Light rail minister Jesse Norman was joined by regional transport chiefs to see the Midland Metro Alliance lay the first track for the Westside tram extension in Birmingham.
Jesse used the opportunity to launch a call for evidence to seek views on the potential for new light rail systems in the country’s towns and cities.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the Midland Metro milestone, which was reached on February 7, is “just the start of a revolution in public transport” in the region over the next few years.
The new tracks are the first to be installed in the city centre since 2015, when the extension from Snow Hill to Grand Central was under construction.
The project is being developed in two phases. The first, between Grand Central and Centenary Square, is due to open by the end of 2019. The second phase will take passengers along Broad Street to Edgbaston Five Ways and will be operational by the end of 2021.
Combined, the two sections will add 2km of tram tracks to the network and will connect travellers to destinations such as the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the new HSBC headquarters, the Arena Central and Paradise regeneration sites, Brindleyplace, Symphony Hall and the Town Hall.
This tram extension is part of a wider £1.35 billion expansion of the region’s tram network over the coming decade, with new lines serving Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull.
As a result, the tram network will treble in size in the next few years, helping to unlock housing and employment sites, tie in with HS2, which is set to open in late 2026, and help to reduce pollution in Birmingham.