Dudley unveils £40m makeover plan to West Midlands Mayor

Dudley will outline plans for a £40m makeover of the town to West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street when he visits the borough today.

The makeover aims to reduce the number of empty shops in the town centre and boost its tourism potential by encouraging more visitors.

A key part of the plan is the extension of the Midland Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.

The town centre has been in a state of almost permanent decline since the opening of the Merry Shopping Centre in the 1980s. Most of the town’s major retailers migrated to the new centre leaving the former bustling market town a shadow of its former self.

The borough is hoping that it will be one of the main winners from the devolution deal which paved the way for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The deal should trigger millions of pounds worth of investment in transport, jobs, training, housing and regeneration.

The extension of the Midland Metro would provide the borough with a direct link from Brierley Hill to Birmingham and the hub of HS2, paving the way for links to job opportunities and investment from outside the area.

The devolution deal also includes money to bring brownfield sites back to use for housing or employment and will pave the way for funding opportunities for new housing, education and wider public service reform.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling signed off a £200m deal earlier this year that should see the extension of the Metro service.

Mr Street, who oversees the transport system in the WMCA area as part of his mayoral responsibilities, together with Laura Shoaf, managing director of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), formally presented the business case for the new seven-mile extension during a visit to the House of Commons.

The new line from Wednesbury to the new DY5 Enterprise Zone at Brierley Hill would see the Metro run through Great Bridge, Horseley Heath, Dudley Port, Dudley town centre, the Waterfront and Merry Hill, before terminating at Brierley Hill town centre.

It is the first of a series of proposed extensions to the route which currently runs from Wolverhampton to Birmingham.

This includes extensions to Wolverhampton interchange and the HS2 terminal at Curzon Street in Birmingham. The Brierley Hill route forms part of longer-term ambitions to link the Black Country to the HS2 network, making Dudley town centre just 40 minutes to the HS2 terminal by tram.

Mr Street said earlier this year it was hard to understate just how important this project was to the Black Country.

“The business case shows that for every pound invested in this project, it will return £2.50 for the local economy,” he said.

“It will align employment, education, health and tourism along the corridor, stimulating investment in the Black Country and enabling the building of 50,000 homes and bringing 170 hectares of brownfield land.

“It will also be important for passengers. It will more than halve journey times from some of the stops along the route into central Birmingham.”