Express & Star

Wolverhampton Midland Metro expansion delayed as costs spiral by £800k

The multi-million pound extension of the Midland Metro line has been delayed until at least 2019 with some passengers having to wait until 2020 to get on new services.

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Artist impression of the Midland Metro line extension into Wolverhampton Pipers Row.

The station and metro works form part of a masterplan to transform transport in the city, but this new delay will increase its £18 million cost by £800,000.

As part of the Midland Metro Alliance extension plans, phase one of work to extend the line began in June, with track replacement on the A41 Bilston Road finishing two weeks ahead of schedule this month.

But work to extend the line up Pipers Row and Railway Drive will not start until the revamp of the city’s railway station has been completed, according to a report to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s transport delivery committee.

New Metro passenger services in Wolverhampton city centre were due to start in December 2019, but documents reveal the extension now wont be completed until June 2020 and work will be 'suspended' until the railway station works are complete.

Similarly, the Westside extension of the tram track to Birmingham's Centenary Square is also 'at risk' according to the report which said its services had meant to be up and running by mid-2019 but won't be completed now until June 2020.

The report, set to be discussed on January 8, reveals a ‘revised construction strategy’, which will see all of the tram line works ‘compressed into a 12-month period’ after the awarding of the contract for the new train station was delayed by nine months.

The report states: “The station works contract is not expected to be awarded until December 2017 – some nine months behind programme.”

"The delay is a short term obstacle"

It is understood that this contract was awarded in the middle of December though this was originally due to happen in March.

The report continues continues: “As the Metro works in the station forecourt cannot commence until the station works are completed, Midland Metro Alliance have advised that on completion of phase one, the project will demobilise with only a limited design team remaining active to deal with any station interface issues.”

This means that, as phase one of the Metro works has now been completed, only a small team remain working while they wait on the train station works to start.

The tram company will then ‘remobilise around six months prior to the completion of the station works, which will allow the 12 month construction phase to run uninterrupted from Pipers Row to the station’.

The report also states: “This delay will increase the cost of the Metro extension by approximately £800,000 – this cost is included in the current overall programme forecast.”

A spokesman for Midland Metro Alliance confirmed that the company had always made clear that the tram works would not be completed until 2019-2020 and that they are still on track to meet this target.

A West Midlands Combined Authority spokesman said: “Metro works in the forecourt cannot commence until the station works are completed.

“The delay is a short term obstacle on a major development project which, once complete, will provide a gateway befitting the city of Wolverhampton where buses, trains, trams, cycling and walking come together and provide enhanced links to the new HS2 network.

“This scheme will also accelerate the regeneration of the city centre, bringing jobs, opportunities and growth, to Wolverhampton and the wider region.”

A spokesman for Wolverhampton council said: “We’ve been working closely with colleagues at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) so that the metro extension work fits with revised plans for the new railway station. We want to ensure that work progresses on time and is completed as soon as possible after the station is finished. We also want to ensure that we do all that we can to minimise disruption to local businesses, local people and our partners.

“Issues delaying the railway station project have been overcome and early work started on site before Christmas, preparing for demolition work on the existing station in May. The new station building is expected to be completed in 2020.

“Both developments are crucial to the City’s £150 million Interchange masterplan and will drive forward Wolverhampton’s economic growth and regeneration. Better connectivity will make our City much more competitive in attracting investment and jobs.

“The emergence of a new, iconic railway station with fantastic road, metro and bus connections on its doorstep will be a major catalyst for growth. It will help us develop our new commercial quarter, building on the success of the existing i10 building, plans for i9 and other grade A office blocks in the area due to be unveiled soon.

“Importantly, it will bring hundreds more quality jobs to the city for local people, driving demand for skills and benefitting local suppliers.”