Ambitious plans to create a £1.1 billion Metro system across the West Midlands have been launched by the region’s transport body as part of a 15-year blueprint for the region.
One line would link the existing Midlands Metro at Wednesbury with Brierley Hill and also serve the Merry Hill shopping centre at a cost of up to £236 million.
The transport plan also resurrects £419 million plans for the “Five Ws” line that would create a circular route serving Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Willenhall and Walsall before connecting with the existing line at Wednesbury.
A third line included in the plan would link Birmingham Airport with the city centre and also serve the proposed high speed rail terminal and would cost £457 million.
The new lines would rely on securing funding from central government and work could not start until 2016 at the earliest.
But Centro bosses say they are confident that ministers are ready to back new tram routes because it has a track record of delivering jobs.
The Government has already approved funding for an extension of the Metro tramway from Snow Hill to New Street Station.
The Department for Transport’s £81 million commitment towards the scheme has given Centro leaders new hope that it will back plans for the new network.
“We believe that light rail and rapid transit ticks all the boxes in terms of what the Government wants to see in projects,” said Centro leader Coun Angus Adams.
“It’s something we are committed to and something which we feel the Government will back.
“It creates long term sustainable jobs and aids regeneration.
“These aren’t new plans but what we are saying is that we won’t abandon them. I think we will be able to start moving on these by 2026.”
The plans have been on the table for some time but were formally laid out in Centro’s draft local transport plan, which will go out to consultation this week.
The paper sets out priorities for the region between 2011 and 2026.
Most schemes which will be carried out in the next five years have already had funding allocated and will not change.
They include the £600 million revamp of Birmingham’s New Street Station, Selly Oak New Road and the Midlands Metro extension.
The long-term projects, including the Metro extensions, are set out in the second phase of the plans between 2016 and 2026 rely on securing government funding on top of its annual budget which comes mainly from seven metropolitan councils.
As well as the proposed tram lines, Centro also hopes to be able to allocate millions of pounds to improving West Bromwich town centre by creating a link road to open up development sites.
Walsall town centre could also benefit from a travel interchange.
The authority hopes to attract funding from Network Rail for its £337 million project to reopen freight lines which would serve new stations at Castle Bromwich, Kings Heath and Moseley.
The plan also addresses the importance of helping to develop the Government’s £30 billion plan for a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.
Centro claims the line will create 22,000 jobs in the region and would give extra capacity on the West Coast Main Line to allow improvements to local services.
Coun Adams ( Con Norton, Dudley) and Centro’s chief executive Geoff Inskip met with Transport Minister Norman Baker in London this week to discuss how to bid for new revenue streams. They are keen to know more about how the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund will allocate £560 million a year for transport projects. Other changes to funding will mean that public bodies will be able to apply for Tax Incremental Funding which will allow them to repay loans with increased tax revenues generated by investment.
Coun Adams added: “These are our priorities for the next 15 years and we are now asking the public to tell us what it thinks.
“We know what will happen in the next five years because they are the scheme that are already funded.
“It’s important that we continue to plan beyond that date and start to look at new revenue streams.”
A draft copy of Centro’s Local Transport Plan will go out to consultation this week.
* More details of consultation can be found at www.centro.org.uk