Construction work is underway on the congestion busting Sprint bus route designed to deliver improved journey times and more reliable services linking Walsall, Birmingham and Solihull.
The Sprint bus corridor along the A45 and A34 will feature new and extended bus lanes and give buses priority at junctions to beat the traffic jams which lead to quicker and more dependable journey times, giving bus passengers a better travel experience that allows them to spend less time commuting each day.
Construction work has now started on Small Heath Highway in Birmingham, with work in Walsall, Sandwell and Solihull due to start later in the year.
As well as supporting local construction jobs and apprenticeships as the region recovers from the pandemic the improved bus services will play a part in achieving the #WM2041 ambition to reduce the region’s carbon footprint.
Over 95 enhanced bus shelters, designed specifically to improve both the comfort and safety of bus users, will be introduced along the route, offering easy access to vehicles, reducing the time the bus needs to spend at a stop and allowing for more reliable onward travel to key destinations.
Sprint, Birmingham's first uninterrupted cross-city bus priority route, will be built in stages, with phase 1 set to be ready in time for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. It will link key venues at the NEC, Birmingham city centre and the Alexander Stadium.
A second phase of bus priority measures will then be delivered on the route after the Commonwealth Games, to further improve bus journey times.
The project is part of Transport for West Midlands long term vison for bus service improvements and will set the standard for bus travel of the future by creating one of the greenest and most reliable corridors. Last month it was announced that National Express West Midlands will run a fleet of zero-emission buses, including hydrogen-powered vehicles on the route from May 2022.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Before lockdown we were seeing increases in bus passenger numbers across the region thanks to investment in areas such as contactless payment, simplified fares and live travel information.
“Now with dedicated bus lanes and priority at traffic lights Sprint will offer improved reliability and offer a high quality service on the A45 and A34 which can be a real alternative to the car.
“Sprint is also a key part of our wider transport revolution which is delivering new bus, rail, Metro and cycle schemes which will support our economy as we recover from the pandemic and serve the people of the West Midlands for generations to come.”
The project is being developed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), in collaboration with Walsall, Solihull, Sandwell and Birmingham City Councils.
Funding for the £88m first phase of the project includes contributions of £42 million from the WMCA investment fund and £35 million from the Department for Transport.
Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “Buses are a vital part of day-to-day life for many people across the country, so it’s wonderful to see works are underway to get this scheme up and running, which will speed up bus journeys for millions of people in the Midlands.
“This Government is committed to improving bus services for everyone. Our contribution of £35m to this vital scheme is a real reflection of that commitment, and our National Bus Strategy, which will be published soon, will set out how we will continue to strive to meet the needs of passengers.”
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With population growth and increasing traffic congestion we need to encourage more people to swap their private cars for more sustainable forms of transport.
“We know that buses can be unreliable when stuck in traffic jams and that this is a key issue for some commuters. But with this Sprint corridor our buses will be able to beat the queues and save time on their journeys into our busy city and town centres.
“The zero-emission Sprint buses will also help us improve our air quality and help us meet the climate emergency challenge.”
Contractor Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, which will be working on the A45 part of the route, has started construction on Small Heath Highway. A contractor for the A34 section will be announced soon with a view to work starting in the Spring.
Paul Gott, managing director for Morgan Sindall Infrastructure’s highways business, said: “We’re delighted to continue our collaborative working relationship with TfWM to deliver the A45 section of the Sprint corridor.
“As part of our commitment to being a responsible business, throughout this project, our focus will be on ensuring we deliver social, economic and environmental benefits for the people within the West Midlands.
“In delivering this scheme, we will ensure that the local community has access to employment opportunities as well as offering a number of graduate roles and apprenticeships.”