Midland Metro extension to Brierley Hill takes major step forward
The £200 million Midland Metro extension to Brierley Hill is on the verge of getting the green light after final plans were unveiled to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street met with Mr Grayling at the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday to secure the multi-million pound funding for the project which has been more than a decade in the making.
It marks a major step forward for the scheme – which will see the tram stop at spots like Merry Hill and Dudley Zoo and Castle.
Mr Street, who presented the Secretary of State with a business plan alongside Transport for West Midlands managing directo Laura Shoaf, said: “It is hard to understate just how important this project is to the Black Country.
“The business case shows that for every pound invested in this project, it will return £2.50 for the local economy.
“It will align employment, education, health and tourism along the corridor, stimulating investment in the Black Country and enabling the building of 50,000 homes and bringing 170 hectares of brownfield land. It will be important for passengers too. It will more than halve journey times from some of the stops along the route into central Birmingham.
“This is the start of the conversation about how as a region we can look at new ways of working with Government to use new mechanisms of funding and finance to deliver transformational projects like this.”
The seven-mile line will run along part of the former South Staffordshire railway from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill town centre with 17 stops, including at the DY5 Enterprise Zone at the Waterfront, Merry Hill Shopping Centre, Dudley Bus Station, and at Castle Hill for the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Castle.
Construction on the extension is set to start in 2019 with the line opening to passengers in 2023. Trams will run up to every six minutes during busy periods. Other extensions to Wolverhampton railway station and the planned high-speed two station at Curzon Street in Birmingham are also in the pipeline. The meeting between Mr Street and Mr Grayling was welcomed by political leaders.
Dudley North Labour MP Ian Austin said: “I’m pleased to hear about this progress. I’ve been campaigning to get Dudley connected to the Metro system and to the rail network every since I was first elected 12 years ago. Improving public transport can help tackle congestion, help local people get jobs in Birmingham and elsewhere but I’m really excited because it will connect the new University campus to the town centre and help transform Dudley as well.”
Dudley South Tory MP Mike Wood said: “In Dudley South we have one of the biggest shopping centres in the country, the new enterprise zone, and one of the largest secure industrial parks in Europe but no railway station – so infrastructure is absolutely vital. The extension will link the Western part of the West Midlands to Birmingham and main line rail stations. It is very important for the whole of the Black Country and Dudley in attracting new jobs and investment.”
Councillor Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport for West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “This is a major milestone for the Wednesbury-Brierley Hill extension and fantastic news for the people of Dudley, Sandwell and the wider West Midlands.
“Once this link is open it will connect key locations such as Merry Hill and Dudley town centre to the wider transport network for accessing the national rail network and HS2 and, eventually, Birmingham Airport. The Midland Metro is key to the WMCA’s plans to grow our economy, and this extension will help bring more jobs and greater prosperity not just to the Black Country but across the region as a whole.” The route of the proposed scheme branches off the existing Midland Metro line east of the current depot at Wednesbury.
Initial work to clear the overgrown section of the disused railway line was completed this year. Park and ride stations are proposed as part of the scheme.
They are also looking to build a new depot to accommodate the extra trams needed to run the service. Mr Street added: “I said in my manifesto that starting work on this project during my first three years in office was a priority and securing the funding is the first step, which is why I wanted to see the Secretary of State so quickly. The leaders of the local authorities have done a first class job in developing the plans to this stage. Now we need to secure the final funding.”
The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension was first approved in 2005.