Birmingham could be left without a light rail system until 2020 unless it drops plans for an underground and renews its commitment to a #72 million city centre tram line.
The six other West Midland district councils ? through Centro and the Passenger Transport Authority ? are to press ahead with tram lines in the Black Country if Birmingham does not agree to build the Snow Hill to Five Ways extension by next month.
Further pressure was applied to Birmingham City Council when the Government finally approved the two-mile Midland Metro extension through the city centre yesterday, 18 months after a public inquiry first looked at the scheme.
Transport Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman announced a Transport and Works Act Order for the scheme, effectively granting it planning permission.
Provisional private sector and Government funding has also been secured, pending confirmation later this year.
Rob Donald, director general of Centro which is developing the Midland Metro network, said the Government?s ?positive decision? was a welcome reward for nine years hard work.
?The street-running metro is a key part of a future city-wide tram network to meet the growing needs of Birmingham city centre.
?Centro now hopes the city council will reaffirm its support for this metro extension, enabling us to introduce it along with the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill line approved last year.?
However, city council leader Mike Whitby said: ?The city council, PTA and Centro are now in a position to discuss the street running option and how it links into tunnel proposals currently being investigated. A report on the technical and financial aspects of using tunnels rather than streets at key locations will be completed next month.?
However, any modifications to the now Governmentapproved tram line will require a new Transport and Works Act ? involving public consultation and another public inquiry.
Work first started on the city centre metro extension in 1996 and trams would not run on the line until 2011.
In June 2004, a new Conservative-Lib-Dem council administration declared the street-level tram line would be too commercially disruptive and said it wanted an underground system instead.
Despite being due in May, the city council has still not published the results of a feasibility study into building tunnels under parts of the city centre.
The Birmingham Post has learnt that an initial study by consultants Jacobs came up with a scheme which would cost ?billions? and would not meet Government cost-benefit criteria for funding.
Coun Gary Clarke, chairman of the PTA, will now meet with Coun Whitby to press for Birmingham?s renewed support for the ten-stop tram line.