Transport bosses said they were confident a new travel system called Birmingham Sprint would prove so popular that it would eventually be replaced with permanent Metro lines.

The Birmingham Post revealed yesterday that the tram-style buses would hit the streets within five years.

A London Underground-style map, unveiled by city leaders at the International Convention Centre, showed a total of six new routes would be created by linking city suburbs and the Black Country to central Birmingham.

Birmingham Sprint will be served by a fleet of dozens of “rapid transport vehicles” which look like trams but operate without tracks.

Dedicated lanes and traffic signals will mean they can speed past queues of traffic.

It was announced that the first line between Walsall and Five Ways via New Street station would cost £15 million and be open by 2015.

Five others are due to follow, including links to the airport, Edgbaston, Bartley Green and Perry Barr.

Geoff Inskip, chief executive of regional transport body Centro, said: “Our long-term plan is to have a Metro network but we won’t sit back and wait – this is a pre-emptive solution.

“I firmly believe Birmingham Sprint will prove to be so busy that the only solution will be to introduce permanent Metro lines.

“It offers value for money in the short-term and allows us to identify routes without making a huge infrastructure investment.”

Mr Inskip said he was already in talks with operators who were keen to run the services.

The Vision for Movement strategy outlined yesterday is part of the council’s wider Big City Plan and was drawn up in conjunction with Birmingham’s business community.

They said it was crucial to provide faster and more sustainable ways for workers to reach the city.

Gary Taylor, chairman of the Broad Street Business Improvement District, said: “Birmingham Sprint is real, deliverable and high quality.

“They are not buses – the experience will be much more like using a tram with platforms and sliding doors.

“This is the first time the business community and the public sector have been shouting with one voice and it’s a partnership which I believe will mean that Birmingham Sprint is a success.”