Top athletes are not the only ones aiming to be in peak condition for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – the region’s transport system is also looking to be fast out the blocks.
Details were unveiled today (Thursday August 23) of a new type of transport called Sprint which will use tram-style vehicles to provide fast, reliable journeys along some of the region’s busiest roads.
Sprint, which runs on road-going wheels rather than tracks, will have seven routes by 2026 but three of those are now being accelerated so they are in place for the Games.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, were joined by Great Britain sprinters Kaie Chambers-Brown (U20) and Cassie-Anne Pemberton (U18) in urging people to have their say and take part in a public consultation on the Sprint plans.
The Mayor said: “Sprint will work in tandem with the new suburban rail lines and Metro tram routes we are building, creating a transport network that can grow our economy, give people cleaner air and squeeze the maximum benefit possible from HS2.
“But Sprint can also help make the Games a success which is why we are accelerating three of the routes. I would urge people to have their say on these plans and help showcase our region to the world and shape our future transport system.”
Sprint is being developed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), in partnership with local councils including Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.
The authorities have now drawn up detailed proposals for the three priority routes which are:
- Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport and Solihull (A45 serving NEC)
- Birmingham City Centre through Sandwell to Walsall (A34 serving Games Village and Alexander Stadium)
- Birmingham City Centre to Sutton Coldfield via Langley
Cllr Ward, who is also WMCA portfolio holder for economic growth, said: “The arrival of Sprint will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for regeneration and inclusive growth in the West Midlands, offering improved access to jobs and opportunities including those provided by HS2, Birmingham’s Big City Plan, and other major employers in the region.
"Sprint will offer an attractive, viable alternative for car drivers and, as we continue to tackle the pressing issue of air pollution, this exciting project will help to significantly reduce the number of cars on our roads, improving air quality in our region."
Sprint will offer passengers a level of service and comfort similar to a tram with off-board ticketing, multiple-door boarding, wheelchair and pushchair access, free wifi, air conditioning and on-board audio visual announcements and travel information.
It will provide fast and dependable journey times using limited stops – around 500m apart – using its own dedicated lane through areas of high congestion. It will also get automatic priority at busy junctions.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “In many ways the Sprint vehicles look and feel like a tram especially in the way the seats are orientated and the doors operate.
“It combines the capacity of a tram system but with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus. It is a proven concept in other European cities and we believe it can play a key role in our plans for the Commonwealth Games and the integrated transport system we are building for the future.”
Details of the plans, which would require some changes to road lanes, junctions, roadside parking and access, will also be available at five public events:
Birmingham to Sutton via Langley Route
Saturday September 1 - 9am-3pm - The Parade (near Aldi) Sutton Coldfield B72 1PL
Thursday September 6 - 1pm-7pm - Scott Arms, Sandwell B42 1TQ
Saturday September 15 - 9am-3pm - Mell Square, Solihull B91 3AZ
Wednesday September 19 - 2pm-7pm - Park Street (near Wilkinson’s) Walsall Town Centre WS1 1LJ
All Three Routes and Hagley Road Phase 1 Advanced Works
Saturday September 22 - 9am-3pm - High Street Birmingham City Centre B4 7SL
The consultation runs until September 28 and people can take part by visiting www.tfwm.org.uk/sprint