West Midlands, UK Metro stops open at Pipers Row, Wolverhampton Railway Station

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Pipers Row tram stop under construction in July.
Image: Caledonianl.

On September 17, two tram stops in the West Midlands Metro system opened in the Wolverhampton, UK city centre: Pipers Row and Wolverhampton Railway Station. Wikinews reporter Ash Thawley spoke with David Rock, a University of Birmingham student living in Selly Oak, after he rode the extension on September 17 from around 16:30 to 17:30.

The new segment, in the Metro's Zone 4, splits from an existing line after The Royal.

The terminus of that line, Wolverhampton St George's, is to remain in use, with "[e]very other Metro [terminating there] as part of a 'shopper's service'", according to the Midland Metro Alliance. The organisation cited the "convenient location close to Wolverhampton's shopping district" as a reason to keep that stop operational. The stop was to close until "later this autumn" for work, according to a press release from the West Midlands Metro.

The extension was originally to be finished in 2019, but faced delays.

The Metro said its service's extension to Brierley Hill was now a focus.

Interview with Rock

 ((Wikinews )) How do you think this extension will impact the people who live [along] the Metro?

 ((David Rock )) I think it makes the tram a more attractive option as there is now better multi modal integration of public transport. The bus station was previously closest to Wolverhampton's train station but now the tram serves the station directly, so anyone living or working near the tram route now has a greater incentive to tram in rather than [ride] the bus if their onward journey includes heavy rail.

 ((WN )) There's currently the tram extension underway from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, do you expect that that will have a big impact too?

 ((David Rock )) Probably in absolute terms it will significantly contribute to the local economy, but I think proportionally not so much. Dudley already has good bus links to Wolverhampton and Birmingham, the tram line will not take a direct route to either of the big cities as it must pass through Wednesbury. One benefit of the tram is decreased impact of traffic, but the tram is much more expensive than the bus so I don't know how it will affect intra-Black Country journeys.

 ((WN )) Do you think the fare price of the system is something the council should be mindful of?

 ((David Rock )) Absolutely. Better fare integration is essential! Today I paid £5.00 for an all-zone off-peak day ticket on the tram only. On the train it costs between £5.20 and £6.90 for a return (or between £3.40 and £4.55 with a railcard) and takes approximately ⅓ of the time. As you can see, for Birmingham ↔ Wolverhampton journeys there is little incentive to take the tram. The main target market of the tram, though, is to serve communities between Wolverhampton and Birmingham such as West Bromwich and Handsworth. An all-day bus pass costs £4.00 (or £2.00 for a single) so one would have to have a good reason to take the tram as it is more expensive than the bus at £4.10 for, [in] any two zones, [a] day ticket or £4.60 for any three zones. Better fare integration, such as a London-style touch-in/touch-out system would work better... this is what the Swift card should be used for. Today I opted to buy just an all-day ticket on the tram, and I chose to walk seven miles to and from the tram stop as I didn't want to pay the extra money for a bus fare. Better integration might have meant I chose to spend a little more for the added convenience of a hop-on, hop-off network.

 ((WN )) I see! Thank you for sharing your opinion. Is there anything you think TfWM [Transport for West Midlands] could be doing better more generally?

 ((David Rock )) I think they're doing a good enough job, although to be honest I'm not very familiar with them as a company as I mainly use the train or the bus which is[sic] not fully under their jurisdiction.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.