Confusion surrounds a £1 billion pot of transport funds pledged for the West Midlands after the Government suggested it was never its intention to restrict the money to urban projects.
West Midlands transport officials are now seeking urgent clarification because major schemes - including the redevelopment of New Street Station and extensions to the current Midland Metro - depend on bids from the pledged investment.
In a bizarre twist, the Department for Transport appeared to distance itself from comments made by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, who said the £1 billion would be made available to schemes in the "conurbation" in 2003.
There is disquiet among passenger transport executive Centro and the seven West Midlands district councils, that Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire will also share the money.
One transport industry source even suggested the Government was using semantics to punish Birmingham City Council's perceived "anti-bus" policies and willingness to ditch long-standing plans for city centre trams in favour of a more expensive underground system.
In recent weeks, Transport Minister Charlotte Atkins attacked the "obstructive" Tory/Lib-Dem-led council and the DfT's chief transport adviser Prof David Begg told The Birmingham Post that the city's transport bosses displayed "1960s thinking" when it came to transport.
The insider said: "There has been a growing fear that the Government would seek to whittle away at the £1 billion pot, especially following policies being pursued in Birmingham such as suspending bus lanes and downgrading bus projects".
Last night, the DfT could only promise to "take into account" Mr Darling's use of the word "conurbation" when considering bids from the wider West Midlands.
In this week's specialist Local Transport Today magazine, a DfT spokesman is quoted saying "someone" in 2003 "used the word conurbation inappropriately".
However, official statements and letters to regional bodies sent in July 2003 all used the word.
A spokesman for Centro said: "Our understanding has always been that the money was to be allocated to the Passenger Transport Authority area ( West Midlands conurbation)."
The DfT has previously announced it intends to set regional transport allocations and last week's Budget proposed the introduction of a new regional body to allocate funds.