Black Country Metro extensions needed to 'speed up commuting'

Andy Street has said Metro extensions need to happen to improve the “speed of commuting” in the region.

The tram service may go further into the Black Country in future
The tram service may go further into the Black Country in future

Speaking on Friday, the West Midlands Mayor could not say how long disruption would last in the case of Hagley Road in the Bearwood area of Birmingham, but pointed to the current extension to Edgbaston – now nearing completion which has taken around three years.

Mr Street was talking following the West Midlands Combined Authority board meeting in which it was agreed a bid of more than £1.7 billion will be made to Government.

The funding would cover a raft of transport changes in the region including Metro extensions from Wolverhampton to New Cross Hospital, Wednesbury to Walsall and Brierley Hill and Stourbridge.

The authority also wants to extend the Metro as far as funding will allow down Hagley Road towards the Black Country and is hopeful of getting at least far as Bearwood.

Other papers agreed by the authority today include a separate bid for a £540 million package of measures for bus service improvements.

And a full business case will be submitted to Government for 200 new hydrogen double deck buses and 24 articulated hydrogen buses over the next two years.

Andy Street wants to see the Metro service extended

Mr Street said he was particularly excited about the Metro extensions, cycle lanes and electric vehicle charging points included in the £1.7 billion bid.

He said: “We will never get enough for everything we want to do – that can never happen, the list can go on and on and on.

“But I am very confident we are going to get more money than we have ever had before and that’s really good so £1 billion is the minimum target we are after and hopefully it will be considerably more.

“This almost ‘colours in’ the next bit of the Transport 2040 plan. Some of it is already under way like the Camp Hill line in Birmingham, the Walsall/Wolverhampton reopening line.

“This will be Aldridge station, it will be the next Metro bits on there. So it’s consistent with that map we produced.”

Andy Street's vision for the metro map

On Hagley Road, he said: “We have always believed that route was critical because obviously it’s a very congested route, it’s a very heavy commuter route.

“And we believe it’s the logical thing to do to make the most of the asset we have already built as far as Edgbaston village.

“One of the very early things we will be doing is the business case to see where we can justify going to.”

Asked what he would say to those unsure about seeing the road dug up for the Metro to go in, he said: “We see this with all sorts of transport investment schemes that yes there is some disruption to make these improvements.

“But actually for the city region to thrive we have got to improve the speed of commuting for work and leisure around the region.

“Of course we will take everyone’s opinion into account in the consultation but I am afraid we do have to make some of these step change investments.”

West Midlands Metro extension work in Hagley Road. Photo: Google

He said it is likely to take a couple of years for the business case to be drawn up and approvals received but he hopes that within this mayoral term [by 2024] “we will have started the digging into that”.

He said: “I don’t want to sound facetious but [the length of time of the digging] would depend on how lengthy the business case is.

“If you look at what we have done say on the Edgbaston extension we are currently doing, that has been about three years from concept right through to opening for this Christmas.”

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