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18.11.15

Government commits £97m to Midland Metro Eastside extension

Central government has vowed to earmark an extra £97m for the Metro Eastside extension, subject to a business case, as part of the West Midlands major £1bn devolution package.

The deal, announced yesterday, will inject £36.5m into the region every year for 30 years, a part of which will be focused on its new transport strategy.

But the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will also receive extra Whitehall support to develop a rail delivery plan, including a further Metro extension eastwards from Curzon Street to the HS2 Interchange station (near Birmingham Airport) and westwards to Brierley Hill, between Dudley and Stourbridge.

John Lewis Partnership managing director Andy Street, who chairs the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, said the £97m for the Eastside extension was “secured”, and told the Birmingham Mail that “the government is very supportive of the Metro extensions to Brierley Hill and Interchange. We are talking about the full suite in support of HS2.”

That further extension is not yet confirmed.

But the agreed Digbeth/Eastside extension will support the first part of the HS2 Growth Strategy, since it will see trams running between Bull Street/Corporation Street, via Albert Street and onto the forthcoming HS2 station at Curzon Street. From there, the tram will travel to New Canal Street and Meriden Street into High Street Deritend, stopping at Digbeth Coach station and the Custard Factory and terminating at Adderley Street.

Subject to a successful business case, Centro will receive Whitehall’s stamp to construct and operate the route, meaning the extension line could be open by 2023.

The route for an Eastside extension through the heart of Digbeth was chosen in March of this year following extensive public consultation, with around 74% of people voting for a High Street option rather than an alternative path along Fazeley Street.

The government has also pledged to fund the Curzon Street Enterprise Zone extension, which will incorporate the new HS2 station as part of the area’s regeneration programme.

Commenting on the news, Darra Singh, head of local and public services at Ernst & Young LLP, one of the world’s largest professional services firms, said: “The deal for the Midlands, worth £1.1bn, is the largest devolution finance package handed down to date, and it’s particularly encouraging that additional funds of £97m have been earmarked to further extend the Midlands Metro tramline and to maximise the impact of the HS2 rail link.

“These deals should perhaps be viewed as a starting point on which to build on and it will be interesting to see whether, like Manchester, the region’s leaders go back to government with even more proposals over the short to medium-term.”

As part of the region’s devolution deal, announced yesterday (18 November) as council leaders signed an agreement with the chancellor, a new metro-mayor will take the reins of local transport budgets from 2017.

The mayor, who will sit as combined authority chair, will support the region’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across all constituent councils.

And the West Midlands will also be tasked with supporting other ambitions of the HS2 Growth Strategy and the emerging West Midlands Strategic Transport Plan.

A multi-year settlement for the region’s transport budget will be consolidated at next week’s Spending Review.

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