Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street (right) sounds air horn to signal the raising of Iron: Man with Cllr John Clancy and Laura Shoaf, managing director of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).
The next phase in the expansion of the Midland Metro tram network officially got underway earlier today when one of Birmingham’s most iconic statues – Iron: Man – was lifted out of Victoria Square.
Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street and Cllr John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council, joined onlookers as two cranes slowly raised the six-tonne metal sculpture out of the ground.
The removal of Iron: Man, created by renowned artist Antony Gormley, marks the start of work on the new £149 million Westside tram extension.
This will take trams from New Street Station, through Victoria Square and a redeveloped Paradise Circus, past Centenary Square, along Broad Street and through Five Ways before stopping in Hagley Road, Edgbaston.
The work is part of a 10-year expansion of the tram network by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) including new routes through Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell.
Iron: Man, which was erected in 1993 but is now standing in the direct path of the extension, will be given a clean up by conservation specialists and put into storage by Birmingham Museums Trust. He is scheduled to return to Victoria Square late next year.
The Mayor, who gave the signal to start the lift by sounding an air horn, said: “Extending the Metro through the city centre to New Street station has already proved a tremendous success. People like the trams and want more of them.
“That’s why we will be tripling the size of the network over the coming decade so our towns and cities are not only better connected to each other but also to the HS2 high speed rail line.
“This will help create a transport network that can underpin economic growth and jobs and bring greater prosperity for everyone in the West Midlands.”
The start of work on the Westside extension follows confirmation last week that the government will put nearly £60 million towards the cost.
A further £84 million will come from the WMCA’s transport arm, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone.
The remaining £5 million will come from third party developer contributions.
The 2km extension will have tram stops at the Town Hall, Centenary Square, Brindley Place, and either side of the Five Ways roundabout in Edgbaston. Trams are expected to start running to Centenary Square in 2019/20 and to Edgbaston by 2021.
The new route will also offer a direct Metro link to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall and the wider entertainment district centred on Broad Street.
Cllr Clancy added: “This is an important moment for the future of public transport in Birmingham.
“Not only will extensions to the Metro connect with HS2 and help citizens to move around the city, trams are also an important driver in opening up development sites helping us to create jobs and promote inclusive economic growth.”
The extensions are being built by the Midland Metro Alliance (MMA), which includes the WMCA, which owns the Midland Metro, a consortium of design experts from Egis, Tony Gee and Pell Frischmann and rail construction specialists Colas Rail along with its sub-alliance partners Colas Ltd, Barhale, Bouygues UK and Auctus Management Group.
MMA director Alejandro Moreno said: “Iron: Man is moving in order for us to get started on this route which will be one of the first UK tramways to operate on battery power alone.
“This means that iconic buildings like Birmingham’s Town Hall will be unspoiled by overhead wires or be partially obscured by associated infrastructure.”