The Act of Parliament for line 1, a 20-km route from Birmingham Snow Hill station to Wolverhampton city centre via West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston received the Royal Assent in November 1989 following promotion work by West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. In April 1990, an application for funding under Section 56 was made, and £1.5 million was granted to the project. It was announced in March 1992 that a further £3 million was to be granted by central government, increasing the project funding total to £4.5 million. In the same month, the proposals for routes on line 2 received Royal Assent. Also in March 1992 it was reported that MVA had been commissioned to prepare a Section 56 submission for line 3. In September 1991, proposals were published to connect line 1 to the Bull Ring Shopping Centre and to line 2. Consultants for the Midland Metro project have included WS Atkins, Kennedy Henderson, and Maunsells and Transport Planning Associates.
Line 1, the 12½ mile (20.2 km) Birmingham to Wolverhampton route, was opened on 31 May1999, and runs mostly along the trackbed of the former Great Western Railway line between the two cities, which closed to passenger trains in 1972, although part of the line remained open to goods trains for about 20 years afterwards.
At the southern end, the terminus is Birmingham Snow Hill station in Birmingham city centre. At the northern end, trams move off the former railway formation to run along streets to a terminus at St Georges in Wolverhampton city centre.
The Wednesbury Great Western Street tram stop occupies roughly the same site as the former Great Western Railway station, closed in 1964.
The contract for building the first phase of the Midland Metro was awarded to the Altram consortium in August 1995, and construction began three months later with a targeted completion date of August 1998. Trams were not up and running until nine months after that forecasted date.
Although fewer people use the trams than expected, expansion to the system is planned, including in the near future an on-street extension through Birmingham city centre running close to Birmingham New Street Station, when the station is redeveloped, then to Five Ways (via Broad Street) and Edgbaston (one of the criticisms of the current system is that it does not serve directly the shopping area of Birmingham), and a branch from Wednesbury to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre and onto Brierley Hill town centre. An order authorising the city centre extension was made in July 2005.
There had been talk of running the tram line through Birmingham city centre in tunnels, rather than through the streets. However the council axed this option in October 2005.
The tram line will run along the street and at points such as Suffolk Queensway will go over the road on a bridge. The developers of V Building, a development alongside Suffolk Queensway, paid £5 million towards the proposed construction of the tram line along Broad Street.
Once completed it is expected the trams will operate a turn-up-and-go service, seven days a week through the centre of Birmingham, with an estimated journey time of 13 minutes between Snow Hill Station and Edgbaston Shopping Centre.
As part of the redevelopment adjacent to Snow Hill Station, a viaduct is being constructed that will carry the Metro from the current alignment into the streets of Birmingham. Once line is completed trams will no longer call at Snow Hill, But will stop at St Chads and the Bull Street tram stops.
Preliminary work on the section of the Midland Metro between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill (via Dudley) has begun. The first phase of the work started in August 2005, with the reconstruction of the 50-year-old Tipton Road overbridge in Dudley. It was completed the following year.
Where it is proposed to leave line 1 in Wednesbury, line 2 will follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, which closed in 1993, through Sandwell to Dudley. This part of the route has the potential to run alongside heavy rail, already common practice in other countries as well as along part of line 1. The line heading eastwards from Birmingham, using a new trackbed, will probably be completed later.
After sharing the railway corridor to Dudley Town Centre, the Metro will run on-street before travelling alongside the Dudley Southern Bypass and then again running along the existing railway corridor, passing through industrial and residential areas until it turns into the Waterfront/Merry Hill area to Brierley Hill.
The first trams are scheduled to begin running in 2011. At March 2007 the extension to line 2 has been officially put on hold due to financial difficulties, mainly due to compensation issues with the existing line.
According to Centro/Network West Midlands the following information is the level of service for line 2.
Dudley to Wednesbury - 12 min 30 sec
Brierley Hill to Dudley - 11 min
Brierley Hill to West Bromwich - 31 min
Dudley to Wolverhampton - 27 min 30 sec
Dudley to Bull Street - 35 min
Five trams per hour Brierley Hill to Wolverhampton each way
Five trams per hour Brierley Hill to Edgbaston each way
A route is planned from the City Centre through Lancaster Circus and along the A34 corridor to a terminus near the M6 motorway junction 7.
A Park and Ride site is being considered for this route to attract motorists out of their cars and help to alleviate congestion on this very busy arterial route to and from the city. There will be 17 stops along the 10-km route. This route will provide a frequent link from Birmingham City Centre to Perry Barr One Stop, the Birmingham City University, Scott Arms and the Alexander Stadium. A large part of this route lies within the South Black Country and West Birmingham regeneration zone. Construction of this route is expected to help regenerate the local economy and boost employment opportunities.
Great Barr to Bull Street - 23 min
Perry Barr One Stop to Broad Street - 18 min
Six Ways, Aston to New Street Station - 11 min
Peak (07.00-19.00): every four to six minutes
Off peak: every 10 minutes
New high capacity vehicles will be able to carry over 200 passengers with zero emissions, reducing pollution and improving air quality in town centres.
This route is planned from the Birmingham City Centre Extension terminus at Five Ways along the Hagley Road to Quinton.
Stops along the route will provide interchange with bus services and access to nearby residential, schools, leisure and shopping areas.
The route is still considering options with a possible terminus in the area of M5 junction 3 with a Park and Ride site; this would help to alleviate congestion on the Hagley Road. There will be nine stops along the 7.5-km route. Part of the route lies within the South Black Country and West Birmingham Regeneration Zone. Construction of this route is expected to help regenerate the local economy and boost employment opportunities.
Five Ways to park and ride site - 19 min
Wolverhampton Road to International Convention Centre - 16 min
Park and Ride to Corporation Street - 28 min
Birmingham city centre to Birmingham International AirportEdit
The planned route from Birmingham International Airport/ NEC will take Metro along the A45 corridor serving The Wheatsheaf, Yardley, Small Heath and Digbeth on its way into the city centre. Working in partnership with the airport expansion team, Metro will form part of its key access arrangements for staff and customers.
Consideration is still being given to locations for Park and Ride sites along this key transport corridor. There will be 18 stops along the 14-km route. A large part of this route lies within the East Birmingham and North Solihull Regeneration Zone. Construction of this route is expected to help regenerate the local economy and boost employment opportunities.
Airport to Bull Street - 29 min
Swan to Wheatsheaf - 5 min
Digbeth to Airport - 23 min
Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and WednesburyEdit
The Metro 5Ws route will connect Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Willenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury, serving many residential, leisure, retail, business and regeneration areas along its route, as well as providing direct access to New Cross and Manor Hospitals.
The route is proposed to leave line 1 in Wolverhampton and loop around the city centre in a clockwise direction connecting to the bus and rail stations. Then it will run on the highway through Heath Town until diverting into the hospital grounds to serve New Cross hospital. The route continues to Willenhall running to the north of the town centre before joining a former rail route into Reedswood and Walsall. Metro will then be on street serving the town centre, bus station, rail station, Art Gallery, Leather Museum and Manor Hospital before it again joins a former rail route to Darlaston and onto Wednesbury where it connects with the bus station before joining line 1 at the Wednesbury Great Western Street stop. Through journeys to Brierley Hill or Birmingham will be possible.
There will be 25 stops on the 20.4-km route. To operate this route, an extra 15 trams will be required.
Whole route - 42 min
Wolverhampton St. George's to New Cross - 8 min
New Cross to Manor Hospital - 22 min
Walsall to Wednesbury - 12 min
The route will serve the key regeneration areas along the way providing a sustainable and attractive form of public transport, which will open up new journey opportunities and provide access to and from many areas of employment.
Metro is a key part of the Wolverhampton Interchange project and will link the redeveloped rail and bus stations.
Metro will access the proposed new town square in Wednesfield.
Working with Walsall Regenco, Metro will serve the proposed new developments in the brownfield sites in Walsall Town Centre – Tesco, Walsall College and new office accommodation.
The route will also serve the bus and rail station in Walsall Town Centre as well as the existing attractions.
Metro will provide access to the £140 million redevelopment of the Manor Hospital.
Metro will then continue on to serve the Darlaston Strategic Development area. This major strategic site of 54 acres at Darlaston has the potential to create between 2,500 and 4,500 jobs over two phases. Although requiring substantial investment to bring the land back into productive use, the creation of serviced sites to accommodate new logistics and distribution hubs will provide attractive locations for major national and international companies looking to establish a regional West Midlands.
Metro will then serve the bus station in Wednesbury before joining in to line 1 and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route at Wednesbury Great Western Street stop.
Metro operates a fleet of 16 Type T-69 articulated two-car trams, which were built by Ansaldobreda, S.P.A. in Italy. Vehicles are numbered 01-16 and have a top speed of 43.5 mph (70 km/h). Each tram has 56 seats and can carry 208 passengers, and also has wheelchair access. They have three entrances on each side and entered service in 1999. They have an integral master controller with a bar at the top that drivers must hold straight to mobilise the vehicle: if drivers cease to do so whilst the tram is in motion, it acts as a dead man's handle and the power is cut and the track brakes apply.
Throughout most of the day services run at eight-minute intervals, less frequently at weekends. Trams are to be repainted in the silver, pink and purple colours of Network West Midlands. The first tram to receive the updated colours is tram 9., which was delivered from Crewe at the end of April. It has undergone extensive testing prior to its reintroduction to the fleet. It is also mentioned in Tramlines, an online magazine by Midland Metro.  The date when the refurbished tram entered service was in June, some three months later than published in the February edition of Tramlines.
According to British Trams Online the T-69s are to be replaced with a fleet of 40 new vehicles from an as yet unknown supplier. The T-69s have had reliability problems since introduction and with each vehicle being different from all others maintenance is very difficult.
A minor incident occurred soon after the service began: a car ignored the traffic lights and drove staight in front of a moving tram, which then pushed it into a metal structure in the middle of the Wolverhampton ring road. The Express & Star newspaper published it as headline news with the title 'Number 1' which left many readers confused at the time, but this title makes more sense now that other incidents have occurred since.
On 19 December2006, a tram travelling towards Birmingham collided with another that had stopped due to a technical fault near Soho Benson Road tram stop. Around 40 passengers were on board when the incident happened. 16 passengers were taken to hospital while other passengers suffered from bruises. A Rail Accident Investigation Branch investigation concluded that the following tram was unable to stop in time to prevent the accident because "driver did not modify their driving technique when dazzled by the low lying winter sun" and "was too late in applying the tram’s hazard brake". They cited as contributory factors reduced vision caused by the sun, a problem with the sunblind fitted to the tram, and the lack of a requirement that trams causing an obstruction display hazard warning lights.
In June 2007, vandalism caused damage to overhead power lines and brought the system to a halt..
Midland Metro has had a number of in-house publications. The current publication is entitled Tram Lines and the first issue was in February 2007. The two-sided information sheet provides information on maintenance, on-going projects and competitions. The previous publication was entitled Track Record and featured news articles and progress reports on the proposed extensions.