West Midland Metro extension to be fast tracked under new growth plan

A major tram extension and other key Black Country infrastructure projects will be fast tracked under new Government plans, ministers have confirmed.

Work is underway on the Metro extension through Dudley
Work is underway on the Metro extension through Dudley

Andy Street said the Government had committed to "pushing on" with schemes including the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension.

The West Midlands Mayor said following talks with Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke it was "crystal clear" that ministers wanted the region to be at the forefront of the new plan for growth.

He told the Star: "There are a number of specific schemes in the Black Country that the Government wants to be pushing on with much faster.

"The Secretary of State said very clearly that lots of infrastructure projects would be sped up, and critically, this includes the Brierley Hill Metro extension."

Other schemes set to be fast tracked include the long-awaited revamp of Birchley island in Oldbury and the new Aldridge railway station, the Mayor said.

The completion of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension was plunged into doubt earlier this year after bosses revealed half the line had been mothballed due to a huge funding shortfall.

It comes after Metro workers voted on Friday whether to strike over pay, with Unite saying stoppages were likely in October should the ballot pass. The results are expected early next week.

Meanwhile Mr Street revealed that the region was bidding to host four of the Government's new investment zones, which will see tax cuts and planning laws relaxed in a bid to drive growth.

He said in the West Midlands Combined Authority area zones had been planned around the Walsall to Wolverhampton corridor and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro line, as well at the Coventry gigafactory and in East Birmingham.

"We have shown an interest in the zones that we specified in our trailblazer devolution deal," said Mr Street, who said the zones would lead to more and better job opportunities.

"We are expecting to submit proposals for all of them and I believe we will be in a strong position to be successful."

The 38 areas being considered for investment zones also include Staffordshire.

The county council’s deputy leader, Philip White, said the authority had put forward a "strong case" for an investment zone at a "range of potential sites" across the county.

"This could bring in millions of pounds’ worth of investment to our county and create thousands of new high-quality jobs," he said.

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