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Metro extension through Dudley a 'priority' despite concerns, insists West Midlands Mayor

West MIdlands Mayor Andy Street has insisted the Dudley metro extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill is a “priority” amid confusion about its future.

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He spoke at Thursday's West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) scrutiny panel meeting, where members asked him questions around policy.

The mayor was adamant he wanted to clear up any confusion which had arisen after last week’s WMCA transport scrutiny meeting.

At last week’s meeting, Birmingham City Council leader and transport chief Ian Ward was asked if there were enough resources for the authority to fulfil its transport ambitions.

He said: “I think the answer to that is fairly obvious. We will have to cut our cloth to suit won’t we? The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro – there is not funding for.”

But at Thursday's meeting, Andy Street clarified the intention to extend to Brierley Hill was still there, but the decision to rephase the metro had been made in July.

He stressed that construction of the phase one, Dudley town centre to Wednesbury route was underway.

However, the extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill was put on hold, with all members committing to finding funding for the extension.

The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension is now referred to as phase two of the Dudley metro plan and members will meet in January to agree options for funding it.

Mr Street outlined three potential funding options:

  • Government funding, which outgoing prime minister Liz Truss had vocally supported.

  • Diverting some funding from other transport projects, a decision which would need to be agreed by the board.

  • If patronage on the metro and the profit it generates increases, this can be reinvested.

Mr Street said: “Let’s be really clear: the funding that was originally granted by government is still there and that, plus some local funding, is sufficient to build the line from Wednesbury to Dudley.

“It is happening and it should open in 2024, our message to the contractor is 'Full steam ahead, the quicker we go the less the thing will cost'.

“Where the challenge exists is the Dudley to Brierley Hill [section].

“Obviously there has been inflation in the cost of building the line, that is not the primary issue.

“The primary issue is that the total project was funded against the fares we were expecting in the future, and more importantly, the profit we were expecting in the future.

“If the profit is likely to be less, we have got less money to invest in the building.

“So there is a change in the funding model, at the same time as the actual construction cost goes up.

“So where we are right now, is we do not have enough money for the full cost of the Dudley to Brierley Hill.

“The board met to review this in July and every leader gave their firm commitment to this being a priority all the way to Brierley Hill and to ask the officers, and more importantly me, to find the cash to do that.

“So, it’s not been ‘axed’ beyond Dudley or anything, there is a firm commitment to do this; we have to find the funding."