing well.

The extension looks virtually finished and I think the substation is the last major step.

I passed the site of the Edgbaston Village terminus on the bus yesterday, and it looks as though there is quite a bit of work to do on the tram stop there, particularly on the side nearest Hagley Road.

Does anyone know which sections of the new extension are going to be wired, and which sections are going to have the trams running on batteries.

The reason I ask is that some overhead wires have been installed at the Edgbaston Village stop, but they only extend for a short distance until the crossover, and certainly not into the underpass underneath the Five Ways roundabout. In addition, the mock up picture included in your link seems to suggest that the wires will finish a little way to the West of the Five Ways stop, before the tram enters the underpass.

Is the reason for installing wires at the Edgbaston Village stop so that trams can recharge their batteries during the layover time at the terminus?

Anyway I am looking forward to the extension opening as the interchange between tram and bus at the new terminus will make life considerably easier for me. :D
 

Cherry_Picker

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Is the reason for installing wires at the Edgbaston Village stop so that trams can recharge their batteries during the layover time at the terminus?

I've seen nothing in writing confirming it, but they'd been foolish not to have the provision at a terminus. With an 8 minute frequency in the timetable they aren't going to fill up the battery at Edgbaston, but they can certainly keep the batteries topped up until the wired section starts again.

In town the tarmac has been relayed all the way from Bull Street to New Street. There is no sign of the fences coming down yet, but if they don't have to hand the site back to the public for another week or two then I'm guessing they won't, however it certainly doesn't look like they will not be open for the start of the German Market if that's the deadline.
 

DavidGrain

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A question that a friend has asked me. He has noticed that trams from Bull Street to St Pauls have their pantographs down. My thought are that batteries have to keep being turned over so the trams are running on battery power to exercise the batteries as at present the whole route is under the wires. Anyone got any other thoughts please or is my assumption correct?
 

Sprinter107

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A question that a friend has asked me. He has noticed that trams from Bull Street to St Pauls have their pantographs down. My thought are that batteries have to keep being turned over so the trams are running on battery power to exercise the batteries as at present the whole route is under the wires. Anyone got any other thoughts please or is my assumption correct?
I believe the section has been switched out while the engineering work is taking place, but I'll stand corrected.
 

P Binnersley

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The over head wires have been replaced over the new junction, but are currently "tensioned" with a block and tackle. Services terminate at St Chads late 25th Oct/early 27th so I presume this is for sorting out the overhead. Elsewhere the road markings are being painted so hopefully OK for next weekend.
 

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