The West Midlands Metro (WMM) network is set to be extended in Walsall, Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton thanks to a new wide-ranging plan to help revolutionise transport throughout the region.
The investment will see rail stations opened, new rapid bus services launched, lower fares, more zero-emission vehicles and a very light rail line in Coventry, as well as miles of safe cycle routes created to support the region’s economic growth and its #wm2041 net-zero carbon targets.
On 17 September, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) approved bids to the Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) fund and Bus Service Improvement Plan Fund which could secure investment of up to £2 billion over the next five years.
This also included £280 million for improvements to the existing WMM network and for design and detailed planning work for the next series of extensions:
- Wednesbury to Walsall along the disused railway line
- Wolverhampton city centre to New Cross Hospital
- Hagley Road, Birmingham and Sandwell
- Brierley Hill to Stourbridge
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “We are already putting unprecedented investment into our transport network with projects such as the new Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension, the opening of five new railway stations and the roll-out of West Midlands Cycle Hire earlier this year.
“This new funding will build on that by not only helping us get some projects, such as Aldridge Railway Station, over the finishing line, but setting us well on the road to a real revolution in transport for the West Midlands, delivering the next round of Metro extensions, bus routes and train lines that will help our region grow and prosper.
“This investment will transform the fortunes of communities by better linking people to key locations like New Cross Hospital and by making the switch to public transport and active travel easier and better value for everyone.”
Development of key interchanges, such as the Sutton Coldfield Town Centre Gateway, Dudley Port and redevelopment of Solihull railway station, will forge better links between bus, rail and cycling routes. More rapid and reliable cross-city bus routes, such as a line between West Bromwich and Castle Bromwich, could also be delivered.
Also included in the bid is the innovative Very Light Rail scheme in Coventry city centre which is designed to offer the benefits of trams with lower development costs, and 16 new safe cycle routes on the Starley Network.
Further region-wide schemes to be supported include installation of electric vehicle charging facilities, some of them rapid charging points; and expansion of contactless ticketing and best value fare-capping.
The WMCA Board has also backed a bid for £55 million investment in a fleet of 200 zero-emission hydrogen buses in collaboration with National Express West Midlands.
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, commented: “We have set out an ambitious bid which supports our aims of delivering a green revolution in transport and targets investment in the region’s more deprived and poorly connected communities – as better connections attracts both jobs and supports new housing.
“It is therefore right to make a huge ask of Government to secure the funding necessary to deliver on these plans and give people more reasons to take the tram, bus and train or cycle.”
The WMCA is bidding for a share of a £4.2 billion CRSTS funding pot set aside by Government. A decision on the region’s allocation is expected during the autumn with the funding covering transport investment for five years from April 2022. It is backed with more than £550 million investment from public and private sector sources within the region.
A further bid for Bus Service Improvement Plan funding sets out investment plans over three years, including:
- Lower and simpler fares – with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) offering uniform pricing and seamless ticketing across operators and types of transport.
- Investment in 110km of new bus lanes and priority junctions with more cross-city bus services, Sprint rapid transit routes and other services to improve journey times and punctuality (c£200m).
- Enhanced real-time information for passengers showing where the bus is on the network and provision of accurate fastest-route information.
- Zero-emission bus regional areas (Zebra) is a bid for £55m, which will top up private bus operator investment in a fleet of 200 hydrogen buses and 24 articulated low-floor buses for the new Sprint route.
The City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement includes:
Detailed planning for new Metro lines:
- Wednesbury to Walsall
- Wolverhampton to New Cross Hospital
- Hagley Road
- Refurbishment and upgrade of the original Birmingham to Wolverhampton line
- Build and open Aldridge Station
- Develop business case and detailed plans to reopen Sutton Park line
- Begin planning for a new station at Tettenhall
- Snow Hill Platform 4 development – to support Midlands Rail Hub scheme
- Redevelopment of Solihull railway station
- Sutton Coldfield Gateway – complete development of new rail and bus interchange in the town centre
- 16 new cycle routes proposed to further develop the Starley Network – including extension of the Birmingham A38 cycleway to Longbridge and Kersley to Coventry city centre
- Deliver 1000 electric vehicle charging points and ten ultra-rapid charging stations at key locations for commercial fleets
- Transport links to proposed gigafactory at Coventry
- Coventry Very Light Rail – to see the innovative city centre project through to completion offering the benefit of trams, without large construction costs and timescales
- New park and ride sites
- Road safety measures to reduce serious accidents
- Further roll-out of a contactless and best value fare payment system across the network
- Support for innovation, research and new technology in transport
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