Digital Radio System Takes West Midlands Tram to Another Level

Paul Tustin 07 May 2021

As part of the West Midlands Metro £1.3billion upgrade, a digital radio communications system has been developed to provide a new platform for communications that is vital for tram operations.

The new radio system being designed and deployed by TES Communication Solutions will add further enhanced voice and data capability for the current and future network for Transport For West Midlands, part of West Midlands Combined Authority.

Over the coming years the network will triple in size with further additional trams, upgrades to depot-maintenance facilities and Operations Control Centre.

Included in the upgrade and expansion programme are a number of control, communications and passenger information systems that support and maintain a seamless operation of the tramway. They provided West Midlands Metro with the ability to monitor tram movements and passengers using the network and provided the mechanism to react to any incidents with accuracy and efficiency.

Mike Pelling of WMCA said: We’re using proven digital technology and adapting it for our purposes around our model of operations. We need to make sure that the users of our trams can feel safe and that our drivers and operators know they have the very best technology to help them in their work."

“The tram system is also playing an increasingly important part in reducing carbon emissions across the region and reducing road traffic at the same time.”

The new digital mobile radio will interface with the current metro Automatic Vehicle Localisation System to provide the data carrier for some of the on-board systems. This will enable the AVLS to communicate with the operators in the control centre in real-time.

This is a major improvement from the current VHF system that can only operate with voice calls. All existing trams are being upgraded to the new radio system with the switch-over to the new network over the coming months.

The significant investment and expansion in the West Midlands Metro has seen the opening of Centenary Square extension in December 2019 with Edgbaston Extension due to open this year shortly followed by Wolverhampton extension. A new spur line consisting of a further 15 trams stops is currently under construction to Brierley Hill which will be in service 2023.

Wesley Shilton, Director of TES, said: This is a huge upgrade on the system and means we can provide added coverage geographically as the network expands to meet its needs across the West Midlands. In the event of a major incident, this dedicated system can operate independently and allow public phone and radio networks to be used in their own right."

We worked closely with the team at WMCA to design and develop a radio network which we know is proven but tailored for their specific needs. This kind of system is fit-for-purpose now and future proof for large regional operations such as the West Midlands Metro.”

TES Communication Solutions’ radio systems have been installed in transport and infrastructure systems around the world where there is a need for dedicated communications including Taiwan, Guatemala, Manchester Metrolink, Blackpool Transport, UBS Bank and Astra Zeneca.

The expansion of the system will also eventually include a route to Birmingham International Airport which is currently in design phase. The Combined Authority has also ordered a further 21 trams to facilitate the expansion.