Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham tram network will 'rival the best'

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Media captionDo you remember Birmingham's last tram?

The reintroduction of trams to Birmingham will "give the city a network to rival the best", a transport official has said.

Trams ran in the city between 1904 and 1953 before being replaced by buses.

In December, they returned to the streets with the opening of the Midland Metro service - the first part of a £128m project.

Once complete, trams from Wolverhampton will continue in to Birmingham, terminating at New Street station.

Roger Lawrence, chairman of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority said: "This is an opportunity to expand. Not just into the city centre but out to the airport.

"We will have a network to rival the best ones, like Manchester and Nottingham and even south London. Our network will equal those".

Image caption Birmingham's last tram ran in 1953 before being reintroduced in December 2015
Image caption Trams ran from Erdington to the Lickey Hills
Image caption Cyclists and motorists followed the tram on its final journey

At its peak, the original tram network ran 230 million passenger journeys every year from Yardley to Dudley, and from Erdington down to the Lickey Hills.

Elsie Field, now 91, began working on the trams as a conductress when she was 18. Part of her job was using a pole to connect the tramcar to the overhead power lines.

She said although she was short-sighted she was "too proud to wear her glasses, so the connection was sometimes a bit hit-and-miss".

Image caption Elsie Field worked as a conductress between 1942 and 1953
Image caption Crowds gathered to watch the final tram, which marked the end of nearly 50 years of service

Tram enthusiast Geoffrey Claydon grew up in Birmingham and said he was disappointed when his regular commute was replaced by a bus service.

"I said why have the trams gone and was told 'Oh, they're old fashioned'. From that moment I thought I would be very supportive of trams, I would do my best to try and keep them where I can for the rest of my life".

Image caption Trams ran in the city between 1904 and 1953 before being replaced by buses
Image caption 'The end' was daubed on the front and sides of the final tram, which was replaced a by a bus service

When working as a government lawyer, Mr Claydon helped design the Transport and Works Act of 1992, which paved the way for the Midland Metro Line.

"I can now feel quite smug. It was an immense satisfaction that I've lived long enough to see trams back and the poor souls who got rid of them have been proved wrong".

Image caption Trams were absent from the streets of Birmingham for more than 60 years before being reintroduced in 2015

Inside Out West Midlands has a full report on the history and reintroduction of trams in Birmingham on BBC One, Monday at 19:30.

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