The currently unfunded West Midlands Metro extension between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill continues to progress with the next stage of the project now underway. This is seeing utility investigation works take place along the proposed route which will help to confirm the locations of existing services ahead of the construction of the new tram lines.
It is hoped that trams will be running to Brierley Hill by 2023 but although the Transport and Works Act Order for the route has been approved full funding has not yet been allocated. The business case was submitted to the government in June 2017 and it is planned that the recently announced £250 million Transforming Cities Fund will be used to partly fund the extension.
Running for 11km the route will leave the current West Midlands Metro line east of the current depot running mainly on disused railway line to Brierley Hill via Dudley. There are planned to be 17 new stops constructed, park and ride provision and investigations will also be undertaken to see if any sections can be operated without overhead construction. It is also thought that a new depot may be needed to house the extra trams needed for the planned six minute frequency.
Back to now and the utility investigation works are taking place in Dudley Town Centre in Flood Street, King Street, Birmingham Street and Castle Street. The work shouldn’t be too disruptive although some small excavations will be required at times.
Cllr Kieran Casey, Dudley Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Enterprise, commented: “The start of these works along the route is excellent news for the project and shows the progress the scheme is making. People can now see that this much-anticipated extension is moving closer to delivery. This project will provide a significant boost to our local economy, as well as providing benefits to residents across the region by making it easier for them to get to jobs, and the national and international rail network with travel times estimated at being approximately 40 minutes from Dudley Town Centre to Birmingham City Centre.”
Laura Shoaf, Managing Director of Transport for West Midlands, added: “By extending the Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, we will not only help to regenerate this part of the Black Country, but will help to improve transport links in the area and allow people from further afield to travel via public transport to the many great tourist and leisure attractions here, including the Black Country Living Museum, the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust, intu Merry Hill Shopping Centre, and the Dudley Zoological Gardens. The fact that we are at the next stage in the project is good news. When operational, the Metro extension will not only bring fantastic benefits to the Black Country, but will play an important part in creating a transport network that helps bring greater prosperity to the West Midlands.”