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Let's get the Black Country moving - Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gives backing to region's transport schemes

By Alex Ross | Dudley | News | Published: | Last Updated:

'I'm not here on a whim - I'm here because I genuinely believe we have got to do this'

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling wants to give the Black Country's transport system lift-off with his backing for three major schemes.

In a whistle-top tour of the region, Mr Grayling first arrived at the future site of Willenhall Railway Station, to be built as part of the reopening of passengers services between Wolverhampton and Walsall.

He then made the four-mile journey to Midland Metro's Wednesbury depot where he drove a new battery-powered tram which will operate without overhead lines in Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Finally, he headed to Brierley Hill town centre where he inspected the site of a planned terminus for trams on the planned Wednesbury to Dudley Midland Metro extension.

Chris Grayling gives backing to region's transport schemes

Speaking in damp conditions at the future Willenhall Station, off Bilston Street, Mr Grayling said: "I'm very committed to making sure we reopen some of the old freight routes in the West Midlands area.

"I think there is an opportunity to create better public transport by bringing back lines which were lost to passengers services a generation ago, but are actually needed today."

He was joined by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Walsall North MP Eddie Hughes and Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan at the site.

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There is no timescale in place for the reopening of the line last used for passenger services in 2008.

But money is available and has been earmarked for the scheme, according to Mr Street.

He said the case was being put together with designs being drawn up for the two stations on the route – Willenhall and James Bridge – and a timetable was being discussed.

On the chances of the line reopening, he said: "I would use the words realistically and soon about it."

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He said the stations would be 'efficient and practical' with a platform, shelters, parking and passenger information.

He added: "The most important thing they [people] can look forward to is a direct line from Wolverhampton to Walsall."

At Brierley Hill, in Cottage Street, next to the Asda supermarket, Mr Grayling was joined by Dudley South MP Mike Wood and Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley.

It is where the Wednesbury to Dudley line, which follows a disused railway line for most of the way, will end.

There will be a total of 17 stations along the route, which will initially end at Merry Hill shopping centre in 2022.

A £250m grant from the Government last year made the 11km-route a reality.

Mr Wood said: "The Government has given us the money and now we are working hard to clear the line and open up the route – in a few years it will give Dudley and Brierley Hill a passenger rail service for the first time in decades."

The passenger railway service from Dudley closed in 1964.

Mr Grayling said: "We are absolutely committed as a government and we have a great partnership with Andy Street in the West Midlands to deliver the right kind of transport system for the future

"This Metro network is absolutely what the Birmingham and West Midlands needs, its a real opportunity to improve connections and to do so in a way which is quicker and easier than building new railway lines.

At Midland Metro's Wednesbury depot, Mr Grayling went inside and got in the driver's seat of a battery-powered tram. It does not require overhead lines and is the first of its type in the country.

The tram is still being tested, but is set to come into use when the Wolverhampton Metro extension to the city's railway station opens in two years.

Speaking on the battery-powered technology, Mr Grayling said: "This is the first step to a technological revolution which will change our railways."

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Investigations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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