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Hype gives way to hope as Metro tram extensions leap off drawing board

Hype gives way to hope as Metro tram extensions leap off drawing board

🕔23.Jun 2016

Years of hype over the future of the West Midlands metro tram network have given way to hope as long-awaited extension projects finally emerge from the drawing board, writes Paul Dale.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin this week approved an £18 million extension of the Midland Metro route in Wolverhampton following a public inquiry held last summer.

The route will pave the way for a wider £120 million redevelopment of Wolverhampton city centre.

Work on the tram extension will start later this year and is due to be completed by 2019.

The arrival of the West Midlands Combined Authority with devolved powers over transport means that promised Midland Metro tram extensions in Birmingham will also go ahead.

The existing track will be extended from New Street to Centenary Square, while a new route is planned from New Street through Digbeth running to Birmingham Airport and the NEC.

This will deliver a tram line linking Wednesbury and Brierley Hill in the Black Country to Birmingham New Street, Eastside and the airport.

WMCA has been given £36.5 million of Government money per year for 30 years which the authority’s delivery arm Transport for West Midlands will be able to use to borrow against, levering in hundreds of millions of pounds for transport projects.

The Government has also approved a £97 million grant to fund a Metro extension from central Birmingham to Adderley Street.

The Wolverhampton extension will take trams along Pipers Row, stopping directly outside the bus station before continuing on to the railway station which will also be redeveloped as part of the Wolverhampton Interchange Project.

The Metro scheme is being carried out by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council and Neptune Developments.

Not only will the extension improve passenger connections between bus, train and tram services but also support the ongoing redevelopment of land next to the railway station which is expected to see £120 million of investment and 1,400 new jobs.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands lead on transport, said:

Today’s approval is excellent news because the extension can play a key role in unlocking further investment and jobs – not just in Wolverhampton but also other parts of the Black Country.

If we are to succeed in revitalising our city then we must have the right transport infrastructure in place to open up new areas for redevelopment and underpin our long term ambitions.

Cllr Lawrence said the extension would provide improved Metro links to the wider West Midlands including a route through to the proposed high speed rail station and the Broad Street area in Birmingham city centre.

Steve Parry, managing director of Neptune Developments, said:

The announcement is great news for the Wolverhampton Interchange scheme as the Midland Metro extension is the element that will tie the commercial developments and the new bus and railway stations together.

Following a six-week legal challenge period the Transport and Works Act Order will come into force and allow work to start on advanced utility diversions.

This will be followed by works to the Pipers Row car park that in turn will create the space needed to divert the underground pipes and cables buried along the route of the tram extension.

The work is part of the wider Interchange project being funded by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, City of Wolverhampton Council and the WMCA.

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