A long-awaited second line of the Midland Metro tram will be built in phases to keep costs down, bosses behind the project said today.
Transport chiefs say they are determined to raise around £268 million to take trams from Wednesbury out to Brierley Hill and Stourbridge. They say that breaking the line into phases, going from Wednesbury to Dudley first, will make the scheme more affordable and more likely to get financial backing given the government’s public spending cuts.
The aim is still to have an 18 stop line and Centro, which oversees public transport, wants to use business rates from new Enterprise Zones in Wolverhampton and Darlaston to cover costs.
The zones, including the i54 business park in Wolverhampton and surrounding areas as well as 14 sites in Darlaston, provide councils with the right to keep some of the rates they gather.
It has been 14 years since the original 23-stop line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham Snow Hill was launched.
Governments both of Labour and the coalition have never committed to funding it although Chancellor George Osborne did give the go-ahead to extend the existing line in Birmingham with a £127 million project.
In an interview with the Express & Star, Geoff Inskip, chairman of transport authority Centro, said the project is still alive.
He said: “We’re looking at doing it in phases. We don’t need to have all the money if we don’t do it all at once.
“We’re looking at raising funds with the local councils through the Enterprise Zones and the business rates. Black Country authorities have made it clear that the Wolverhampton spur and taking the Metro to Brierley Hill are important.
“There would need to be a connection from Wednesbury first, where it would meet line one.
“We could take it out to Dudley in a first phase and then on to Brierley Hill later on.”
The most recent plan for the line would involve the re-opening of a freight line between Walsall and Stourbridge.