Midland Metro Alliance

West Midlands

Project synopsis

Part of a design consortium to develop an integrated transport system for the West Midlands


Midland Metro Alliance

End client

West Midlands Combined Authority


British Construction Industry Awards 2018: Partnership Initiative of the Year Talent Match Black County's Annual Awards 2018: Employer of the Year

As part of the group of designers within Midland Metro Alliance (MMA), Tony Gee is working to deliver an integrated transport system for the West Midlands, extending the existing West Midlands tram network by approximately 34 km, to improve transport links and aid economic regeneration across the area.

MMA, formed in 2016, consists of Tony Gee, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Egis, Pell Frischmann, Barhale, Bouygues UK, Auctus Management Group, Colas Rail and Colas Ltd.

We provided services, design managers and leads for all stages of the scheme, including civil/structural, geotechnical, highway and drainage technical discipline leads. Additionally, we provided leads to control the overall multi-discipline management and site support; plus managers to assist the development of processes for engineering and quality management across the MMA design team.

The main focus of our works has been civil and structural engineering, including geotechnical and environment designs; highway and track drainage design services. This required development of solutions in association with many other design disciplines, consultation with various third parties and local authorities including securing of approvals for each technical discipline.

The works presented significant challenges given the constraints and demands of construction within city centres, along redundant track corridors and adjacent to various live infrastructure, including the existing operational Line 1 tram.

Bilston Road

The first major work completed by the MMA was the Bilston Road track replacement, completed within budget and ahead of schedule, despite the challenges of working alongside the busy A41 Bilston Road.

We provided highway and civils design input plus overall design team management. This required multi-disciplinary details to be developed with our design partners

We also provided specialist structural design services to develop a new fibre reinforced track slab for the tram. This solution promoted rapid construction and benefits to long-term performance for the owner The scheme won the large project award at the ICE West Midlands Awards.

Wednesbury Brierly Hill Extension

This is the largest (£450 million overall value) scheme undertaken by MMA.  We have been involved continually from 2017, providing site inspection support, preliminary and detailed design through to ongoing construction support; and a full range of civil engineering services, including highways, permanent way, geotechnical, structural, drainage and environmental disciplines.

We planned and supervised structural and geotechnical surveys throughout the 12km site, which has significant ground and mining challenges. This included costing, scheduling, and discussing operational/maintenance requirements with the Owner. We introduced an agreed stage gate system with the client, WMCA, to formalise the presentation of options and selection of single solutions.

We ensured that all parties within the MMA, including the client and construction team, were involved in the earliest stages of development, to ensure a collaborative approach resulted in the best solution. We used an IDR/IDC process alongside a standard technical approval process for all structural and geotechnical designs. We were  key to managing this and securing approvals both with WMCA/Jacobs, various local authorities and Network Rail.

The route design includes 30 major structures of various sizes and complexity. These include the unique Delta interchange structure – a complex Y shaped structure up to 350m length with a novel, curved spine beam deck span.

We were responsible for the design of two significant viaduct structures up to 300m long. These incorporate main spans up to 50m and involve complex ground and foundation engineering to construct substructures within steeply sloped embankments, cater for mine workings and immediately adjacent main canal routes.

Significant benefit was gained by developing design details with the construction team – for example, the adoption of large caisson foundations, preferred to piling close to the canal.

In addition to large major structures, the route has presented numerous engineering challenges for our design teams including: post-tensioned bridges which have involved specification of specialist investigations; deck reconstruction around challenging highway and service constraints; reinforced earth slope analysis; design of refurbishment for a multi span masonry arch viaduct.

With such a long route we had the opportunity to develop standardised solutions and details such as reinforced retaining walls, standardised bridge deck designs and standard tram/bridge deck interface details.

In addition to the design of permanent works we were responsible for numerous temporary works design to date, including specification of works for a safe demolition of post-tensioned structures, removal of bridge decks, crane and piling mats, plus temporary footbridge and service support structures.

Tony Gee will continue to provide services and site support up to target completion in 2023/24

Birmingham Westside Extension

One of MMA’s major achievements has been the successful construction of the Birmingham Westside tram extension. We inherited the preliminary scheme design, but the proposals were subject to numerous value-engineered changes to save costs and benefit programme.

We were instrumental in developing cost saving solutions, such as the removal of 80 large diameter bored piles to a track slab. Further investigation and detailed analysis enabled the track slab design to be refined, and resulted in significant benefits to program and safety, given the very stringent constraints on working in the city centre adjacent to the main, public Victoria Square. This also hugely reduced disruption to the city centre.

All designs were subject to securing technical and planning approval by Birmingham City Council (BCC). The designs included various works to allow for construction adjacent to listed buildings, around basements and detailing prominent retaining wall features within sensitive public areas e.g. Centenary Square.

We also provided project managers to interface with numerous third parties and local authorities, to assist in developing mutually agreeable solutions. The leads managed interfaces across numerous disciplines within the metro design teams and worked with BCC to secure approval of up to 1000 drawings alone for the CSQ section of the route (the complex 650m of track from Grand Central up to Centenary Square).

Following design of Westside, were played a significant role in site support and temporary works design to support MMA through construction. The scheme required us to design temporary works for solutions through the city centre around sensitive structures, buried obstacles and, significantly, to access and construct around the main A38 Queensway Tunnel.

Birmingham Westside extension is now nearing completion and won the Outstanding Engineering Achievement of the 2019 Global Light Rail Awards.

Birmingham Eastside Extension

Similarly, within the city centre we played a key role in developing the planning and feasibility for the Birmingham Eastside Extension, including strategies for early highway and structural surveys, plus geotechnical investigations.

We prepared option proposals for the infrastructure, including major crossings for the tram over mainline railways and motorways, and drainage for the 17km route.

We managed consultations with external stakeholders including Network Rail, HS2 and Highways England to discuss approvals, processes and constraints. We developed outline 3D models to develop optimised route and structural solutions, and prepared documents to support the Transport and Works Act Order application. These have been key to the early development of buildable and economic solutions to reduce capital and whole life costs, reduce impact on stakeholders and minimise disruption to the railway corridor.

We are currently preparing the detailed design for the first phase of Birmingham Eastside Extension. Designs of various buried structures is continuing rapidly to a tight program, aiming for construction prior to the Commonwealth Games.

Numerous challenges arise along this city centre route, with buried obstructions, basements and services, and have required our structural designers to collaborate in detail with other disciplines to devise economic solutions that minimise disruption to the city centre operations.