£250m shortfall for major Metro projects as soaring costs bust budgets

Two of the region's biggest Metro schemes are facing a funding shortfall of up to £250million, transport chiefs have warned.

Track is being installed in Lower Bull Street for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension
Track is being installed in Lower Bull Street for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) says the second phase of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line from Dudley is up to £200million short – with a report on potential funding solutions now delayed until June.

And the Birmingham Eastside extension could see an increase of up to £50m on its current budget of £277m.

Both schemes were initially costed in 2019 and part funded by Department for Transport grants.

The WMCA is desperately trying to rebalance its transport programme in the face of mounting cost pressures, which it mainly puts down to inflation as well as rising energy prices and supply shortages.

Bosses are hopeful that the region's £1.1bn trailblazer devolution deal – set to be announced in Wednesday's Budget – could see the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line fully funded.

They have already announced plans to dip into a Government funding pot to cover a £53m cost hike for four schemes, including the Wednesbury Metro depot expansion and the Darlaston and Willenhall railway stations.

But concerns remain over the two major Metro projects, both of which will improve connectivity across the Black Country and Birmingham and are seen as vital for the region's economy.

Phase two of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line from Dudley has been mothballed since last July when it emerged that the total cost of the scheme had spiralled to £550m – £100m above its original budget.

A plan to announce potential funding solutions next week has now been delayed until June.

A report to the WMCA board, which is chaired by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and is due to sit on March 17, says: "The estimated deficit of £165m to £200m remains outstanding in terms of a funding solution and WMCA continue to assess options."

Meanwhile the report also says the £227m Birmingham Eastside extension is facing rising costs of up to £50m, with bosses admitting the scheme is “unlikely to be delivered within budget”.

It has recommended an extra £38m be released from the current budget "to allow the scheme to continue to be developed and delivered whilst the overall cost pressure detail and solutions are developed".

This includes an extra £2m to open up a temporary stop at Moor Street to offset delays to the opening of the HS2 station at Curzon Street.

The line has four new stops on its 1.7km route from Bull Street to Digbeth and has been under construction since 2021.

According to the report, trams will not stop at Curzon Street until 2027, two years later than planned.

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