Midland Metro extension £33 million over budget – but on track
The projected cost of the planned Midland Metro line from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill has gone up 10 per cent – but backers are confident the scheme will still go ahead.
The 11km-long line is currently forecast to cost £343m, according to the West Midlands Combined Authority, £33m more than the initially planned.
It is understood the rise is partly down to the cost of acquiring land along the route.
At the same time, the projected cost of the proposed line between Birmingham and Solihull had gone up, from £675m to £735m.
At a meeting of the WMCA's investment board, finance director Sean Pearce said he was working hard to bring the projects back under the initial budgets.
He said: “There continues to be flagged spending pressures in some of the metro schemes that have previously been reported to this board.
“So there’s two schemes at the moment that are demonstrating some cost pressure.
"One is the metro from Birmingham to Solihull. So it’s a scheme that’s in a much earlier stage of development, but that shows £60 million worth of pressure at the moment, in terms of its budget.
“The second is the Brierley Hill metro extension, which is showing £33 million.
“So those two are being worked on to bring them back into budget and on schedule."
In papers to the board meeting, it stated the overspends were down to 'cost escalation'.
The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line will open in two phases, beginning with the route from Dudley to Wednesbury in 2022, followed by the Brierley Hill extension a year later.
There will be 17 stops along the route with trams stopping every six minutes at peak time.
Work has already started removing vegetation from the line, much of which follows disused railway lines. Structural surveys are currently being carried out on bridges while drainage is also being looked at.
The project was made possible thanks to a £207m commitment from the Department of Transport. The WMCA is putting in £103m and the Local Growth Fund £400,000.
Last year £7.3m was spent on the scheme, and £1.5m so far this financial year.
As it stands, with the project costing £343m, budges show £33m under 'To Be Confirmed'.
Dudley South MP Mike Wood said: "This project is priority for the West Midlands. The Chancellor has indicated money is available and the Mayor is fully backing it.
"It is important for the Dudley borough.
"We need to make sure where there are rising costs we either use reserves or find funding from alternative resources."
Councillor Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, said: I think we’ve got to keep our eyes on these budgets to see exactly where they are."