A new GBP1.7bn (EUR1.9bn) ‘Transforming Cities Fund’ (TCF) was launched by the UK Government in November, with the news that GBP250m would be allocated to the West Midlands “for better transport”. Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement on 20 November.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street confirmed that the money will be used to extend Midland Metro from Wednesbury, through Dudley town centre, to the ‘DY5’ enterprise zone in Brierley Hill. The 11km (seven-mile) route has 17 planned stops (including four provisional stops) and will largely run along the formation of a disused rail line.
Mr Street said the importance of the extension “is difficult to overstate,” adding that “this has been a long time coming – many decades in fact.
“We now begin looking at the next projects we want to fund, with the extension of the Metro to Eastside to connect with the HS2 station at Curzon and the reopening of the Camp Hill line very much in our sights.”
Once the new line is open, expected for 2023, it is intended that Dudley commuters will be 40 minutes in travel time from the new Curzon Street station.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling visited Nottingham on TCF launch day: “Investment in transport is crucial to a strong and resilient economy. The Transforming Cities Fund will drive productivity and growth in cities where this is most needed, connecting communities and making it quicker and easier for people to get around.”
“We have already seen the impact of better integrated transport links for both passengers and the local economy in cities like Nottingham and Manchester. This new fund will enable more English cities to reap these benefits, helping to deliver the opportunities and ambition of the Industrial Strategy across the country, as well as driving forward the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.”
Just two days after the Midland Metro announcement, funding for replacement of the Tyne & Wear Metro fleet was confirmed in the UK’s annual budget statement on 22 November. The project to replace the current vehicles, which have largely been in service since the system’s opening in 1980, has been granted GBP337m (EUR377m) of finance from the National Productivity Investment Fund. A further GBP25m (EUR28m) is to come from the North East Combined Authority.
It is expected that an invitation to tender will be issued in January, with a contract award in early 2020 and vehicles starting to arrive from late 2021. Delivery of all 84 trains is expected to take two to three years.
As well as announcing the Transforming Cities Fund, the UK Government said it planned to work with industry to see the country’s spending on research and development reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027.