The Midland Metro has seen the biggest rise in passenger satisfaction in the country, a key survey has found.
The study by Transport Focus – the independent public transport watchdog – revealed overall satisfaction with the service rose from 81% in 2015 to 92% last year, the largest of all the tram networks surveyed.
In a further boost to the Metro, patronage on the line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton city centres is at an all-time high – 7.89 million passengers took the tram between June 2016 and May 2017.
The Midland Metro is owned by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead member for transport, said: “The survey and the patronage figures prove the Midland Metro is going from strength to strength and totally vindicate the investment we have made in the system.
“The Metro is key to the WMCA’s vision for strategic growth and regeneration in the West Midlands so we are absolutely delighted with these figures.”
Colin Saward, general manager of National Express Midland Metro which operates the system on behalf of TfWM, said: "These are great results. The city centre extension has been a huge success.
“We also introduced contactless payment on the trams at the same time. A fifth of tickets sold on the trams are now bought using contactless cards and over two thirds of our customers tell us they like it because it's quicker.
"But we are not resting on our laurels. We are still improving journeys for our passengers and we are working with the manufacturer to make the trams even more reliable.”
The Tram Passenger Survey covered the tram networks in Blackpool, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and the West Midlands and more than 5,000 passengers took part.
In the West Midlands a total of 637 Midland Metro passengers were surveyed.
In its report about the latest survey, Transport Focus said satisfaction levels of users in 2015 would have been influenced by the work to build the Birmingham city centre extension from Snow Hill station to New Street station.
“Overall journey satisfaction before the works began was 85%, which provides a better like-for-like comparison,” the report said.
“The increase from 85% (before the 2015 improvement works began) to 92% (in 2016) is still a significant increase in overall journey satisfaction.”
The Midland Metro network is set to triple in size over the next decade as part of the WMCA’s long term transport strategy, with passenger numbers forecast to grow to more than 30 million.
The expansion includes an extension of the route from New Street Station to Centenary Square, with services expected to start running in 2019.
Funding has also been earmarked for the line to go further along Broad Street, past Five Ways and on to Edgbaston by 2021.
Extensions are also planned through Digbeth in Birmingham, running from Bull Street via Albert Street and on to the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail station at Curzon Street.
From there it would go along New Canal Street and Meriden Street into High Street Deritend, stopping at Digbeth Coach Station and the Custard Factory. It is anticipated the line could be open by 2023.
In Wolverhampton work is set to start on an extension through the city centre to the bus and railway stations as part of the £51.8 million Wolverhampton Interchange Programme. The line is expected to open in 2019.
Meanwhile a business case is also being prepared to extend the Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.