City centre tram project moves forward in Birmingham

Work to extend the Metro tram system through the streets of Birmingham city centre took a major step forward today after the Government made more than £75 million available for the exciting scheme.

The Government’s confirmation of funding means transport authority Centro can now invite companies to bid for key elements of the project such as supplying a new fleet of trams and the building of a new maintenance depot at Wednesbury. It also means that the extension from Snow Hill Station to a rebuilt New Street Station remains on course for completion by 2015.

The Department for Transport gave the green light after being satisfied that the financial forecasts for the £129 million project were sound.

Centro Chief Executive Geoff Inskip said: “We have been working very closely with the Department for Transport since October in determining the final costs of the schemes and we’re delighted that the Government has approved them.

“It means we can now press on with buying a new fleet of trams for the Metro system and building the maintenance depot. We will be inviting companies to bid for the building of the extension itself next year. This approval keeps us on track to have the Metro extension open to coincide with the completion of the New Street Station Gateway refurbishment.”

The joint project by Centro, the region’s transport authority, the Black Country and Birmingham City councils, is expected to boost the West Midlands economy by £50 million a year and create up to 1,300 sustainable new jobs.

It will provide a fast link between Birmingham’s two major rail stations and deliver more than 3.5 million passengers a year right into the heart of the city’s shopping district.

It will also give a fast link from New Street Station to the emerging business district at Snow Hill and the unique and historic Jewellery Quarter and serve as a platform for a future rapid transit network that can connect and feed into the city’s forthcoming High Speed Rail terminus.

Meanwhile, the fleet of new, bigger trams will bring major benefits to Metro in the Black Country by increasing passenger capacity and frequency of service to every six minutes throughout the day.

The funding announcement by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond also included good news for four other key transport projects in the West Midlands:

  • The £19 million Coventry to Nuneaton Rail Enhancement Scheme (NUCKLE) providing additional rail services and new stations at Ricoh Arena and Bermuda
  • The  £30 million Darlaston Strategic Development Area Scheme providing new and enhanced roads to serve the regeneration of 54 acres of brownfield land.
  • A £23 million scheme to upgrade the Chester Road in Birmingham  including sections of bus lanes and cycling and pedestrian facilities.
  • The £11 million A45 Westbound Bridge scheme involving the replacement of the 19th century bridge carrying the dual carriageway near Birmingham Airport

The schemes, which are all included in the region’s Local Transport Plan, have been moved by the Government into a development pool with decisions on funding for them expected to be made by the end of 2011.

Mr Inskip added: “Over the last few months we have been working with our partners to ensure the business cases for these schemes are robust and we are pleased that the Government has agreed to progress them to the next funding stage

“There is no room for complacency, however, and the schemes are not yet fully funded by Government. We will therefore work hard over the coming months to refine the business cases and put in our best and final offer by the end of the year.”

A fifth, £31 million scheme to carry out major maintenance work on the Tame Valley Viaduct , which carries part of the A38M Aston Expressway, was not granted entry into the development pool. It is hoped the scheme can be assessed further for inclusion in the next round of Government funding after 2015.

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