Prime Minister Theresa May was in Birmingham today as news broke of £250m government funding for transport infrastructure in the West Midlands.
The money, from the Transforming Cities Fund, signals the go-ahead for the long-anticipated Midland Metro extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.
Mayor Andy Street today confirmed the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) would use it to extend the tram route from Wednesbury through Dudley town centre to the DY5 Enterprise Zone at Brierley Hill.
An artist’s impression of the metro extension through Dudley
This will link both towns to the rail network for the first time since the 1960s.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead member for transport, said: “This is fantastic news for the Black Country and the wider West Midlands.
“Once complete this extension will provide huge regeneration opportunities and put hundreds of thousands of people within easy reach of HS2 and all the economic opportunities that brings.
“It will align employment, education, health and tourism plans along the route, stimulating investment in the Black Country and creating thousands of jobs and new homes.
“It will also more than halve journey times from some of the stops along the route into central Birmingham.
“Extensions to the Metro are a cornerstone of our goal of ensuring this region has the right transport links in place for the arrival of HS2 in 2026.
“An efficient and fully integrated transport network is fundamental to achieving the combined authority’s ambition to deliver an overall investment package that can unlock £8 billion of funding and create up to half a million jobs by 2030.”
The Mayor said: “The Midland Metro extension to Brierley Hill is the WMCA’s priority transport project and the £250m from government means we can now get underway on a project that is shovel-ready.
“The importance of this extension is difficult to overstate. It will open up sites for housing and regeneration and reconnect Dudley and Brierley Hill to the rail network for the first time in decades.
“Perhaps most importantly, it connects the DY5 Enterprise Zone to the network and supercharges proposals to create thousands of jobs in Brierley Hill.
“This has been a long time coming - many decades in fact - but because of the WMCA presenting a compelling case to Government, we are finally able to start work, subject to board approval.
“We now begin looking at the next projects we want to fund, with the extension of the Metro to Eastside to connect with the HS2 station at Curzon and the reopening of the Camp Hill line very much in our sights.”
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “This is a real game changer for Dudley – the Metro is vital to the town and the borough’s economy.
“It will bring improved transport connectivity and crucially help to deliver major regeneration, housing and employment opportunities across the area including our DY5 Enterprise Zone.
“We are delighted the government and the Prime Minister have backed our bid. It is fantastic news and we now need to kick on and make this happen as soon as possible.”
The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension will run largely along an existing, disused heavy rail corridor.
It will deviate from this corridor to access Dudley town centre, Merry Hill and the terminus at Brierley Hill. The route is 11 kilometres long and includes 17 stops, including four provisional stops.
When the line open commuters in Dudley will be just 40 minutes from the new HS2 station at Curzon Street in Birmingham City Centre.
The Midland Metro is key to the WMCA’s plans to grow the economy and will help bring more jobs and greater prosperity across the region as a whole.