Work is set to begin on a long-awaited metro scheme in the heart of Birmingham city centre after the Government gave the project the final green light.
The £128 million extension to the Midland Metro from Snow Hill Station through the city centre to New Street Station could create 1,300 new jobs, according to Ministers.
West Midlands transport authority Centro can now forge ahead and sign contracts for the new fleet of trams, a bigger maintenance depot at Wednesbury and for the construction of the city centre extension.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “This scheme will bring trams back to the heart of Birmingham, which is great news for both the city itself and the wider West Midlands.
“It will provide a new, sustainable transport choice for those wishing to reach the city centre’s bustling shopping streets and the emerging business district in Snow Hill.”
Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip said: “We are delighted to get the final go-ahead from Treasury and Ministers.
“Today’s announcement is marvellous news for passengers and represents a further shot in the arm for the Birmingham and Black Country economy.”
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said: “This is great news for the city. By linking up our major railway stations within the city centre we move ever closer to creating a more integrated city.
“It is vital for businesses that Birmingham has a good inter connecting transport system. The Metro has played a big part in the city’s attempts to address this.
“With the development of New Street and a new high-speed rail station located next to Moor Street, the next ten years are going to be transformational for the city, which will cement its position as the beating heart of the UK’s transport network.”
The Department for Transport will provide £75.4 million towards the cost of the scheme, which will deliver a new fleet of trams to run on the extended route.
The first new tram is scheduled to come into service – on the existing line – in February 2014, while the enlarged depot will be available in August 2013 and the city centre extension, with the full new tram fleet, in service from March 2015.