TRAMS running through Dudley will make "a real difference" to the borough, according to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

He made the observation during a visit to Brierley Hill, where he saw the site for the planned Midland Metro terminus in Cottage Street for the first time.

The long-awaited plans are now firmly on track after the Government gave West Midlands Combined Authority £250million towards the seven-mile extension from Wednesbury.

It will include 17 stops and run largely along an existing, disused heavy rail corridor - deviating to take in Dudley town centre, Cinder Bank, Merry Hill and the terminus in Brierley Hill.

During his visit Mr Grayling, who was joined by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Dudley South MP Mike Wood and Dudley Council leader, Councillor Patrick Harley, was also told of future plans to reopen the mothballed Stourbridge to Brierley Hill rail line to complete the circuit.

He said: "I'm really supportive of this. One of the things I want to see is old rail tracks reopened where they can make a difference and ease congestion in urban areas."

Discussing the Midland Metro plan, he said: "I think this will make a real difference to this area, build better transport connections across the West Midlands and get more people off the roads.

"I'm really pleased that we have got the funding to do this."

Mr Street said the tram extension had been in the pipeline for around 25 years and he was delighted to see progress was finally being made.

"This has happened by people coming together," he said.

"We put a strong case together and secured the cash just before Christmas. It is a wonderful opportunity for Dudley town centre and other parts of the borough to be connected to Birmingham city centre."

He added that work was already under way in Wednesbury to clear the line and said the aim was to see trams up and running in Brierley Hill by 2022, in time for the Commonwealth Games.

Councillor Harley said he hoped the new transport link would bring more people to the borough.

He continued: "With these major tram projects it has been proven that wherever along the route there has been stops, there has been a surge of regeneration with more businesses and an increase in quality housing.

"If you've got access to good public transport then you will get people wanting to come and invest in that area.

"Hopefully there will be an upsurge in Brierley Hill."

Touching on plans to connect Stourbridge to the new network, Conservative MP Mr Wood, said: "It is something I have been doing a lot of work on for two years.

"Three years ago I was told it was impossible but now I'm being told we could make it work.

"We're still trying to get the money for it but it doesn't matter if it's via the tram network or a rail line extension to Brierley Hill."