A41 Bilston Road traders’ victory on Metro tram track payout
Traders affected by months of roadworks on a major Wolverhampton road will finally receive compensation two years after the project first started.
Businesses on the A41 Bilston Road saw their trade slump while workers replaced the West Midlands Metro tram tracks in June 2017, with campaigners being repeatedly told they would not receive any money.
Traders, along with councillors, put forward their case in a bid for compensation but were rejected due to the work being “maintenance” rather than the laying of a new track.
However, traders are now set to benefit after a compensation package was announced by Wolverhampton Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Rakesh Ladher, secretary of campaign group Bilston Road Action Group, said he was “proud” something would now be done to help businesses.
The 39-year-old, who is also the owner of the Red Lion pub in Bilston Road, said: “We saw a 60 to 70 per cent drop in trade.
"It’s hit the businesses quite hard and it’s affected our morning and lunchtime trade.
“We’ve been fighting for it for the last two years, so hopefully we will get something back out of it.
"It should have been done a lot sooner – maybe some of the businesses who’ve gone under wouldn’t have.
"We got passed on and passed on and everybody said we weren’t entitled to anything. I feel proud something will actually be done now.”
The scheme is aimed at businesses directly fronting Bilston Road between the Royal tram stop and Stow Heath Lane, including Chillington Street and Landport Road. An independent assessor, RSM UK Tax and Accounting Ltd, has been appointed to impartially assess the claims.
Councillor Harman Banger, council cabinet member for city economy and East Park ward councillor, said: “I would like to thank the West Midlands Combined Authority for listening to our concerns and coming up with a package that will come as a very welcome boost to the Bilston Road businesses.”
Businesses need to have been trading for more than a year before the tram construction works started in June 2017 and have an annual turnover of less than £500,000.
Sunil Khanda, company director of Tintcentres.com on Landport Road, off the A41, said: “It affected me massively. There was a massive downturn in business in the peak season, the summer.
"It was like someone flipped a switch off – there was no trade at all. I’m still affected even now.
“People have gone somewhere else and in my trade [window tinting] when people use someone else they stay with them.”
The 40-year-old, who has owned the business for 13 years, said: “We’ve gone through obstacles to get here but I’m very happy they’ve acknowledged that we’ve been financially damaged.
“Now we’ve got to go through the process. There’s still a lot to do, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”
Amo Singh, who is chairman of the Bilston Road Action Group (BRAG) campaign group, said the works had affected his business “massively”.
The 38-year-old, a business partner in Nationwide Electrical and Security wholesalers on Bilston Road, said: “We saw up to 70 per cent of business lost. It’s been a lot slower than I expected it to be and some people have not come back.
"Everybody thinks the road opens and it goes back to normal, and we’re two years in now and it hasn’t. It’s good the road is open and compensation is there.
"A lot of people, members of the public, traders and our local councillors have really fought hard to get where we’ve got to now.
“Hats off to everybody that has put the hard work in for us to get to where we are.”
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden said: “I welcome this compensation package. Business for the traders along the Bilston Road was hit very hard by the prolonged tram replacement works.
"It went on for about six months and some traders went bust during the period. Many others saw sharp falls in takings.”
To check on eligibility, businesses can visit www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/bilstonroadbusinesssupport