Multi-million pound plans to bring Metro through Dudley borough was today hailed a “trailblazer” as the £449m funding for the rail scheme was given the green light. The West Midlands Combined Authority gave the final go-ahead for the cash to finance the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill light rail link.
It is the “final hurdle” for the highly anticipated project, which will link Dudley with Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the national rail network.
Work will start later this year on the scheme which is projected to trigger 2,000 new homes a year, almost one million square feet of prime commercial space and 34,000 permanent jobs.
It 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.
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.
TfWM has started a feasibility study to investigate what mode of transport will best link Brierley Hill to Stourbridge – whether that be rail, light rail, Metro or bus – to further improve connectivity in the borough.
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 is the final hurdle to making this scheme a reality and I am very much looking forward to seeing work start as soon as possible.”
Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and economic investment, added: “The scheme will bring improved connectivity which cannot be overstated. This will give people the opportunity to use a greener form of transport taking people off the roads and out of their cars, making it much more environmentally friendly. It will change the face of public transport forever and create vital links with major cities nearby. We have been talking about this important project for a long time and now we have been able to deliver on our promises.”
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. It will allow people to reach new employment sites – such as Castle Hill, the DY5 Enterprise Zone and Merry Hill, and forecasts predict it could lead to an almost 30% increase in permanent jobs in this part of the Black Country. That’s good news for everyone. I also welcome TfWM’s feasibility study, which will ensure we get the best possible public transport routes to link Brierley Hill to Stourbridge and other areas of the West Midlands.”
Cllr Roger Lawrence, portfolio holder for transport at the WMCA, and leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “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.”
Once up and running there will be 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.