Workers start clearing disused track for new Midland Metro tram route
Work has begun to clear an overgrown derelict railway line which will become a new route for the Midland Metro tram service.
It will be built between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill on the former South Staffordshire Railway line, which closed to passengers in the 1960s.
Workers, subcontracted out by Midland Metro Alliance, have been clearing the tracks of plants and trees so structural and environmental surveys can be carried out.
Community leaders said the development will create 'huge opportunities' for jobs and tourism in the area.
The railway line, which saw trains stop running in the 80s, will offer new rail services to parts of the Black Country that currently don't have one.
The route will be almost seven miles in length and will run from the Waterfront in Brierley Hill, past Dudley Castle and to Wednesbury Great Western Street.
MMA, which is working on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority, expects work on the route to begin in 2019 and to be open for passengers by 2023.
The cost of the project is not known yet. MMA will submit a business case to the Department for Communities and Local Government before it can find out. Funding will come from the Government. Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise for Dudley Council, said: "We've been working hard with partners to make this project happen as we are set to benefit significantly when the Metro rolls in. The improved transport links will create huge opportunities for jobs and tourism in the area.
"Therefore it's great to see the project moving in the right direction and a commitment from all involved."
Alejandro Moreno, MMA director, said: "We are very excited to begin work on this key route but before we can begin construction, we do need to carry out some preparatory work in order to decide what further works are required to prepare for construction."
Stuart Everton, Black Country director of transport, added: "The start of construction of the line between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill is excellent news for the local economy, and will provide a significant boost to our regeneration plans for the region.
"It will also provide benefits both to residents across the region, by making it easier for them to get to jobs, and the national and international rail network."
The WMCA believe the business case will be strong as it will have economic benefits and boost jobs and transport links.
In the long term, the authority says it will provide a direct link to the upcoming HS2 high speed rail link and Birmingham Airport.