West Midlands Metro

WMCA unveils plans for £2bn investment in region’s transport

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved bids to two government funds which, topped up with local funds, could secure investment of up to £2bn over the next five years for transport in the region.

They have applied for funding from both the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) and Bus Service Improvement Plan funds.

£4.2bn worth of funding being set aside by the government for CRSTS and is only available to Mayoral Combined Authorities.

It is aimed at projects which support inclusive economic growth, provides better connections between places and encourages more people to use sustainable and zero carbon transport.

The plans include £280m towards both improvements to the existing West Midlands Metro network and for the design and detailed planning work for the next series of extensions.

If approved, the network will be extended in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton under a wide-ranging plan to revolutionise transport across the region. 

Further investment would see new railway stations opened, new rapid bus services launched, lower fares, more zero emission vehicles, a very light rail line in Coventry and miles of safe cycling routes created.

The WMCA said this would support the region’s economic growth and its #wm2041 net zero carbon targets. 

Rail projects include the opening of a new railway station at Aldridge, detailed business cases for the Midlands Rail Hub project, as well as the reopening of the Sutton Park line and developing plans for the expansion of Moor Street and Snow Hill stations. 

According to the WMCA, the development of key interchanges, such as Dudley Port and Sutton Coldfield Town Centre Gateway, and the redevelopment of Solihull railway station would forge better links between bus, rail and cycling routes.

More rapid and reliable cross-city bus routes, such as a line between Castle Bromwich and West 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 the installation of electric vehicle charging facilities, some of them rapid charging points, as well as the expansion of contactless ticketing and best value fare capping. 

The complimentary Bus Service Improvement Plan bid includes the development of 110km of new bus priority routes.

This would include bus lanes and junction upgrades to improve the reliability of services, a simplified lower cost fare system across operators, as well as the expansion of the new ‘West Midlands On Demand’ bus service. 

The WMCA Board has also backed a bid for £55m investment into a fleet of 200 zero emission hydrogen buses in collaboration with National Express West Midlands. 

Commenting, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street said:

“We are already putting unprecedented investment in 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 set 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.” 

WMCA’s Portfolio Holder for Transport and Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward added:

“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.” 

A decision on the West Midlands’ allocation is expected during the autumn, with the funding covering transport investment for five years from April 2022.

It is backed by more than £550m worth of investment from public and private sector sources within the region. 

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