The funding plan for expanding the West Midlands Metro light rail network may have to be rethought if Covid-19 has a long-term impact on ridership levels, Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) has said.
Metro currently connects Wolverhampton with Birmingham but TfWM is planning a big expansion of the network over the next few years. It took Metro operations in-house in 2018 with the express purpose of capturing passenger revenues to plough into funding network extensions. The intention is for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to undertake prudential borrowing, which would be repaid from fare revenues.
Discussing the impact of Covid-19, Mike Waters, TfWM’s director of policy, strategy and innovation, told councillors: “There are potentially challenges for us in terms of how we fund existing and new infrastructure, e.g. Metro extensions.
“The implications at this time are not fully quantifiable due to uncertainties on future demand and the speed of return towards a ‘new normal’.”
Prudential borrowing is planned to provide £139.1m of the £449.5m cost of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension that is due to open in 2023 (LTT 15 Mar 19).
In February, the WMCA announced plans to use prudential borrowing of £56.5m to fill a funding gap in the £227.2m cost of the one-mile Birmingham Eastside Metro extension from the city centre (LTT 07 Feb). Opening of this route is expected in 2025.
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