Local transport bosses have saved the West Midlands' busiest rail line from Government cutbacks.

Last year, the Department for Transport asked Central Trains to calculate the savings that would be made if the Cross City Line was cut from six trains an hour to four.

However, Passenger Transport Authority councillors are now expected to agree a deal giving public transport executive Centro the authority to sign a franchise extension deal with Central to run until November 2007.

The package includes continued Government funding for a "turn-upand-go" frequency of services on the line - one of the busiest commuter routes outside the South-east.

During negotiations, it is understood West Midlands officials argued that the DfT was asking the West Midlands to consider road pricing alongside public transport improvements while seeking to cut back on popular rail services.

Ahead of a PTA meeting to discuss the issue next Monday, chairman Coun Gary Clarke (Con Walsall Streetly) welcomed the deal.

"Ever since the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced a shake up of rail franchises, we have been lobbying hard to make sure services in the West Midlands are protected."

The extension to the Central Trains contract - which was agreed last year after slow progress had been made on a new West Midlands franchise to replace the train operator - also protects the rail link between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The reprieve for both lines runs for another 18 months until the new franchise is created.

But transport bosses are determined to maintain them under the new arrangements.