Rebranding - Tram Conductors - Extension
No not Blackpool. West Midlands has a singular tram service connecting Wolverhampton with the centre of Birmingham. Its CAF built tram fleet now operating the lengthy and mostly reserved track line replaced original Italian models all now retired but one remains at the depot on open display as a nostalgia piece. Whereas the system used ticket machines at its stations stops (all very smart and clean) the operator has opted for roving conductors who now are present on each unit. However unlike Blackpool one conductor suffices (although possibly weekday peaks may need two?).
At the existing and now temporary terminus adjoining New Street (Grand Central) Station the trams use the inbound line only and then return via a crossover to regain the correct outbound track (Below) : Smart posters advise travellers on the current closed platform.
Like the Blackpool operation the current service is being extended to connect with a main railway station using on street running and a solitary intermediate stop at Wolverhampton. The new extension is under construction and should be in operation in 2020. In Birmingham's centre with its impressive buildings a much longer extension of the line is also under construction with quite complicated trackwork now being laid amid commercial and civic space. This will enhance the current service considerably and inevitably require further rolling stock.
The silver and pink fleet colours of the CAF models are being replaced with a distinctive blue branding - although none of the rebranded examples were running during my recent visit. The image of 21 seemed to be a partial rebranding as the bodywork was subject of a sponsor vinyl. Likewise the information material and corporate look for the new operating authority has permeated staff uniforms, advertising and ticketing. The West Midlands operation is likely to emulate the success of the Manchester Metrolink system with further new lines and extensions beyond the present commitments - transforming Birmingham into a tramway oriented urban metropolis (for the second time).
Returning to Blackpool arriving rail passengers are greeted now with a bold new poster on the platform approach heralding the onset of cashless travel in the next decade.