Wednesbury-Brierley Hill Metro extension 'extremely likely' to be delayed or scrapped

A major Black Country Metro extension is under threat after bosses admitted they did not have the cash to finish the scheme.

Work started earlier this year to lay Metro tracks in Dudley
Work started earlier this year to lay Metro tracks in Dudley

In a new report Dudley Council said there was an "extreme likelihood" that the Wednesbury-Brierley Hill extension would be "delayed or withdrawn".

Bosses said there had been "a significant increase in material and operational costs and difficulties in obtaining additional funding" for the scheme, which was expected to cost £449million when it was approved in 2019.

The Express & Star revealed in July that the 6.8-mile route – which is set to pass through Dudley town centre – was in trouble after costs spiralled to £550m.

The rise led to council chiefs on the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) voting to mothball the second phase of the route between Dudley and Brierley Hill.

The audit and standards committee report to Dudley Council's director of finance said the failure to complete the line would have "huge consequences for the regeneration of the borough".

It comes after Birmingham Council leader Ian Ward recently admitted Dudley Council "does not have the money" to finish the scheme.

Council chiefs and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street have vowed to complete the line, despite a funding shortfall of almost £300m.

They are in the process of exploring a number of potential funding streams which they hope to present to a WMCA board meeting in January.

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley told the Express & Star: "We are absolutely committed to building the Metro extension in full and we are currently working with the Combined Authority on this matter.

"There is quite a bit of money coming through for new transport schemes and there are things we are looking at.

"In particular, there is a report going to the board next month which outlines a potential funding route which hopefully will bridge the gap."

Local leaders were hoping to draw in government funding to complete the scheme after it was backed by Liz Truss during her short time as Prime Minister.

However, in the current financial climate it is understood that ministers are highly unlikely to contribute further to a scheme that has already cost the public purse nearly £200m.

Work on phase one of the route, between Wednesbury and Dudley, is already underway. It is scheduled to open in 2024.

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