Digbeth is one of the most vibrant parts of Birmingham. Once a key part of the city’s industrial heart, Digbeth’s old factories have been transformed in recent years. Now, the area is a cultural and creative hub. Add this cultural mix to Digbeth’s deep Irish roots and you have an area which is renowned not only for colour and energy but community and heritage too.
I often urge people to visit the cultural landmarks of the West Midlands, to fully understand the rich diversity of our region, and places like Digbeth, Bournville and the Jewellery Quarter are always high on the list. Now, with the Metro extension going ahead to link the city centre with Digbeth, more and more people will be able to sample its delights.
Improving our region’s transport links is massively important as we make every effort to bring the benefits of economic development to every part of our region. Better transport links are key to bringing the investment in jobs and new homes that we need. The extension of the Metro is a crucial part of the plan for cleaner and greener transport.
I believe the Metro Will help drive the regeneration of the Digbeth community, changes that have been spearheaded by cultural sites such as the Custard Factory. Stephen Knight, creator of the Peaky Blinders, is planning a film studio, complete with a cobbled street and media village in Digbeth too. The plans for the site of the former Irish Centre will bring real change too.
Now the Metro will also bring change - and people! I was delighted to secure £160 million from the Government for the Eastside Metro extension, which will create a 1.7km track from the city centre right into the heart of Digbeth. The scheme includes four additional West Midlands Metro stops, serving the east of Birmingham City Centre.
Crucially, the new extension will link the Metro network to HS2, which means much of the wider region - places like Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell - will all be able to access the new High-Speed rail service. But it will also bring real benefits to Digbeth and its people. First of all, of course, there is the improvement in travel and connectivity that inevitably comes with such a major transport investment.
It will mean more people using the Metro in this area for day-to-day travel, resulting in journey time savings and reduced congestion. It will provide new and improved public transport links for the East of Birmingham City Centre and Digbeth, connecting local people to job and education opportunities. And it will bring people into Digbeth, to enjoy its Irish heritage and cultural offering, boosting business and encouraging new businesses to relocate there.
Everyone was saddened to see this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade cancelled because of the pandemic, as it is by far one of the biggest dates on the region’s calendar. The new Metro link will make it even easier for crowds to join the celebrations, from right across the region.
The Eastside extension is just part of the huge transport plan for the region that I unveiled last year. On the Metro alone, I want to build over 150 miles of new lines and around 380 new stops. By linking the Metro network to HS2, the Digbeth line is a crucial first step in this exciting transport journey for our region.
From their days powering the ‘Workshop of the World’, to their place creating our city’s cultural quarter, the industry and values of Digbeth people have always driven Birmingham forward. With the arrival of the Metro, it will be able to share their heritage and warmth with even more people.