Local public transport set for expansion

Transport package bonanza under historic West Midlands devolution agreement.

New tram networks and the development of Sprint rapid transit routes are on their way to the West Midlands in a multi-billion pound funding bonanza.

Transport schemes worth nearly £2 billion are part of an £8 billion package for the region as a result of the signing of the country’s biggest devolution deal to date between the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Government.

The funding will see the delivery over the next ten years of the HS2 Connectivity Package, a programme of schemes that will support the HS2 high speed rail project for which the West Midlands will be at the hub.

These will include Metro links from the HS2 station at Curzon St to Birmingham Airport via Bordesley Green and Chelmsley Wood, and between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill.

The Sprint rapid transit network will also be developed, along with potential rail service enhancements on the West Midlands West Coast Main Line as capacity becomes freed by HS2.

Improvements on other lines will also be made possible, including strengthened connectivity between the East Midlands and the West Midlands as part of the groundbreaking Midlands Connect partnership linking business and local authorities in the two regions.

Councillor Roger Lawrence, chair of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, the body which oversees public transport in the region, said: “This is the biggest devolution deal done to date.

“It gives the West Midlands the powers and the funding to provide a real step change in our transport infrastructure and supports our wider ambitions to grow the economy, provide new jobs, improved skills and quality housing.”

The agreement will see Whitehall make an annual contribution of £40 million for thirty years to support an overall investment package worth £8 billion, which will support the creation of more than half a million jobs.

This has the potential to add £14 billion to the area’s economy as well as the creation of around 100,000 related jobs. Cllr Lawrence added: “This is fantastic news, both for public transport in the West Midlands region but also for freight and other users of the road and rail network. We can put in place schemes to help drive the regional economy forward, tackle pollution and congestion and get people to where they want to go.

“We will be working closely with the Government to look at ways to reduce congestion on the strategic road network and better manage demand across the key routes network to keep people moving. We will have additional powers on critical issues such as bus franchising, integrated ticketing, safety and air quality ensuring that decisions which have impact on local people are made locally.”