PLANNING APPROVAL has been granted for the 1.7km Eastside extension of the West Midlands Metro, linking Birmingham city centre with Digbeth. A final business case was presented to the West Midlands Combined Authority board for approval on 14 February, based on a £227 million funding package with contributions from central Government, grants and borrowing against future profits from the tram network. The extension is expected to open by the end of 2025.

The Secretary of State has made the Transport and Works Act Order enabling the scheme to proceed. The extension will leave the current network between Bull Street and Corporation Street at a new delta junction, proceeding via stops at Albert Street, New Canal Street and Meriden Street to High Street Deritend in Digbeth. The New Canal Street stop would serve the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street.

The funding package covers construction of the line, the purchase of additional trams and extra work to improve Digbeth High Street. 1.2km of the 1.7km route will be without overhead wires, with trams operating through these sections on battery power.

A phased construction programme will start later this year with work on the delta junction with the existing line, requiring a short line closure during 2021. Work at the Digbeth end will start next year, including the wider project to revamp the area, with this work to be finished in time for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The last section to be built will be the link at the HS2 Curzon Street site in 2025, although Transport for West Midlands says it will continue to talk to HS2 about bringing this element forward.

The Eastside extension could form the first part of plans to project the network eastwards, with a 17km street tramway proposed through Solihull to Birmingham Interchange HS2 station and the NEC. This would require separate planning approval from the Secretary of State.