The long-awaited new metro line connecting Dudley, Wolverhampton and Birmingham has finally got the go-ahead after securing the funding needed for construction.
Work is expected to get underway later this year with the project projected to trigger 2,000 new homes a year, almost one million square feet of prime commercial space and 34,000 permanent jobs.
Much-needed cash for the scheme has been approved by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). After originally being predicted to cost £370m, estimates jumped up by £80m to £450m once costing analysis was undertaken but city leaders believe an increase in the number of people paying council tax from the extra new homes that could be built will bring in £580m.
Once up and running, residents will be able to take advantage of up to 17 new stops along the 11 kilometres of track. The new system will also reduce journey times by half compared to travelling by bus.
The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route is being planned, designed and delivered by the Midland Metro Alliance, on behalf of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “We’re investing billions in public transport networks to bring the communities of the West Midlands closer together. The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line will be a true game-changer, bringing huge benefits to this part of the Black Country and acting as a catalyst for new housing, jobs and leisure opportunities.”
The line will also improve connectivity to the DY5 business and innovation enterprise zone at Waterfront in Brierley Hill, as well as linking in with the planned multi-million pound transport interchange in Dudley town centre.
Councillor Qadar Zada, leader of Dudley Council, said: “There’s no doubt this is a trailblazer project which will have a massive impact on the borough, beyond transportation. It will be the catalyst for new homes, commercial opportunities, jobs and much more for this borough. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but the funding makes this scheme a reality and I am very much looking forward to seeing work start in Dudley as soon as possible.”
Attention will now soon turn to other areas of the region with TfWM starting a feasibility study to investigate what mode of transport will best link Brierley Hill to Stourbridge – whether that is rail, light rail, metro or bus.
Roger Lawrence, portfolio holder for transport at the WMCA, and leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, added: “This will be the biggest light rail scheme in the UK when work starts, and is a scheme which has been talked about for a long time now. I am delighted the funding for this scheme has been approved by WMCA so work can get started, and the people of Dudley and the wider Black Country can enjoy better public transport links into the rest of the West Midlands, along with the new visitors and opportunities it will bring to their area.”