Details have been revealed of £2.7 billion worth of public transport projects in the West Midlands following the cancellation of the HS2 northern line.
The completion of the West Midlands Metro tram line to Brierley Hill town centre is among the projects which will now receive full funding, reports the Express & Star.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last week that he was scrapping the high-speed rail line from the West Midlands to Manchester, and diverting the £36 billion saved into transport schemes in the Midlands and North.
Now West Midlands transport chiefs have revealed how some of the funding will be spent.
Transport for West Midlands, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, will received an immediate £100 million investment for existing tram extensions, including the final phase the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro route.
The line was originally due to open in its entirety this year, but rising costs led to the announcement last year that it would be broken down into different stages.
The first phase, from Wednesbury to Dudley town centre, is due to be open next year. Further funding was secured for a second stretch, to the Waterfront business park in Brierley Hill, which will open ‘as soon as possible’. Dudley Council has agreed to fund the third phase, which will continue to the Merry Hill centre. The latest round of funding will now allow the line to continue to the centre of Brierley Hill.
The Midlands Rail Hub, for which £1.75 billion funding has been set aside, will increase capacity for new services and improved journey times on lines linking Birmingham to locations including Bristol, Cardiff, Leicester and Nuneaton. Central to the scheme will be new links allowing more platforms at Moor Street Station. This will unlock further capacity on the Camp Hill Line and allow the opening of new stations on the Sutton Park line.
A further £700 million has been set aside for rail, bus, tram and road projects, as well as infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling.
A further £100 million will be shared across the Midlands and North to expand the use of tap-and-go smart-tickets.
The body will also receive £250 million over the next five years to ensure the stability of the transport network.
These projects come on top of nationwide schemes that will benefit the West Midlands, including investment in roads and the extension of the £2 single bus fare cap.
West Midland council leaders expressed their disappointment at the cancellation of the HS2 northern link during today’s meeting of the combined authority.
But they welcomed the offer from Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street to work with a private sector consortium and colleagues in Greater Manchester to improve transport links to the north of England.
Mr Street said: “The near £3billion worth of transport investment we have secured for the West Midlands is really significant, and will help to turbo-charge our plans to improve public transport in the region and better connect our communities.
“From ensuring the Black Country metro extension goes all the way to Brierley Hill, to more capital sums to invest in safe walking and cycling routes, the Government has made a sizeable investment in the West Midlands.
“And of course this is all on top of Midlands Rail Hub, our complex plan to increase the speed, reliability, and frequency of local rail services – not least to the East Midlands. This is something we have spent more than four years designing and lobbying for, and so I’m delighted to have got this over the line.
But he said none of this would make up for the loss of HS2 to Manchester.
“I have been clear I think is a terrible decision,” he said.
“My view on this will never change.
“What is critical though is that the Prime Minister has personally told me that he will welcome our thinking on improving Birmingham-Manchester links, and I am busy devising the private sector consortium – which will include Andy Burnham and his team in the North – to set about this work.
“I am convinced that we can revive the case for high-speed rail further north for whoever the next Government is.”
Walsall Council leader Councillor Mike Bird, who holds the transport portfolio on the combined authority, said: “We have as a region developed a pipeline of projects to improve our rail, road, bus and cycling networks and develop new ways to make travel easier – including new railway stations, further expansion of the Metro system and more zero-emission rapid bus services – and we can now bring many of those forward following the new funding announced.”