The weather forecast was for rain again today so I decided to take the train to Birmingham and ride on the tram to Wolverhampton. The extension into the Birmingham City Centre at New Street, known as Grand Central, had only been opened on 30 May.
At the tram stop I looked for a ticket machine but there were none visible. A notice said that tickets could be bought on the tram. The first one came along and I couldn't see any ticket machines. In stead, a man in a high visibility vest came through. He had a ticket machine and a money pouch. He was very helpful and saved me some money when buying a day ticket. His machine will issue tickets for cash and people with Presto type cards tap in on the same machine. The conductor also checks passes. The great advantage of this system is that fare evasion is virtually eliminated - which cannot be said of OC Transpo.
AT the lay by in Grand Central where the double ended trams reverse direction.
There are two consoles either side of the control panel. These are video cameras showing the side of the tram
The first section is through busy city shopping streets. Much preferable to burying the line deep underground as in Ottawa.
There is a piece of private right of way into Snow Hill station. This is along a grass covered boulevard which is enhanced by a living green wall on one side. From Snow Hill almost to Wolverhampton the route, which was opened several years ago, follows the former railway line. No wayside signals are visible so I assume there is a form of cab signalling. There are one or two grade crossings which are controlled by tramway type signals. A couple of stops before Wolverhampton there is some street running with priority given to trams.
At Wolverhampton there is a very simple, but effective interchange with buses
At the Jewellery Quarter station there are some well maintained roses to add a touch of color
This is quite an impressive operation. The five section trams run at 6-7 minute intervals and the overall journey time between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton takes about 50 minutes. A number of cleaning staff were working along the line on the many stations. The seats and windows were being cleaned - something one rarely sees in Ottawa. The integration into a busy shopping street and the fare collection system are good examples of the right way to do it.
This somewhat lengthy video records the first revenue tram from Grand Central on 30 May 2016.
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