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War of words over Brierley Hill to Stourbridge rail plan

By Jamie Brassington | Brierley Hill | Transport | Published:

A row has erupted over mooted plans to connect Brierley Hill and Stourbridge by rail.

Dudley Council leader Qadar Zada claims West Midlands Mayor Andy Street backed a failed £14 million rail project for the borough.

But Mr Street’s office denied this project existed and claimed there was “no money actually available”.

Labour councillor Zada believes Mr Street has “misled” Dudley residents and the money should still be available for future projects.

But he has been told to “stop scoring political points” and instead back the current plans for the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Midlands Metro Line.

A spokesman for Conservative mayor Mr Street said: “The £14m doesn’t exist. Obviously we all wish it did but sadly it doesn’t work like that.

“This project to extend the metro has been in the pipeline for decades and the reason it has taken so long is there has been so many people faffing about.

"This just proves why it has taken so long. Councillor Zada is making things up and just trying to score political points.”

Councillor Zada outlined his concerns in a letter to Mr Street, which he wrote after speaking to West Midlands rail bosses.

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He was told the £14m project was “never viable” and Mr Street is now planning a £100,000 feasibility study into Dudley rail services. Mr Street’s office also deny this.

Councillor Zada wrote: “I am writing to you to express my profound concern regarding the proposed Brierley Hill stations and connectivity with Stourbridge Junction, which you publicly supported in April and was welcomed by all politicians and the local business community.

“I met with Malcolm Holmes, director of the West Midlands Rail Executive, who has now confirmed that this proposal will not take place and the business case that you relied on when you announced your support was not actually viable.

“This, of course, presents a range of further concerns about whether my residents were ill informed, whether the announcement was premature and whether this is a prudent way of doing business moving forward.

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“I understand that the proposal had an allocated sum of £14m provisionally associated and this was identified from the HS2 Connectivity Package.

“I must admit that I find the loss of £14m in exchange for £100,000 quite insulting, and I am not able to accept this as a reasonable solution.”

Dudley South and Conservative MP Mike Wood also denied that there was a project to connect Brierley Hill and Stourbridge by rail.

He called on Councillor Zada to “get on side” and support the mayor rather than looking to cause disruption.

He added: “There was never such a programme in place. It was very much looking at whether this could happen but there was no feasibility.”

However all three politicians agree that the planned Midland Metro Line should be extended from Brierley Hill to Stourbridge.

The line is set for completion by 2023 which will join the current Wolverhampton to Birmingham tram line at Wednesbury.

Mr Wood said the extension of the line would allow more Dudley residents to connect to the national rail network. Stourbridge already has a railway station which runs to Birmingham.

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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