Boost for West Midlands jobs and economy as Metro extension gets go-ahead

Posted: 21 October 2010 | Centro | No comments yet

Trams are set to return to the streets of Birmingham after the Government approved plans by Centro to extend the Midland Metro…

Trams are set to return to the streets of Birmingham after the Government approved plans by Centro to extend the Midland Metro...

Trams are set to return to the streets of Birmingham after the Government approved plans by transport authority Centro to extend the Midland Metro through the heart of the city.

The exciting project will also include a fleet of new, bigger trams bringing major benefits to Metro in the Black Country by increasing passenger capacity and frequency of service to every six minutes throughout the day.

In announcing the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the Department for Transport’s approval for the £127.1 million scheme which will see the Metro exit Snow Hill Station and glide down Corporation Street before terminating at the redeveloped New Street Station.

The joint project by Centro, the region’s transport authority, the Black Country and Birmingham City councils, is expected to boost the West Midlands economy by £50 million a year and create up to 1,300 sustainable new jobs.

The extension will revolutionise the way people travel to and around the city, giving a fast link between Birmingham’s two major rail stations while delivering more than 3.5 million passengers a year right into the heart of the city’s shopping district.

It will also provide a fast link from New Street Station to the emerging business district at Snow Hill and the unique and historic Jewellery Quarter and serve as a platform for a future rapid transit network that can connect and feed into the city’s forthcoming High Speed Rail terminus.

In welcoming today’s announcement, Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and the Black Country as it puts us on the way towards creating a truly world class public transport system for the West Midlands.

“This Metro extension is exactly what the Government wants to see from transport schemes, underpinning regeneration, boosting the economy and creating jobs.

“We intend to waste no time in pressing ahead with this exciting scheme so we can unlock those jobs and economic benefits as soon as possible. We plan to have the project completed to coincide with the opening of the New Street Gateway project in 2015.”

This afternoon’s approval is seen as an important step forward in the plan to transform public transport in the city centre and propel Birmingham towards its goal of becoming a global city. Work on one of the other key elements, the £600 million Gateway redevelopment of New Street Station, is already well underway.

Work on the Metro extension will coincide and be closely co-ordinated with that on Gateway and phased to cause as minimal disruption as possible.

Infrastructure such as shelters and stops will also be carefully designed to reflect those at Gateway and the proposed new bus interchange facilities for the city centre, another key element in the city centre transport master plan.

The extension will see trams follow a route from the existing Metro terminus at Snow Hill, along a £9 million viaduct already built by developer Ballymore, down Upper Bull Street and Corporation Street and on to Stephenson Street stopping outside a new entrance at New Street Station.

The extension is expected to take around two years to build with work starting on street in 2012. Other parts of the project, such as a major extension to the Metro maintenance depot at Wednesbury, will start sooner.

Councillor Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This is great news for Birmingham and the city region and I warmly welcome what the Chancellor said during the CRS speech.”

Alan Chatham, chairman of Retail Birmingham, the business improvement district which represents retailers in Birmingham city centre, said:“This is great news for the retailers and shoppers in Birmingham.

“It will make travelling to and through the retail area so much easier and more pleasant. It also fits well with Retail Birmingham’s Retail design strategy which is set to physically transform the area into a spectacular shopping environment.”

Councillor Neville Patten, the Leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said he too was delighted at the announcement.

“It is wonderful news, it’s not only good for Birmingham it is also good for the Black Country,” he said.

“We look forward to the extension on our line in Wolverhampton that will follow on from the Birmingham extension. It will open up the Metro to people who wouldn’t otherwise use it and it will open up access to Wolverhampton and its city centre.”

Centro chairman Cllr Angus Adams, added: “Birmingham is the only city of its size in Europe without a rapid transit system even though the economic advantages of having such networks are well proven. Today’s approval will help the West Midlands compete with its European and world rivals and help safeguard our future prosperity.”

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