A Birmingham city region would be unsustainable without a first class transport system and a light rail scheme would help boost the case, transport bosses and civic leaders said yesterday.
They were speaking as details of the funding package behind a new Black Country Midland Metro line was revealed.
Westfield, the Australian owners of the Merry Hill development in Dudley, have committed #36.5 million towards the #268 million cost of extending the metro into the area.
It is hoped the 11-kilometre extension will be ready in 2012.
The extension from the existing Line One at Wednesbury into Brierley Hill and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre would cut public transport journey times into the town from Birmingham city centre by 30 minutes.
It currently takes an hour and 50 minutes to travel to Brierley Hill on a bus, whereas the new Metro would run at 12-minute intervals and take just 40 minutes.
David Caunt, leader of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, said the new scheme would support the council's ambitious regeneration plans and would link the town with its West Midland neighbours.
Coun Caunt (Con Sedgley) said: "Without transport improvements the city region will not provide any economic improvements to the people of the region.
"It is absolutely essential that the transport is fit for purpose and catches up with the 21st century.
"This is not just for financial reasons. It is for everything else that comes with the city region. Without transport improvements the city region is a waste of time."
Coun Gary Clarke, chairman of Centro Passenger Transport Authority, said transport had been put at the top of the policy agenda in recent years as the city region idea has developed.
He said major European cities and their regions had grown through improved transport links.
Coun Clarke (Con Walsall Streetly) added: "This is a very important day for the region."
Plans are also being developed to extend the Metro from Snow Hill station through Birmingham and on to the International Convention Centre, Broad Street and Five Ways.