Greener buses scheme set for expansion

Bus scheme driving cleaner air and better facilities for Solihull town centre.

Bus passengers in Solihull can expect cleaner buses and improved facilities if landmark scheme to improve quality gets the go-ahead.

Transport for West Midlands, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, is launching a town centre Advanced Quality Bus Partnership with bus operators. The scheme will manage operation of buses at 33 bus stops in the town centre and drive up air quality through emission standards.

The WMCA approved the scheme at a meeting on Friday and it will now go to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for approval at a meeting on August 18th. If granted, the scheme would come into force in November and be in place for a decade.

The WMCA is also preparing to roll out an AQBP in Wolverhampton in the New Year while developing similar schemes in other parts of the Black Country.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport for the WMCA, said: “This scheme is good news for bus passengers in Solihull and something we are very keen to expand across the rest of the region.

“Not only does it help tackle the hugely important issue of air quality by ensuring a minimum standard on engine emissions, it also ensures a smoother operation of bus services within the zone and provide a better environment for passengers.”

Cllr Bob Sleigh, leader of Solihull Borough Council and deputy mayor of the WMCA, said: “Solihull is part of the biggest urban area outside London and its people need and deserve a high-standard, reliable bus network. I am delighted that this agreement is in place as it will deliver significant improvements to the town centre environment.”

The WMCA is preparing to launch an AQBP in Wolverhampton city centre by 2018.

Work is also underway preparing similar schemes for the Merry Hill shopping centre in Brierley Hill and West Bromwich and Walsall town centres.

The phasing in of the Solihull scheme is in line with the West Midlands Bus Alliance commitment of a minimum of all buses having at least Euro V engine emission standards by 1st January 2020. All main bus stops at the rail station will have a slot-booking system similar to the type of operation undertaken across TfWMs bus stations. This will maximise safety at stops and prevent double parking of buses, providing a better environment for customers.

The scheme will also:

• Protect improved bus facilities in Solihull.
• Introduce enforceable bus stops and stands within the AQPS area.
• Require Solihull Council to enforce bus stands and other Traffic Regulation Orders
• Require operators to provide Real Time Information data feed to improve passenger information
• Improve driving standards and driver training.

The AQPS zone will cover Station Approach, Poplar Road, Station Road, Warwick Road within the town centre, Homer Road, New Road, Lode Lane as far as Solihull Hospital, Blossomfield Road, Monkspath Hall Road, Church Hill Road and Dury Lane.

A key feature of the scheme is that bus operators running within the scheme area will have to take any layover waiting at the railway station bus stands rather than in Station Road and Poplar Road. This is to ensure town centre traffic keeps moving on these roads.

A similar scheme was introduced in Birmingham in July 2012 and is the biggest of its kind in the UK. It covers a multi-million pound investment in bus shelters, way-finding and bus lane enforcement in the city centre and requires all bus operators entering the city centre to improve their quality standards, including exhaust emissions.