Centro bosses jump the gun

March 06, 2009 2:58 PM

Centro, the West Midlands Public Transport Authority, truly seem to be a law unto themselves, and this week the Express & Star reported how they’re planning to use £12million of taxpayers’ cash (£5million from Centro itself and £7million from local councils) to procure land for the Midland Metro extension – even though they’ve still got £258million to raise before any such project can go ahead.

Unfortunately, it seems the Midland Metro idea – no matter how unsuccessful the current Metro line consistently proves to be – will not go away, and Centro are determined to push it through regardless of the fact we’re in a recession and it seems, quite frankly, absurd to be prioritising multi-million pound tramlines in the Black Country.

Councillor Gary Clarke, chairman of Centro, said: “The Metro is essential and we are getting on with it. We won’t always be in this financial position, so it makes sense to get under way now.”

Read: “We’ve got millions of pounds here and we’re pretty keen to blow it, even if it is on a large-scale risky project at a time when money is becoming increasingly scarce for the communities we serve”.

Centro were/are very keen on extending the Metro through Birmingham too, and last year they released artists impressions of how these swanky new trams would look drawing up Broad Street by the ICC.  So what happened to the Birmingham ‘branch’ of the extension? Well it seems that Birmingham City Council saw sense and poured cold water on the plans, but unfortunately even this serious hesitation from a major local council hasn’t deterred Centro’s pluck and enthusiasm for these trams and now they’re excitedly throwing taxpayers’ money around in anticipation of this development. Whether the Midland Metro extension project will ever be realised doesn’t seem to matter as Centro are now planning to resort to compulsory purchase to acquire private land where an agreement couldn’t be reached.

Of the £12million, £2million will be used to purchase a site of a 62 space car park which, we’re reliably informed, can be used by Dudley Port rail passengers if the Metro scheme doesn’t go ahead.  And what about the other £10million of land in these circumstances? Who knows...

The fact that the bosses behind this venture are considering alternative uses for the land they want to procure, suggests that they’re well aware that the Midland Metro might never become a reality. Luckily for taxpayers, they scrapped their idea to have a project director on £100k per year, but that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their favourite hobbyhorse.

Last year the Express & Star reported that commuters were abandoning the existing Metro in droves (which wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s had the misfortune to be quite literally dragged to Wolverhampton on it) which might be one of many reasons why Centro are failing to find willing private business to fund the remaining £258million needed, and it certainly provides good evidence as to why Centro’s pipedream should not be pursued any further at a cost to local taxpayers.

 

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