Short cut for Birmingham's metro extension
Plans for a Midland Metro tram extension through Birmingham city centre are back on track – but the route will be less than half the length originally proposed.
Leaders of the seven West Midlands councils have agreed to back a £25 million bid to the Government for part of the cost of extending the existing tram route from its Snow Hill terminus to New Street Station.
But the councils and passenger transport authority Centro have reluctantly accepted that they will not in the forseeable future be able to afford to take the line on from New Street and up Broad Street to Five Ways, as was originally suggested.
The councils are also asking the Government for £35 million to help build a circular tram route around Wolverhampton city centre.
But a planned Black Country metro extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill and Stourbridge, taking in the Merry Hill shopping centre, has been dropped for the time being.
The decision finally puts paid to a £300 million-plus vision for the Snow Hill to Five Ways extension and the Black Country routes.
A bid for Government funding failed after council leaders said they were not prepared to take part in West Midlands congestion charging experiment.
The cost of the Snow Hill to New Street extension is estimated at £60 million, leaving a £35 million shortfall even if the Government grant is approved.
It’s hoped the gap can be plugged by contributions from businesses in Birmingham and by the city council.
Work on the Snow Hill-New Street route could begin in four years, if all of the funding can be secured.
Centro spokeswoman Babs Coombes said: “The extension to the Midland Metro is a regional priority and we’ve just put in a regional bid for funding.
“Everything still has to be approved by central Government.”
Ms Coombes added: “It’s really exciting news. It is going to bring benefits to commuters and we are hoping it is going to take many more cars off the road.
“It will also mean that people will find a lot more flexibility in the service.
“They will be able to hop on a tram as soon as they get off a train at New Street Station instead of making their way to Snow Hill.
“We think this increase in convenience for people will result in a lot more journeys being taken on the service.”
It is estimated that the increases in service will take an estimated 420,000 car journeys off the road each year.
The route through Birmingham will take trams along Corporation Street and Stephenson Street in the city centre.
In Wolverhampton, the line will take a circular route around the city centre linking with the main railway station.