Birmingham Eastside extension close to approval

A few weeks ago when we reported on the awarding of the Transport and Works Act Order for the West Midlands Metro Birmingham Eastside extension what was apparent was the complete lack of acknowledgment from Transport for West Midlands that it had happened! But now with local approval looking likely in the next week they have broken cover giving a few more details in the process.

The Eastside extension will run for 1.7km and leave the current city centre line at Bull Street. Four new stops will be constructed at Albert Street, New Canal Street, Meriden Street and High Street Deritend and there will be connections to the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street. In the long-run this line would also be the starting point of the proposed East Birmingham to Solihull extension via Birmingham Airport, Bordesley Green and Chelmsley Wood.

1.2km of the line would be build without overhead wires with trams running on battery power for these sections, as per the first phase of the Westside extension opening last year. It is hoped that the line would open in 2025.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are expected to approve the plan next week after which a full business case will be prepared and presented to the Department for Transport for final, final approval (as is always the way tram lines have to be approved about 100 times before they are actually approved!). A £227 million funding package has been put in place by Transport for West Midlands which would cover the purchase of new trams as well as the construction and extra work to improve Digbeth High Street. The funding has come from central Government, grants and borrowing against future West Midlands Metro profit.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “I am delighted that we are finally in a position to press ahead with the Birmingham Eastside metro extension, pending approval of the WMCA board next week. We have ambitious plans for the Midland Metro right across the West Midlands and this is a key part of that, with work also underway on both the Birmingham Westside and Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extensions. The Eastside Extension will bring with it huge benefits, not least assisting the significant regeneration of Digbeth. On top of this, we expect it will help attract further investment into the West Midlands, create new jobs, and of course further improve transport links across the region. There is inevitably a frustration that the project is estimated to take nearly five years to complete due to the well-publicised HS2 delays, but I am confident that, if the Government gives the go-ahead to the high-speed rail project, we will be able to bring the timeline forward working in collaboration with both the DfT and HS2 Ltd.”

As part of the development of this extension, analysis has shown that for ever £1 invested will generate £3 in economic value for the region through improved journey times, attracting more visitors to the area and supporting new commercial and housing development.

Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA Portfolio Holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This extension will support the regeneration of Digbeth and Smithfield, attracting jobs and new housing to the area as well as offering a direct tram link between the new HS2 station and our existing Snow Hill and New Street stations. It also supports our plans to reduce car use and traffic congestion in Birmingham city centre and improve our air quality while offering high quality public transport alternatives. This is also just the start, in the longer term we are looking to extend the line further and serve deprived communities of east Birmingham with fast and reliable tram line to better connect people to jobs and leisure opportunities across the region.”

It is planned that construction would start later this year with work on the new delta link to the existing line. This will involve the temporary closure of the line between Bull Street and Library in 2021 along with bus diversions.

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