Wednesbury to Brierley Hill West Midlands Metro extension postponed - here’s why the tram plans are cut

West Midlands Combined Authority chair Ian Ward has said cuts are being made to public transport services across the region

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“The truth is, we do not have the money” – Ian Ward has said about the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro extension.

He also gave a general update on West Midlands transport, including news there will likely be more cuts, describing the situation as “a little bit of a grim picture”.

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The Birmingham City Council leader and chair of West Midlands Combined Authority Transport sub committee revealed the news in a Q&A session yesterday (Thursday, October 13).

Mr Ward also spoke of the possibility of further cuts, this time to assisted travel policies which use 20% of Transport for West Midlands total budget.

These policies ensure those with accessibility are enabled to use transport. He said: “I don’t mislead myself that any of those decisions will be easy, they will be very, very tough decisions if we are to take any of them at all.”

A spokesperson from Midland Metro alliance insisted that the scheme between Dudley town centre and Wednesbury is still going ahead and will be delivered in phases by 2024.

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Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) explained that there is presently not enough funding for the second phase, between Dudley and Briereley hill and this has been postponed.

“The WMCA Board has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension. Construction is continuing on the route between Wednesbury and Dudley town centre, which will be ready to open as planned during 2024. This will better connect Dudley and communities along the route to the wider West Midlands. “A combination of factors including a rise in construction and energy costs, at the same time as a reduction in the farebox income as a result of the Covid pandemic, means the extension to Brierley Hill will be completed in a second phase. The WMCA and partners will continue to actively seek funding and develop additional funding mechanisms to allow the construction of this second phase at the earliest opportunity. “The Metro is a vital transport network for the West Midlands, connecting our communities to opportunities across the region and we are excited to deliver a network that will benefit thousands of people.”

West Midlands Metro service are up and runningWest Midlands Metro service are up and running
West Midlands Metro service are up and running

What’s next for public transport in Birmingam?

Dudley councillor Cathryn Bayton chaired the meeting and started by asking Mr Ward: “Whilst the Combined Authority has ambition in lots of areas including transport, if we haven’t got the resources to match the ambition, where do we go with that?”

Ian Ward responded: “I think the answer to that is fairly obvious. We will have to cut our cloth to suit won’t we? The Wednesbury to Brierly Hill metro – there is not funding for.

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“But it has been built into the medium term financial plan – some £4.8m from 2025-26 onwards to support that – but the truth is we do not have the money.

“I think there has been a problem which we all bear some blame for, which goes back a number of years. We have continued to make commitments that cost money on the assumption that things will all remain the same.

“But as we have seen with recent events, things are not remaining the same; we now have an inflation rate of the best part of 10%; we have energy prices rocketing through the roof because of events elsewhere; and we have interest rates going up more than they otherwise would have done because of government action.

“We are in an extraordinary position and at some point we are going to have to recognise the reality of this.”

The West Midlands Metro service opens on Broad StreetThe West Midlands Metro service opens on Broad Street
The West Midlands Metro service opens on Broad Street

Can central government help to fund the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension?

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Cllr Bayton then asked if the government would fund the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension. “I wasn’t aware Liz Truss had made a commitment to that. All I would say is there have been a lot of spending commitments made by the latest Conservative government over recent weeks.

“There was also the statement yesterday at PMQs that there’s to be no public spending cuts to balance out the government’s budget, it’s difficult to see how all of this works.

“Like everybody else I read the newspapers, I read the comments by economists; there doesn’t seem to be many people who believe this is a credible plan.

“I think over the medium term there’s going to have to be a balancing out of the budget so there’s either going to be tax increases, or there’s going to be spending cuts – that’s the real world we live in. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see further U-turns announced by the government.”

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