It was party time for West Midlands Metro as the network celebrated its 20th birthday on Thursday (30 May).
And, as a specially liveried tram made its way into service during the afternoon, there was plenty of celebrations on board with customers treated to some impromptu entertainment, cupcakes and squeezy model trams for kids.
Metro staff were also out at various tram stops making sure even more passengers didn’t miss out on the action.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “For the last 20 years the Metro has given millions of passengers an excellent service between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, so it is only right to look back and congratulate everyone involved on this anniversary.
“However, we must also look to the future, especially as we continue work on trebling the network. Over the next few years we will have trams connecting new places including Dudley, Brierley Hill, Centenary Square, Hagley Road, Digbeth, Bordesley Green and Solihull. The first 20 years of the Midland Metro has been fantastic, but I hope the next 20 will be even better.”
Director of operations Carl Williams said: “It’s a major milestone for tram services in the region and the great news is that things are going to get even better for our customers over the coming years.
“We were keen to mark the occasion with a taste of fun but the serious work of massively growing the network is gathering pace with the opening of services to Centenary Square in Birmingham fast approaching later this year, swiftly followed by further extensions.”
With its freshly commissioned livery, including a 20-year anniversary logo, Metro’s ‘birthday’ tram was the stand-out focal point for the celebrations.
Customers boarding it before peak services on Thursday afternoon were able to join the party with singers from Birmingham Youth Theatre, a magician and a balloon modeller putting in appearances on trips between Wolverhampton and Grand Central.
Services were officially launched on 30 May 1999 on the line between Wolverhampton St George’s and Snow Hill with the extension through to Grand Central opening in 2016.
Phil Hewitt, West Midlands Metro Director, said: “We’ve come a long way since 1999. We now have a new fleet of modern trams to which we’ll be adding even more as the network grows and we’re introducing the UK’s first stretch of overhead line-free track when the extension to Centenary Square opens at the end of the year.
“We’ve a great team of people proudly delivering services each and every day and it’s good for them to see that the Metro is going from strength to strength.”
Carl explained: “As we look back on 20 years of growth and we hope our customers enjoyed sharing in the celebrations too. We’ve a tremendously loyal customer base which is growing all the time and we’re looking forward to serving an even wider area over the years to come.”
Annually, Metro trams travel over 2,000,000 km – the equivalent of more than 50 times around the world – with customers currently making over 7 million journeys each year. Passenger journeys are expected to grow to some 30 million when the current expansion programme is fully completed.