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Midland Metro expansion is 'unrealistic'

Dudley | News | Published:

An extension of the Midland Metro through the Black Country using former freight lines is "unrealistic" and may not be delivered by 2026, a damning report has said.

An extension of the Midland Metro through the Black Country using former freight lines is "unrealistic" and may not be delivered by 2026, a damning report has said.

Inspectors who approved the Black Country Joint Core Strategy — a multimillion pound plan to provide 60,000 new homes and 300,000 square yards of retail space — said it was "not practical" to extend the Midland Metro service from Wednesbury to Stourbridge, which would link the network to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

The coalition government has given backing to the idea of councils raising the £289 million they need for the Metro extension by using Tax Increment Financing.

That would allow them to borrow the money based on the business rates they would eventually be able to collect because of the jobs the intended scheme would create.

But in their report planning inspectors Nigel Payne and Vincent Maher said: "The reinstatement of the Walsall to Stourbridge line for freight services is a national priority, fully supported by the industry to provide much needed additional capacity on the congested West Midlands network.

"However, it is not currently practical or viable to also introduce passenger rail services on this line and therefore unrealistic for the joint core strategy to include this long term aspiration in its transport proposals for the plan period, no matter how desirable.

"Similar considerations apply in respect of other prospective public transport improvement schemes as they should only be included if there are reasonable prospects of their being delivered within the plan period."

The inspectors also said that the current economic climate, including government spending cuts, means that little of the Black Country will change over the next six years.

They said: "We note the track record of delivery of new development projects across the Black Country over the last five years or so, including current commitments such as the Interchange at Wolverhampton.

"Nevertheless, given the present economic climate, the councils acknowledge that most of this additional office space will not come forward before 2016."

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