New pledge to fast-track Dudley's Metro extension 'at the centre' of Kwasi Kwarteng's growth plans

A new pledge to fast-track Dudley's Metro extension proves the borough is "at the centre" of the Government's plans, council chiefs have said.

Work is underway in Dudley on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension
Work is underway in Dudley on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's growth plan, unveiled last week, featured a commitment to speed up the completion of infrastructure projects in the region – including the Wednesbury-Brierley Hill Metro line.

It has provided a major fillip for local leaders, who had voted to split construction of the line into two phases due to surging costs.

The 6.8-mile line was budgeted at £449m, but the Express & Star revealed earlier this year that costs were expected to hit £550m due to factors including Covid, Brexit and the war in Ukraine.

Mr Kwarteng's growth plan references the Government’s "intent to support where possible in acceleration" of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro route.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: "Dudley has been blazing a trail for some time when it comes to regenerating the region.

"We have very big and bold ambitions for the borough and clearly our view is shared nationally. As a region tremendous confidence has been shown in the West Midlands and the Black Country with this funding and we are delighted that Dudley is at the centre of this investment."

Councillor Simon Phipps, cabinet member for regeneration, said the announcement showed there was "confidence at a national level in this important scheme".

He added: "Work on the Metro extension is already progressing well. This announcement means the project can be accelerated in confidence that it is recognised at the highest level.

"We are very much looking forward to progressing phase two of the project and connecting to Brierley Hill."

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi hailed the Government's commitment to the 6.8-mile line.

He said: "The fast-track is a testament to the partnership between local MPs, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and councillors.

"Having lobbied at the highest level for better transport for Dudley and I'm pleased it will be paying off much sooner for the benefit of Dudley people."

At a meeting in July council leaders on the West Midlands Combined Authority, along with the region's Mayor, Andy Street, were presented with a report detailing the soaring costs of the Metro extension.

It said that as well as an expected budget increase of £100m, the line was also dealing with a funding shortfall of nearly £300m.

It prompted bosses to agree to split the scheme into two sections, with the Wednesbury to Dudley phase expected to open in 2024, followed by the Dudley to Brierley Hill section at a later date.

Mr Street has always maintained that the line will eventually be built in full.

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

The region is also bidding to be the home of a number of low-tax investment zones, with corridors from Wolverhampton to Walsall and Wednesbury to Brierley Hill among the potential locations.

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