Development work has started on a £30 million package of bus priority measures to improve reliability and journey times on commuter routes covered by some of the region’s busiest bus services between Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley.
The measures will include new bus lanes, priority junctions and bus gates, with brand new state-of-the-art bus stops offering real time information along a cross-city corridor from Druids Heath to Dudley via Birmingham City Centre.
It will allow buses, including the 50, 82 and 87 routes in Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley – primarily following the A435 and A457 – to cut through traffic congestion and offer passengers more reliable journey times.
Improving bus reliability and services will also contribute to the region’s #WM2041 plan to become carbon-neutral over the next 20 years by making public transport an even more attractive option.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is currently working with partner councils to plan the package of bus priority measures. Public consultation on proposals for Birmingham City Centre has launched this week, and further consultation on the wider measures will take place later in the year.
Construction on some early measures will begin this summer and the entire project will be completed during the second half of 2023.
That will open opportunities for a new cross-city bus route providing better connections to bus, tram and rail services including the new state of the art Dudley bus and metro interchange, due to be opened in 2023.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “This cross-city bus route will enable buses using the Alcester Road and A457 Dudley Road to beat traffic jams and offer commuters a convenient and reliable alternative to the car.
“It will also come on stream around the same time as our Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension and our new Dudley Interchange, transforming public transport for people and businesses living in that part of the Black Country.”
Improving the region’s public transport infrastructure better connects people to jobs and leisure opportunities which is seen as crucial for the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19, as well as helping the region in fight against climate change
The investment is backed by a grant of more than £24m from the Department for Transport, topped up with funding from West Midlands Bus Alliance partners, which includes Birmingham City Council and TfWM.
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “These bus lanes and junction upgrades will improve services for the many thousands of people who use the number 50, 82 and 87 bus routes every day.
“It is also being developed in parallel with the reopening of the Camp Hill rail line stations to transform public transport and better link the people of Moseley, Kings Heath, Stirchley and Druids Heath to the city centre and wider West Midlands region.”
Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “We welcome these improvements, which come on board at the same time as the Metro extension and the new bus interchange in Dudley town centre.
“The net impact of all of this is that it will be easier than ever for people to get to Dudley town centre and into our borough. The increase in footfall that will bring will be massive for our shops and businesses looking to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a game changer.”
Cllr Jackie Taylor, cabinet member for sustainable transport for Sandwell Council, said: “The introduction of highway improvements along this cross-city bus route will not only benefit bus passengers but also other road users and this investment in Sandwell is most welcome.
“It comes at a time when we already have significant investment in transport projects across Sandwell with the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension on its way and the recent announcement of funding for the improvement of Birchley Island to name but a few.
“This will provide better connectivity between the Black Country and Birmingham, including for the residents of Sandwell. This is another great example of how we are working together with partners to provide sustainable transport routes in and around the borough and wider region.”
Photo: National Express West Midlands