Trams and light rail linking key town and cities a priority for travel bosses

Tram lines and light rail services connecting the Black Country's key towns and cities and Birmingham are to be considered by transport chiefs.

Trams and light rail linking key town and cities a priority for travel bosses

The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, which meets next Wednesday, is considering reviving the long-stalled plans for a second Midland Metro line to connect the Merry Hill Centre with Wednesbury along the old Stourbridge freight line.

The move follows revived interest in a line linking Wolverhampton railway station with New Cross Hospital.

Options include 'very light rail', similar to the £20 million plan for 'tram trains' to link Dudley Port station, Tipton, to the site of Dudley's former station at the bottom of Castle Hill, close to Dudley Zoo, the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust.

A report to council leaders says the transport authority is re-visiting plans with 'the first stated priority being the Walsall to Stourbridge corridor to provide high-quality access to Merry Hill and Brierley Hill'.

The report says that legal powers remain in place to allow the line to be built, 'although to date it has not proved possible to secure funding'. It adds: "In recognition of the difficulties in securing funding, the potential for very light rail using innovative methods of track construction and motive power are being investigated, in tandem with proposals for a Light Rail Innovation Centre alongside the route."

It follows a request from Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils who are keen to see a rapid transit network linking town centres for employment, education and leisure.

If given the go-ahead, the review is likely to determine which routes and types of vehicle can offer the best options in terms of benefit and value for money.

It would also take into consideration new developments such as the Black Country Enterprise Zones at i54 and Darlaston.

It would also consider the need to link into the HS2 high speed rail line and existing rapid transit routes including the forthcoming Metro extension from Wolverhampton St George's to the city's bus and rail stations.

Wolverhampton City Council leader Roger Lawrence said: "The principle of a high quality rapid transit system for the Black Country remains a priority.

"Such a network would provide the transport infrastructure needed to support ambitions for future economic growth and the creation of much-needed jobs.

"It's important that we ensure this network has the right routes and connections for the future and delivers the maximum economic benefits possible for the cost."

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