DUDLEY North's MP Marco Longhi has welcomed news of a £12.3million investment which will enable Dudley's ambitious very light rail scheme to get back on track.

The project to bring a Very Light Rail Innovation Centre to Dudley was said to be under threat in June when Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, revealed fears about the scheme progressing due to a funding gap of £13.7million at a “critical stage” of the £22.6million project.

But it should now be full steam ahead for the scheme following a government pledge for most of the necessary cash, with the balance of funding required coming from the Black Country LEP.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi said: “This £12.3million investment enables the VLR scheme to go ahead and it is yet another example of this government, led by PM Boris Johnson, keeping its promises.

"When the Prime Minister came to Dudley, he delivered a vision for the country but more importantly he set out a roadmap for places like Dudley where we have suffered the consequences of jobs lost to the Far East over decades.

“I have often spoken about the forgotten communities in industrial heartlands like Dudley and this investment is evidence of a government backing us. This will bring jobs; it will bring connectivity and opportunities.

"But the additional investment in skills with the Institute of Technology, the new leisure centre, the Metro and the development replacing Cavendish House we can look forward to a very exciting future with opportunities for all.

“We are building, building and building."

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, who wrote to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to say the scheme, which includes plans for a test track and National Innovation Centre at Castlegate, was under threat unless the cash could be found, said he was "delighted" at the news.

He added: "I asked for this to be treated as the highest of priorities by the government and they have come through for us.

"The Very Light Rail Test Track and National Innovation Centre is a key project for our borough.

"It will offer an innovative and exciting opportunity to provide lower cost local rail connectivity, encouraging shift from private vehicles towards public transport.

"It will put Dudley on the national map – and with the money in place, things will now start to move quickly to deliver it."

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, added: "At a difficult time for the West Midlands’ economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, it is great to see the government putting further cash on the table to help aid our recovery.

"In Dudley, Very Light Rail is a critical project that will help offer lower-cost rail connectivity across the West Midlands, helping to both encourage people out of their cars and tackle the climate emergency we are facing. It is great to see the Government getting behind this scheme and helping to push it over the line.

"This announcement is just one part of our much bigger plans to reset, recharge and rebuild the West Midlands economy by investing in the future and retaining current jobs and creating new ones."