Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is supporting the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to update its Local Transport Plan (LTP). We have developed a draft Core Strategy that proposes a new vision for travel in the West Midlands where people can thrive without having to drive or own a car.
It sets out key roles for:
- Ride modes – traditional public transport and on-demand passenger services that are critical for connecting neighborhoods so citizens can access opportunities across the region;
- Shared services – transport services that help people access publicly available personal vehicles; and
- Interchanges and mobility hubs – places that provide the interface between neighborhoods and the region through a range of transport services
Together these help us create different 15 minute neighbourhoods – in which a good range of services in our neighbourhoods can be accessed by “walking or wheeling” in a round trip of no more than 15 minutes, within a 45 minute region which allows access to a good range of places across our region for work, leisure and socialising by “ride” modes within a 45 minute trip.
The benefits we are targeting from a better transport system will be achieved by focusing on six ‘Big Moves’ which relate to the avoid, shift, improve framework. Making progress against these will require a sustained effort over 20 years or more.
This Big Move is all about how we will seek to deliver these key parts of our vision for travel and identifies the key issues and challenges which need to be understood and addressed in a way that work for the different places and people of the region.
Fixed public transport
Fixed public transport includes public transport services that run to a fixed timetable, routes and stops.
They include services like buses and bus rapid transit, trains and trams.
On-demand services include a range of driven services available to the public which can be requested on-demand and are not constrained by timetables, specific routes and stops.
They include services like taxis, community transport, and Ring and Ride, and liftsharing.
Shared services are services that provide the public access to personal vehicles that they can drive themselves.
They include services like car clubs and cycle/scooter hire.
|Interchanges and mobility hubs||
Interchanges and mobility hubs are places where people can access public transport, on-demand, and/or shared transport services.
They include places like bus stops/stations, rail stations, or neighbourhood mobility hubs.
For many people and businesses, there isn’t a reliable public transport network that gets people where they need to go, a the time they need to go. The lack of integration between different services and operators makes the system difficult and expensive to use. For some there is a lack of understanding of how to get the best out of the transport system.
The West Midlands has a public transport system that fulfils our goal of being a 45-minute region and connected 15-minute neighbourhoods. All residents can live good lives without needing to own a car.
The series of networks, integrated as one overall system, will be easy to understand, reliable, ticketing is easy and the services are efficient, accessible and comfortable.
Shared services (such as car clubs, bike hire, rideshares etc) are incorporated into the overall system so are seen as complementary to public transport. This enables a ‘go anywhere’ integrated system to function as one entity for users.
Our ambition is to create a high quality and affordable public transport system of integrated networks (including fixed public transport services and demand responsive and shared services) linked by accessible and secure interchanges and promoted and branded as a single system.
Our Core Strategy says we need to:
How our Big Move will contribute to these goals:
The core aim of this Big Move will be to improve the public transport ‘reach’ for the region. Particularly for those medium to longer distance journeys which are more difficult to walk or wheel. This Move needs to work closely with the ‘Growth that helps everyone’ to support our region to enable jobs and leisure activities to be within 45 mins by public transport for all communities.
Accessibility here means a lot more than simply being close to a bus or tram stop, it is also about the safety, affordability, clarity and physical accessibility of the entire network. Our plans and policies for this Move (described overleaf) reflect this wider definition.
We also want to create an attractive public transport experience which enables people to choose to leave their car at home or to decide to reduce the number of cars they own. This requires a public transport network which is reliable and with many journey times that are as quick or quicker than by car. As there is a finite amount of space for transport infrastructure in our region, and building new roads is expensive and environmentally damaging, we will need to dedicate more of our existing road space to sustainable modes, including public transport. If we do not do this then it will be difficult to achieve the public transport system we know our residents want to see, and this in turn will help to reduce traffic overtime as more people choose to use their cars less.
Public transport is one of the easier aspects of our system to move to electric or other zero or ultra-low emission propulsion. There are vehicles already available and some in use in our region now. However, it will take significant public and private investment to transition the whole fleet to zero emission vehicles. It may be possible to incentivise private operators to switch more quickly, by partnership arrangements or restricting access to certain areas for more polluting vehicle types. It will be easier to make the case for investment in zero emission vehicles if we can reverse the long-term decline in public transport patronage, which is what this Big Move is all about.
Key Issues Facing People and Businesses
There often isn’t an option that gets people where they need to go, when they need to go except for the car.
In comparison to people who don’t have access to a car, those that do can access far more and it is estimated that most West Midlands residents could access more than double the job opportunities within 45 minutes of where they live with a car than without a car.
Average am peak bus service speeds of 17 km per hour and limited rail and rapid transit network coverage in some areas mean that many trips are quicker by car. In many areas access to and via public transport (or shared transport) is poor or that it is not an available option. Ultimately this reinforces the sense of perceived and actual convenience of car use and ownership.
The total number of cars and cars per household has been increasing steadily but around 1 in 4 households have no access to a car. This is a key barrier to creating a more inclusive West Midlands and without intervention we will lock in car dependency and the challenges that come with it and more people will continue to be excluded.
The coverage of the public transport network is at risk, worsening accessibility as the availability, suitability and viability of public transport and shared transport services across the region are facing significant challenges.
This is further exacerbated by poor interchanges and a lack of good first/last mile integration across different modes.
Bus patronage is at 80 – 85% of pre-covid levels and with the hike in fuel and cost of living operating costs are at 120% of pre-covid costs. A national shortage of bus drivers and challenges with the availability of train drivers is also exacerbating the challenges.
The current situation is creating pressures to reduce services in the short term and is a particularly pressing issue at present with the ending of Government funding support for bus operators in the West Midlands in March 2023.
Public transport can only be part of the response to this challenge and the role of shared mobility as part of our integrated network offers new opportunities to create a better, more inclusive offer which meets more of our residents needs.
The West Midlands has made progress in developing a consistent brand for the region’s transport system. However, as Project Fuse suggests and TfWM research shows the West Midlands transport network is difficult to understand.
A fragmentation of modes has resulted in a proliferation of single mode/single operator journey planners and apps alongside a number which offer multi-mode/operator apps. This creates confusion for many. This also prevents options to creatively use data to help people build an understanding of their transport choices (the whole picture), because data is captured in silos. As such users are missing the whole picture and preferences based on their needs i.e. fastest, cheapest.
Working out the best options and best value for public transport and shared mobility is difficult. There is significant fragmentation of ticketing and payments. There are 1000s of different ticketing types and jargon for each mode.
The average family spends 8-10% of household budget on transport. It is often cheaper to drive, or even fly than train or bus. However, with the impact of the cost of living crisis, the cost of motoring is also starting to bite and TfWM surveys show that people are increasingly dissatisfied with journeys by car.
The cost of public transport in general and particularly “anywhere to anywhere” trips across the West Midlands using different combinations of rail, metro and bus presents a real challenge for creating options which start to give affordable and understandable options for people to make informed decisions on how and when to travel.
Market research undertaken by TfWM highlights current dissatisfaction with our public transport network. 52% of bus users expressed some dissatisfaction. “Bus service unreliable/ not turning up on time” comprised 78% of all main reasons for this dissatisfaction. 37% of rail users also expressed some dissatisfaction with current rail services. “Train services being unreliable/not on time” comprised 57% of all main reasons for dissatisfaction. For many cost was highlighted as an issue.
Whilst the transport system in the West Midlands is on the whole very safe, there are still issues to be addressed. Importantly a key concern for people when thinking about using public transport is that they feel unsafe or have concerns about anti social behaviour. However, concerns about hygiene and health i.e. people’s concern about exposure to Covid and use of public transport has reduced significantly as an issue for people.
Our research suggests that people’s awareness of shared mobility options available in the West Midlands is good; around 80% of those surveyed said they were aware of them. However, the number using them is far lower with safety being a key issue for many.
The experience as a user of the network can be poor due to bad reliability of services, cancellations and other service issues. The accuracy of real time information displays at stops and stations together with the inadequacy of information and announcements about disruptions is a constant source of frustration and anxiety for many.
When things do go wrong customers have to deal with a range of authorities / providers when requesting information or making complaints. This creates a poor end to end customer experience which we know reinforces people’s decisions not to use it.
The ease, convenience and perhaps perceived lower cost of car use compared to public transport and shared mobility options is a significant issue. Research undertaken for the Green Paper highlighted that people felt that a car would always be better because it offered door to door travel in all weathers and an ability to transport heavy luggage and shopping bags.
Once people have invested in a car or vehicle, they are in essence, incentivised to use it as much as possible. The costs of individual journeys are often unknown/difficult to identify with the additional costs of motoring including fuel, vehicle excise duty and insurance less apparent at the point of use.
There is a perception that the car is the only option for many/most journeys that people undertake. The reality is that 90% of all trips in the region are less than 10 miles and 70% less than 5 miles for which realistic (and in many cases cheaper) alternatives exist or could be created.
Key Issues Facing TfWM and Partners
Lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in massive reductions in public transport use and new ways of working and living. Patronage has steadily returned and reached 80% of pre-Covid levels by July 2022.
The longer term implications of work, health, and lifestyle trends are still not clear. For example the level of working from home for some workers, for some days of the week, is likely to stay at higher levels than pre-covid, but it is difficult to precisely forecast how much of this will be ongoing in 5 and 10 years time and beyond. The pandemic also highlighted inequalities and as such the key aims of the LTP do not change however, so the need for increased public transport use for many different trip purposes still remains. A long term strategy to greatly increase the inclusivity and accessibility of public transport use together with shared mobility modes is therefore still required.
The fragmented nature of responsibility for transport in the West Midlands (and the UK) presents a significant challenge for TfWM and partners in delivering a truly integrated transport network. The ability to plan, manage and operate a coherent network is currently difficult and this results in shortcomings in how easy and accessible the network is and undermines the overall customer experience.
Despite some progress through partnerships and the Bus Alliance there remains an acknowledged lack of accountability and influence over bus services as a result of a deregulated bus network in the West Midlands. This reduces the ability of TfWM and local authorities to plan and operate a sustainable and coherent bus network and to effectively integrate it with other modes and to provide the right type / level of services in areas of low demand
The rail network is heavily directed by Department for Transport. Through devolution and West Midlands Rail Executive the region has secured some additional but limited influence in the planning and specification of local services. Although stations remain the responsibility of train operating companies, WMRE has been able to improve station facilities through the West Midlands Stations Alliance. It is unknown what the implications of the proposed Great British Railways will be on the level of influence on railway services and development of the rail network at the regional level.
This fragmentation has frustrated the region’s ability to develop and articulate and ultimately deliver a clear and coherent plan for an integrated transport network.
The availability of funding to operate services, maintain and ultimately develop the network is a huge area of challenge.
Much uncertainty exists about the levels of funding – revenue and capital that might be available in the future to allow us to support and improve these services.
The current economic context presents a double challenge where increasing costs (fuel, drivers) and reduced demand (people make less journeys to save money) combined will further impact the viability of public transport and shared mobility services, a greater concern for people on low or no incomes or with long term health conditions. The ability of local government to subsidise and support services will also be adversely impacted.
For some years transport funding has been subject to quick turn-around competitive and relatively small funding national funding pots. CRSTS, especially when viewed alongside Active Travel and Bus Service Improvement Plan funding, provides an opportunity to plan funded improvements to the transport system in a more integrated way over a more realistic delivery period. This will also aid resource planning, skills development and retention of key delivery staff for all Local Authorities, as well as alignment with other key policy areas such as housing, environment and skills.
Although this is positive, a key challenge remains whether investment is being targeted at the right types of schemes. Whilst continued investment in elements of the WM network is key including extensions to the sprint and metro, their impacts are generally localised within corridors/areas. The behaviour change required for this LTP requires action which affects / supports a much greater proportion of residents and businesses then has been achieved by previous LTPs. In prioritising and targeting measures it will be increasingly important to demonstrate the overall scale of impact and value for money. Instead of sinking funding into big infrastructure schemes it will be increasingly important to look at very localised measures & increased community engagement to help support behaviour change. This will be further evidence as work progresses on developing Area Strategies.
Fiscal sustainability based on existing powers and expected funding will be key for this LTP to be successful. If there is a need for additional revenue support and capital investment the region will need to explore options which generate additional funding.
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Research for TfWM has compared public transport in the West Midlands to European integrated public transport best practice. This is summarised for key aspects, in the figure below.
Broadly, public transport in the West Midlands performs well against benchmarking for accessible design of infrastructure and services, but underperforms against ten other key themes of integration. These cover areas such as network planning with simple networks of joined up high frequency lines, ticketing provided from one organisation only, umbrella branding and clear branding of different tiers of the system and high quality on-street interchanges. This is alongside more general features such as good personal security, reliability, speed and regular network reviews.
The characteristics of this system achieve high performance against the success factors used to compare current performance against European best practice.
So the West Midlands seeks to achieve the following:
Integrated network planning, all local destinations reachable
Many local and regional destinations are reachable in 45 minutes on high frequency services during the daytime (with transfers if necessary), and at off-peak times (including evenings and weekends) are reachable by good co-ordination of timings for lower frequency services.
One source of ticketing
A single ticket system for boarding all public transport vehicles (including Demand Responsive Transport and new mobility solutions). Ticket enforcement should allow for passengers to board quickly without needing to show tickets to the driver.
Easy to understand network
A public transport network that is inherently easy to understand and use; that is, passengers can negotiate the network easily to reach different destinations.
A public transport brand that is present on all vehicles, stops and stations, information sources, and ticketing.
Easy and reliable transfer
High quality transfer conditions and arrangements (ticketing, timetables, connection guarantee) that allows passengers to have confidence to rely on transferring to other services to make their journeys.
Reliable travel times
Journeys by public transport have reasonable speeds, and are reliable and consistent at all times of day.
Easy to access vehicles
Public transport vehicles are easy to board by all passengers, including mobility impaired passengers, with immediate entry without a need to queue, and passengers can carry baggage easily on and off and within the vehicle.
Accessible and comfortable
Stations and stops are easy to reach, are comfortable with good information, and provide all passengers with easy boarding and alighting of services. Vehicles are comfortable, well equipped (Wi-Fi, real time information and air conditioning) and there are low crowding levels.
Service lines are optimised to limit inefficient overlap of services to maximise overall viability, and application of technology to maximise overall affordability.
Regular public feedback and customer care
Members of the public are given regular opportunities to provide feedback and participate in network evolution.
High levels of passenger safety and security
Passenger safety and security is inherent in all aspects of people’s experience of public transport.
Policies and proposals
Ambition and Approach
The West Midlands seeks an integrated public transport and shared mobility system that plays its full and proper part in achieving a 45 minute region and 15 minute neighbourhoods without the need to use a car.
To achieve this, the West Midlands will seek to achieve a high quality integrated public transport system and complementary shared mobility services.
The series of networks, integrated as one overall system will help us improve performance against these success factors.
This needs to be based on the high level concepts of network design found in European best practice. This is shown in the illustrative figure across:
Based on these concepts, the West Midlands will work to create a truly integrated public transport system for the West Midlands.
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Integrated system diagram for public transport and shared services.
The West Midlands will create a high quality and seamless West Midlands Public Transport System comprised of integrated set of networks (including fixed public transport services and demand responsive services, and shared services) linked by interchanges and managed as one system.
International and Domestic Connectivity
The National Rail network in the West Midlands supports economic growth in the region. It provides quick access into Birmingham and most of the region’s strategic centres. Importantly it links the region to the rest of the UK and other major cities. Local services in the metropolitan area on the National Rail network are an important part of the West Midland’s rapid transit network.
The West Midlands is at the heart of the rail network and is served by an extensive network of inter-urban services – these meet demand for regional trips to nearby cities and areas and long-distance services to destinations such as London, Bristol and the South West, Wales, Nottingham, Derby and the East Midlands, Greater Manchester and the North West, Newcastle and the North East and Scotland including Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In the last few decades demand for rail travel had been increasing rapidly and prior to the start of the pandemic and lockdown measures in March 2020, the number of rail passengers using the West Midlands rail network was at its highest level ever. Whilst rail travel is now approaching 80% of prepandemic levels, the previous core commuter market is now less important due to changing working patterns for many commuters.
Our priorities for national rail connectivity are set out in the West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy and Midlands Connect Strategic Transport Plan – the key priorities for the region are:
HS2 is the most critical part of new rail infrastructure in the Wes Midlands. HS2 Phases 1, 2A and HS2 East: the largest investment in a single national rail infrastructure project for decades.
The new high-speed line will connect two new West Midlands stations with London, Manchester and the East Midlands, with trains continuing on the existing network to North West England, Yorkshire and Scotland. The proposals and phasing for HS2 were revised under the Government’s 2021 Integrated Rail Plan as follows:
- Phase 1 London Euston – West Midlands. Construction underway - opening 2029-33
- Phase 2A West Midlands – Crewe. Funding committed - opening 2030-34
The benefits of HS2 will be wide spread in the region and beyond. The West Midlands Local Connectivity Package, currently being delivered, “plugs-in” the two HS2 stations to the regional rail and metro network and Birmingham and Solihull’s core turn up and go network, SPRINT and core bus lines as well as improvements to support walking, wheeling, cycling and scooting. This ensures wide access to the HS2 services, and the economic development underway in the vicinity of the stations.
Midlands Rail hub (MRH) is a critical and transformational project that is essential to the LTP. It unlocks the national rail network’s capacity bottleneck in central Birmingham, improves access to HS2 and delivers faster and more frequent connections across the West Midlands and beyond. Delivery of MRH, in full, is critical to achieving a number of key national and regional outcomes including much-improved connectivity between Birmingham and South Wales, the South West, Worcestershire and Herefordshire as well as increasing capacity for freight movements across the region.
Working collaboratively with WMRE, Midlands Connect, Network Rail, DfT / Great British Railways and other partners WMCA will develop national rail network connectivity with the capacity, reliability, speed, resilience and quality to support growth in the region including delivery of the Midlands Rail Hub scheme in full together with the Midlands Connect's wider Midlands Engine Rail programme.
WMCA and its partners will work with DfT and HS2 to ensure the aspirations of the West Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy are realized, that the national connectivity benefits to the West Midlands are maximized and ensure that the region is plugged into HS2 by delivering the HS2 connectivity package.
Coaches have an important national role for the West Midlands. The region is served by a network of scheduled coach services which serve a range of destinations across the UK. National Express operate out of Digbeth Coach station in Birmingham but also provide connections to and from Bearwood, Coventry, Dudley, Birmingham Airport, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Megabus also provide serves Birmingham, Birmingham Airport and Coventry.
Coaches can provide greater connectivity than the more limited destinations served by rail - it's particularly important for domestic travel for those without a car covering places rail doesn't go and at a price that's more affordable.
Private hire services include ad-hoc or regular trips to leisure facilities for residents to locations within or beyond the Metropolitan Area; others are aimed at bringing people from outside the Metropolitan Area to facilities in our Area. Companies that offer private hire services that operate within the Metropolitan Area are often, therefore, based outside it – mostly in the surrounding Shire areas.
Coaches are also important for the region’s tourism industry around 2% of the regions visitors arriving by coach at the regions’ key attractions including, leisure and cultural attractions, shopping centres and to attend events. Visitor numbers are growing with visits by coach playing their part in this growth.
Coach set down, pick up and longer term parking is a serious issue for the coach industry. It is a significant issue in centres where demand for kerb side space is at a premium around key destinations and attraction. Birmingham’s Brewery Street coach and lorry park was opened in 2012 and provides longer term parking in Birmingham city centre and has seen sustained increases in use. However, on-street set down and pick up for coaches remains an issue across the region.
The local highway authorities are responsible for finding appropriate locations for visiting coaches to set down and pick up passengers and for coach parking, preferably with facilities for drivers waiting to pick-up their passengers. TfWM manage the Bus Stations, some of which have provision for scheduled coach services. National Express own and manage Birmingham’s Coach Station, in Digbeth, whilst other scheduled services use on-street stops in Birmingham or elsewhere across
WMCA and local authorities will continue to work with operators to ensure that coaches can set down and pick up close to their destinations and that accessible coach parking locations, with appropriate facilities and hours of operation, are provided and well signed.
Local Authorities and TfWM will enable coaches to play their full part in the integrated PT system by ensuring accessible and high quality coach parking and pick-up/set-down points are available at key destinations.
Where coach facilities are provided, they should:
- Be within easy access for passengers to primary destinations
- Be welcoming for passengers
- Have safe and sheltered waiting facilities
- Have adequate information
- Have excellent connections with other public transport
- Be close to short stay parking
- Have convenient access to the primary road network
- Be safe and secure for passengers
- Have driver rest facilities (where appropriate)
Maintaining and improving links to the UK’s ports and airports is vital for the economic success of the West Midlands as the UK’s third highest value exporter by region.
Birmingham Airport is the preferred airport for domestic and international flights to/from the entire Midlands region. Outside of London airports, Birmingham is the third busiest airport in the UK. Before the pandemic, Birmingham Airport was moving 13 million passengers a year with much room for growth of up to 25-30 million passengers using its existing runway. Whilst demand for travel from the airport dropped over the pandemic, demand from June-September in 2022 was back to 83% of what it was for the same period in 2019.
Whilst the continued development of the Airport’s direct connectivity is vital, much of the connectivity benefits derived from our region’s access to Birmingham Airport can be attributed to connections achieved via “hubbing” through major global aviation hubs (e.g. Dublin, Dubai, Amsterdam, Paris, and Frankfurt). Birmingham Airport was consistently assessed by Government’s supporting analysis for their Aviation 2050 Green Paper as the third best connected airport in the UK across a range of different criteria (including overall connectivity, and connectivity to emerging markets and major international cities).
Owing to the level of demand it serves, its air connectivity, its room for growth, and its position at the centre of the UK’s surface transport network, Birmingham Airport is a transport asset of enhanced national interest.
Connectivity available to passengers via Manchester and Heathrow Airports (the two best connected airports in the UK) is also important for our region.
East Midlands Airport is the UK’s busiest airport for dedicated air freight and transports the largest volume of goods between the UK and the EU. The airport is the UK hub for DHL, TNT and UPS, and is the UK's main air hub for Royal Mail. The airport also benefits from 24 hour operations with no slot restrictions. The proximity of East Midlands Airport (generally accessible in under 2hrs from the whole West Midlands metropolitan area by road) is a key asset for West Midlands businesses trading high value goods, in particular to Europe. However, access to other airports that can facilitate air freight to destinations across the world via use of the baggage hold of passenger aircraft is also critical for trading high value goods to a range of global markets.
In addition to improved connectivity available at ports and airports, improved surface access to them is also critical.
Through the full delivery of HS2, wider national rail and road investment plans and the extensive improvements to local transport will be delivered as part of our Local Transport Plan (continuing the progress made through previous Local Transport Plans) enhancing connections to and from Birmingham, Solihull and the wider region. With the benefits HS2 will bring , West Midlands residents will have excellent public transport connectivity to both Birmingham Airport, Manchester Airport and to Heathrow Airport (via interchange at Old Oak Common)
There are also opportunities to improve direct connectivity to Manchester and East Midlands Airports through delivery of HS2, and whilst HS2 may improve journey times to Heathrow through faster connections, there are wider opportunities to provide improved direct connectivity to Heathrow through the Western Rail Link to Heathrow scheme.
TfWM will support Birmingham Airport's role as a key international gateway to the region by improving and promoting sustainable surface access to the Airport through proposals outlined in the Local Transport Plan and the Airport's surface access strategy.
WMCA will support Birmingham Airport to improve air connections available from the Airport and supports its role as a nationally important international gateway.
TfWM will ensure that the region has excellent national and international connectivity for people and goods by working with Midlands Connect and other partners to improve links (particularly by sustainable modes) from the region to major ports and airports.
Regional Public Transport
The West Midlands rail and metro network provides fast, high capacity links between strategic centres, enabling public trips to be made across the conurbation. It also provides links between strategic centres and their inner and outer suburbs and the wider journey to work area.
Bringing together WMRE’s plans for new stations, services and rail infrastructure, and TfWM plans for future Metro investment, will develop this network as the “backbone” of the West Midlands integrated public transport system .
Development of the Regional Rail and Metro Network will be compatible with the statutory land use plans (Local Plans) of the West Midlands and this draft Local Transport Plan will be used in an iterative process to finalise forthcoming revised Local Plans in the West Midlands.
Regional Rail provides links between most of our strategic centres and their inner and outer suburbs and the wider journey to work area. The regional rail network is particularly important for wider access to central Birmingham as well as other key centres including Coventry and Wolverhampton. Rail also provides good links to Birmingham Airport.
A number of key improvements have been delivered in recent years including upgrades to Birmingham New Street, Coventry, Wolverhampton, University and Perry Barr stations. New stations and services will be provided in south Birmingham (Moseley, Kings Heath, Pineapple Road) and in the Walsall to Wolverhampton corridor (Darlaston and Willenhall). New trains have also been introduced on the cross city line and other services e.g. Birmingham to Shrewsbury.
West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) has produced a new draft West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy (RIS). This sets out a thirty year approach for rail services and infrastructure and how the region will work with rail partners through WMRE to deliver new suburban rail stations in suitable locations. These will open up regional connectivity to local areas. Proposed stations and infrastructure improvements supporting this Local Transport Plan are contained in the draft WM Rail Investment Strategy.
A key challenge for the development of regional rail services in the West Midlands is the need to balance demand for local rail capacity with demand through the region for longer distance services. HS2 and the delivery of the Midlands Rail Hub are opportunities that will help to provide a better balance between rail capacity. However, challenges will still remain on key corridors.
Our strategy will need to account for travel behaviours that are changing and how we respond to the triple threat of rising capital and operating costs and falling demand. These factors will impact on the strategic case for improvements of infrastructure and to services.
Delivering rail enhancements will need to be done through collaborative working and the West Midlands will work with rail partners through WMRE to lobby for and deliver improvements. Proposals for a new Great British Railways (GBR), a planned state-owned public body that will oversee rail transport in Great Britain from 2024, present opportunities for the West Midlands to increase its influence on local rail services. The region will explore opportunities through devolution to secure commitments on the role of WMRE in relation to GBR.
The West Midlands currently has one light rail line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. This originally opened in 1999 and has seen steady patronage growth over the last 20 plus years. The region has been investing in improvements to the network and vehicles.
Extensions in Birmingham City Centre to the Library and subsequently Edgbaston Village have been delivered. An extension to Wolverhampton railway station and is planned to be open in early 2023.
New lines are currently being constructed in Birmingham city centre providing a new link to Digbeth via HS2 Curzon Street and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill (WBHE) extension (Phase 1) from Wednesbury to Dudley.
The Metro light rail element of the regional rail and metro network will be enhanced through work with the Midland Metro Alliance to deliver a resilient Metro network, and complete the Wolverhampton city centre and Birmingham Eastside extensions currently in construction.
A further link is proposed for this regional network, to link the strategic centres of Walsall, Dudley and Brierley Hill and the rail network at Stourbridge. The potential for tram-train on this link will be explored further, alongside consideration of other modes for suitable, fast, high capacity provision.
Metro tramway extensions for town and city core turn up and go network high volume, rapid transit corridors are considered in the section below.
TfWM and local authorities will work with partners to ensure that rail-based modes play their full part in the West Midlands integrated public transport system, as set out in our Rapid Transit Priorities and the West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy, including enhancements to capacity and service quality on the regional rail and Metro network, and exploration of new links where there is a strong business case. This includes delivery of the full Midlands Rail Hub scheme and Midlands Connect's wider Midlands Engine Rail programme
As part of the West Midlands Devolution Deal, WMCA will seek Government support for a new rail partnership with Great British Railways, so give greater consideration to the region’s priorities in future decisions on the local network.
Our core “turn up and go” network is comprised of fixed link public transport services that connect our towns and cities with their surrounding suburbs.
Compared to West Midlands Rail and Metro, these services stop more frequently to allow people on and off (meaning it takes a little longer to travel further), use lower capacity vehicles, but offer very high frequencies allowing people to “turn up and go” (i.e. arrive at stops without having to plan for a significant wait for the next service).
Often, corridors on our core “turn up and go” network offer higher frequency service where a number of different services converge along one corridor serving the same destinations along the way. Links on our core “turn up and go” network benefit greatly from having priority measures and segregation from other traffic to ensure there is sufficient capacity for the high number of services and to ensure that service can be reliable and expedient.
The region’s bus network has an indisputable, but often undervalued, role in our transport system. It reaches every corner of our region, providing an essential mobility service to access employment, education, leisure and other key facilities as well as providing integration with other transport.
Bus is the primary mode of public transport for West Midlands residents and are is the modern day workhorse of our public transport system performing a key role in serving low demand areas in the region and for specialised travel demand patterns from socially excluded groups.
As we recover from the Covid pandemic and face up to the challenges of the cost of living crisis and the climate emergency, bus will play a key role in supporting access to jobs, promoting inclusive economic growth and levelling up the region. In the short-term, with revenue support, the bus network is flexible enough to adapt to changing travel patterns and drive the return in travel demand, providing critical connections to jobs, housing and education.
The West Midlands currently has a deregulated bus market and the majority of service kilometres are operated commercially (90.4%) and the rest (9.6%) require public subsidy through the Transport Levy to operate. This was is still the largest commercial bus network in England (outside London).
This presents a number of challenges for providing a sustainable, coherent and integrated network. Through the strong Bus Alliance, we were beginning to achieve increases in bus patronage to address the years of decline (falling by 2% year-on-year in the 10 years) before the pandemic hit in 2019/20. Notwithstanding these positive changes, we have seen changing behaviour patterns (preferences to travel by car), reduction in commuting following the pandemic, increasing cost of bus fares relative to motoring costs, and as a result declining service coverage creating a vicious cycle . Furthermore, the cost of living has also seen an impact in increasing operating costs of services leading to further withdrawals of services. TfWM has also had to reduce the subsidised network further impacting on accessibility and undermining efforts to create an integrated network.
In terms of responding to the challenges buses still offer the most flexible and affordable responses to providing alternatives for many car journeys and without the need for expensive infrastructure. In the West Midlands Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) we have identified the critical challenges in terms of decarbonisation, congestion on a complex network and complicated ticketing. We want to tackle these and other challenges to deliver Better Buses, Better Journeys and Better Fares. Only by doing this will we meet the long term travel demands of passengers and increase patronage.
The Enhanced Partnership Scheme facilitates the achievement of the ambitions of the West Midlands Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). TfWM worked closely with operators and local authorities o create the 2nd Enhanced Partnership (EP) in the country. The EP covers all of the West Midlands metropolitan area and will improve bus services for the region by specifying:
- the type of bus an operator uses
- bus branding, also called a livery
- payment options
- on-board facilities and technology
- journey time performance
- which stops the bus service uses
Nonetheless, challenges will remain and the current crisis around bus funding and the impact on networks may require further intervention by WMCA and local authorities. Through delivery, if the BSIP vision and outcomes cannot be delivered in partnership, franchising is identified as a mechanism to which LTA’s can turn to deliver the BSIP. TfWM is undertaking an assessment of the wider bus service reform options available through the Bus Services Act 2017. This ongoing assessment includes bus franchising options and will detail how the BSIP vision could be pursued and delivered using the 2017 Act.
The West Midlands has a comprehensive bus network with a significant number of services on the core radial routes already operating on a turn up and go level of frequency. Our BSIP sets out a vision for a defined core network of turn up and go services with enhanced frequencies which is easy for passengers to understand and navigate. This core network will be fed by a network of local and supporting services. The core network will build on the delivery of cross city services, to link bus services to all parts of our central areas as well as the surrounding suburbs.
These cross-city and cross-region services will significantly increase the number of people with direct cross-regional links to more places, and improved connection to metro and rail – a key element of creating a 45 minute region. The network will be numbered to remove any duplication of service numbers in local areas to provide greater clarity for passengers.
The bus network has been designed around key principles of guaranteed service levels at different times of day including enhancements during the evenings and Sundays, across different categories of the core network, and the local and supported network. The network will be numbered to remove any duplication of service numbers in local areas to provide greater clarity for passengers.
The core network will be supported with comprehensive bus priority measures, improved waiting facilities, branding, information and integrated ticketing. It is envisaged this investment coupled with the proposed frequency levels will give this core network the best chance to be commercially viable in the medium term.
This will be a critical part of multi-modal corridor plans, to be developed in LTP Local Area Strategies and the Delivery Plan, which deliver improvements to average bus speed and punctuality alongside improvements to walking, wheeling, cycling and scooting.
Proposed core and local network minimum service frequency standards
Mon to Sat
0500 – 0700
every 12 – 15 mins
0700 – 1830
every 8 – 10 mins
1830 – 2330
every 12 – 15 mins
0630 – 0830
every 15 mins
0830 – 1700
every 10 – 12 mins
1700 – 2200
every 15 mins
Mon to Sat
0630 – 0800
every 15 – 30 mins
0800 – 1830
every 10 – 20 mins
1830 – 2300
every 15 – 30 mins
0700 – 0900
every 60 mins
0900 – 1700
every 15 – 30 mins
1700 – 2200
every 60 mins
Work with bus partners to confirm the constituent bus routes in the core ‘turn up and go’ networks, based on the West Midlands Core Bus Network identified in the BSIP and the current Bus Network Review arising from the ending of Government Bus Recovery Grant funding in March 2023.
Through the West Midlands Bus Alliance, TfWM and local authorities will deliver an enhanced bus network that provides affordable, fast and reliable connections that people need for better access to skills, jobs, healthcare, retail and leisure opportunities; aligned with ambitions set out in the Bus Service Improvement Plan.
TfWM and local authorities will work with operators to ensure that Core Bus Network Corridors perform to BSIP 29/30 targets of:
- A 6% increase in average am peak bus speeds, from 16.8 km per hour baseline, ie an increase to 17.8 km per hour by 2029/30– in line with international best practice
- At least a 12% increase in am peak bus punctuality, from 85% of services within 1 minute early and 5 minutes late baseline to at least 95% of services within 1 minute early and 5 minutes late in 2029/30
Most of the West Midlands core turn up and go networks will be provided by core bus routes. There are , however, high volume corridors in these networks where rapid transit provision, over and above core bus, will help the West Midlands meet its five key LTP aims.
Rapid transit is fast, high capacity “fixed link” provision. In the West Midlands types of rapid transit identified as being suitable for the flows and conditions of the West Midlands core turn up and go networks are tram (West Midlands Metro), Sprint Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the emerging technology of Very Light Rail (VLR).
An assessment of high volume corridors has led to an agreed set of West Midlands priority rapid corridors for scheme development, and longer term proposals.
The rapid transit priority corridors are shown in figure on the next page. This map gives an overview of rail , metro and rapid transit in the West Midlands metropolitan area. New rail stations proposed upto 2031 in the WMRE Rail Investment Strategy are shown on the map to show their relationship to new rapid transit corridors.
The priority rapid transit corridors are:
- A38 Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield
- Birmingham – Heartlands Hospital - East Birmingham – Solihull – Birmingham Airport
- Birmingham – Bearwood - Hagley Road – Halesowen
- Walsall – Brierley Hill – Stourbridge, (incorporating Dudley – Brierley Hill)
- Birmingham – Longbridge – Rubery (incorporating a potential Birmingham – Smithfield phase)
- Coventry – Foleshill Corridor
- Hall Green – Solihull – UKC Hub
- Coventry – Gigafactory Corridor
Longer term proposals are:
- Hagley Road – Dudley (A4123 corridor)
- Birmingham – Hall Green
- Wolverhampton – New Cross Hospital
- Wolverhampton – i54
- Coventry – Binley
- Coventry – Eastern Green – Tile Hill
- Coventry – University of Warwick
It must be stressed that other longer term proposals can emerge, so it is important to review this list of longer-term proposals as part of regular LTP reviews over the next decade.
Rapid transit can be delivered in different ways, as appropriate to individual corridors. It can be implemented in phases, or as one complete scheme from existing conditions. It can also be achieved following the initial delivery of core bus priority measures.
In all cases, cycling and walking improvements will be considered as an integral part of any corridor scheme.
TfWM and local authorities will deliver a new network of priority Rapid Transit Lines and develop further rapid transit projects for longer term delivery where there is a clear business case. They wull be prioritised and selected on the based on the following criteria:
1. Strategic fit
2. Levelling up
3. Economic success
4. Feasibility and impact
Sprint is the West Midlands Bus Rapid Transit service.
The first Sprint bus rapid transit route, began operating in 2022, as a cross-city route. Phase 2 will complete this route between Walsall – Birmingham and Solihull and Birmingham Airport.
Phase One has delivered 22% journey time improvements and evening peak improvement of variability (reliability) of 31% on the northern arm (Walsall Road) and 35% on the eastern arm (Coventry Road).
Sprint service standards for vehicles, bus priority, and stops and shelters have been developed with operators and local authorities in an Enhanced Partnership scheme.
Sprint BRT services are seen as being key in particular for intermediate flows where local bus struggles to accommodate passenger flows but where flows are not of a sufficiently high scale to justify investment in tramways.
Coventry City Council and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council are in collaboration with regional partners in the development and deployment of VLR technology.
The VLR Programme is delivering an innovative very light weight mass transport rail solution comprising a state-of-the-art vehicle and innovative track system that is relatively simple and cost-effective to construct. The integrated system is being tested at a new national innovation centre built in Dudley and once proof of concept is achieved, the first route is planned for Coventry, linking Coventry rail station with Pool Meadow Bus Station, and then beyond to University Hospital.
The VLR Programme is delivering an innovative very light weight mass transport rail solution comprising a state-of-the-art vehicle and innovative track system that is relatively simple and cost-effective to construct. The integrated system is being tested at a new national innovation centre built in Dudley. Once proof of concept is achieved, a Coventry city centre link is programmed as the first element of a line to University Hospital. This is the initial line of an overall network for Coventry. Current work is progressing the development of future routes for this network further.
Local Public Transport
The Core network will provide the backbone of the bus network, however, ensuring effective network coverage, so all residents are able to access and use an integrated public transport system, is a vital aspect of public policy in the West Midlands.
TfWM is currently working with consultants to identify potential network designs of secondary bus networks, and how they fit with the core turn up and go networks to enable this access for all residents. This will inform further work with operators and other partners on future bus networks in the West Midlands.
As part of our review of accessibility and access standards for tendered bus services we will need to develop with bus operators the network design of secondary local bus networks which can effectively complement the core ‘turn up and go’ bus network.
There could be a role for on-demand and demand responsive services to support the delivery of the lower frequency, fixed route services as part of this secondary local bus network provision. This will focus on low demand areas, and social inclusion- targeted, bespoke provision. People unable to use conventional public transport are able to use Ring and Ride accessible transport demand responsive services.
TfWM will seek to ensure effective network coverage, so all residents are able to access and use an integrated public transport system
In addition to a core network of high frequency public transport corridors, TfWM will undertake a wider accessibility review to identify opportunities to improve network coverage in areas with poor access to public transport, exploring the potential for additional lower-frequency, fixed route services and/or demand responsive services.
Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services are a type of public transport service. Whereas a regular bus serves a fixed route on a fixed timetable and only stopping at fixed stops, DRT can be more flexible.
Often DRT services involve a smaller vehicle like a minibus that users can hail using an app or by phoning in advance. There are lots of variations on DRT, some follow a semi-fixed route that changes as people place bookings and some might have fixed drop-off and pick-up points. Unlike a taxi/PHV, you can’t exclusively book a DRT service for yourself; you may share your journey with other people in the vehicle (like a bus).
Trials of DRT services for use by the General Public are already underway in the West Midlands through “West Midlands On-Demand” services available in parts of Coventry and Warwickshire.
One of the particular roles DRT may play is in supporting more isolated communities where it is not commercially viable to provide regular bus services.
Ring and Ride is a form of DRT service that has been available for many years in the West Midlands, but it is targeted at people who have difficulties using conventional public transport services.
Ring and Ride is important for people with impaired mobility as it provides a reliable service with experienced and knowledgeable staff who can help its users meet their day to day needs and be included in life in the West Midlands.
Community Transport services also operate in the West Midlands. These are often third sector organisations that help provide services to support the accessibility of other groups that are otherwise unmet. A particular key role that Community Transport services can play is supporting group travel and activities for organisations such as community centres, however, they provide a range of other transport services including running services which connect isolated communities with local services and amenities, and working with other third sector organisations to bring other community support services into the heart of isolated communities.
Over the pandemic, TfWM’s support for Community Transport increased, including supporting the sector to establish a Community Transport Forum (which is represented in our wider Bus Alliance) and helping operators secure funding to maintain services.
TfWM provides subsidy for “Accessible Transport” which mainly supports our commissioned Ring and Ride but also supports wider Community Transport.
Demand Responsive Transport, Ring and Ride, Community Transport and other services such as home to school transport represent a distinct market of transport services serving different communities and with different models (albeit with overlapping/common features). They tend to serve communities whose needs are not adequately met by other services both because of the bespoke needs of their users and a lack of commercial demand for other services. They serve to connect communities directly with the services they require as well as providing connections to other parts of the public transport system for onward journeys.
TfWM will undertake regular reviews of "accessible transport" services, including ring and ride and community transport, to ensure that they meet the needs of communities whilst ensuring value for money. We will continue to seek additional funding to support such services and to trial new services and ways to integrate more flexible services into the mainstream public transport network. Such reviews will also consider social care transport and home to school transport as appropriate.
- Continue to provide subsidies to support “Accessible Transport” services including support for Demand Responsive Transport available for the general public, Ring and Ride, and Community Transport operators, and review these subsidies and conditions from time to time to continue to ensure services are best meeting communities needs and to ensure value for the taxpayer
- Roll out a Ring and Ride/DRT Transformation Programme which includes a pilot scheme for the amalgamating Ring and Ride with that of West Midlands On-Demand.
- Continue to invest in new technology within DRT and increase zonal coverage of the West Midlands On-Demand service.
- Continue to work with the Community Transport sector and their users of group travel to provide ongoing support through TfWMs Community Transport Forum. This will support the securing of funds from third party sources, and to ensure the needs of this sector and its users are accounted for in wider service and infrastructure planning.
- Continue to trial new and innovative forms of Demand Responsive and Accessible Transport services, to understand how they can best meet community needs and how they can best make ongoing efficiencies and integrate* into the wider system of public transport and shared services.
- We will continue to work with local authorities on improving provision for bespoke social needs (such as social care transport and home to school transport) through exploration of dedicated and integrated* DRT models and other interventions (such as travel budgets and travel training).
*An amalgamation of the Ring and Ride service with that of West Midlands On-Demand is being trialled in early 2023. This will help expand the current customer base whilst providing a more efficient and economical fleet. If successful, this could result in the trial being rolled out across wider communities.
Taxis (Hackney Carriages) and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are an important part of our transport network. They fulfil a number of roles for different people in the travelling public.
Taxis and PHVs can provide an effective means of travel particularly helping:
- Those travelling with luggage
- Those travelling in groups
- Those travelling to/from areas of poor public transport connectivity
- Securely helping vulnerable members of the public
- Support those with particular mobility impairments alongside Accessible Transport
Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles is administered by lower tier local authorities across England, including the metropolitan district authorities in the West Midlands. Licensing helps to ensure vehicles and drivers meet standards to ensure consumers receive good service, to keep the public safe and to protect the environment.
Services have innovated significantly over the past two decades with the introduction of on-board card payments and apps for bookings and payments.
TfWM, licensing authorities and taxi operators will collaborate to ensure taxis and PHVs are better integrated into the wider public transport network, providing appropriate drop-off/pick-up facilities at interchanges, considering options for taxi-cards and more consistent licensing and access standards. In particular partners will need to have clear plans to deliver a shift to zero emission vehicle taxis and PHVs.
- Local partners will collaborate to promote Licensing best practice.
- TfWM will consider the role of Taxis & PHVs in the provision of Accessible Transport in the West Midlands, including considering options for taxicards.
- Local partners will ensure transport interchanges and key destinations have appropriate facilities for stands and drop-off/pick-up points for the public.
- Local partners will work together to apply consistent principles for providing access to taxis and PHVs on restricted roads, junctions and lanes (including bus lanes).
Liftsharing encompasses car sharing, carpooling and ride sharing. These are forms of coordination between drivers and passengers who share common or similar routes.
This can be facilitated by either the people themselves or through a third party company. There is opportunity for TfWM to coordinate with liftsharing platforms through our digital mobility services. However, there are security risks associated with liftsharing such as data protection and personal safety. These must be managed before fully integrating liftsharing with TfWM’s digital mobility platforms.
Liftsharing can contribute to decarbonisation of transport as it increases vehicle occupancy and reduces overall journeys made. It is also an important form of transport for people in isolated areas or who need public transport outside of its normal operating hours.
TfWM will support and promote liftsharing to increase vehicle occupancy and improve accessibility to opportunities in the West Midlands.
TfWM will consider the role of liftsharing when producing travel plans for our partner communities and businesses.
TfWM will explore the potential to link liftsharing apps with TfWM’s digital mobility platforms.
Shared Mobility Services
- TfWM and partners will support the development and provision of shared services according to our principles above, specifically including cycle and scooter hire, and car/van clubs.
- TfWM in collaboration with partners will explore how the region can effectively target and support the success of car clubs and other shared mobility services measures by creating the right conditions through the use of a range of supporting policies.
The WMCA has offered a cycle hire scheme since March 2021 and an e scooter hire scheme since September 2020. E bikes were also introduced to the cycle hire scheme in December 2021.
These schemes have been very successful in providing residents with a variety of mobility options and improving connectivity across the local authorities.
They will also be key for 15-minute neighbourhoods and 45-minute regions, providing last mile connections with public transport services.
Cycle and scooter hire schemes greatly benefit lower income groups, as they increase accessibility to active travel and micromobility vehicles. These low income households are also more likely to live in areas with limited public transport access and higher levels of air pollution. Public hire schemes offer greater choice in transport for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Benefits of Public Hire Schemes
- Promotes active travel
- Contributes to modal shift
- Reduces transport emissions and congestion
- E-bikes and scooters can be more inclusive for users
- Gives more people access to cycle and scoot vehicles
- Opportunities to integrate last mile travel with public transport
- Contributes to improving health
- Docking stations and vehicles may contribute to street and pavement clutter, especially with e-scooters being dock-less
- Can require high levels of public subsidy to make them affordable for users
- High levels of vandalism of cycles have been reported
- Risk of collisions with e-scooters is higher due to increased speeds
- Associated cycle and scooting infrastructure, mainly cycle lanes, is required to encourage use
- Needs a wide geographic distribution to benefit most people.
- New vehicle designs being considered to enable scheme to be more inclusive and accessible.
Can and van clubs offer similar services as cycle and scooter public hire, allowing users to access a vehicle without owning one. Vehicles are for short term hire on a pay per trip basis, supporting certain journeys that still require a car. Vans clubs cater more for hire by freight and logistics companies.
These schemes are more flexible and more affordable than traditional car ownership or leasing schemes. They can also deliver emissions reductions as vehicles are often newer and compliant with low-emissions standards. Users also tend to drive fewer miles on their journeys. Much like cycle and scooter hire schemes, this benefits lower income groups and expands their transport choices.
Car and van clubs also support road space reallocation by reducing the dominance of private vehicles on roads and at parking sites. Space is re-provided for walking, wheeling, cycling and scooting, further encouraging modal shift.
Types of Schemes
- Back to Base- vehicle has a designated pick-up and drop-off location
- Single point to point- available cars are dispersed and not required to return to a designated location
- Peer to peer- privately owned vehicles can be hired out to the public
Opportunity for council influence
- Infrastructure- Birmingham City Council has introduced dedicated parking bays for car club vehicles. This reallocates parking space for shared services.
- Low carbon agenda- the CA can promote low or zero emission vehicles in car club schemes supported by council funding. Car clubs can also promote behaviour change and modal shift.
- Integration- Car clubs can be integrated physically at PT interchanges, with the Swift smart-ticketing interface, and with route planners to suggest a combination of modes for journeys.
- Chargepoints- Public charging infrastructure can also be shared with car club vehicles.
- Travel planning – local authorities can help and encourage closed car-clubs to be set up to help particular businesses/organisations manage their fleet requirements
Interchanges are places where people can access transport services and transfer from one mode to another; they are a critical component of our integrated transport system providing connections between services and are gateways to/from places.
From a simple bus stop through to a major public transport hub like Wolverhampton rail station, different interchanges offer access and connections to and between different kinds of service, they may offer different levels of amenity and they may take different physical forms. Whilst some interchanges may be more discrete, such as a bus station, other interchanges may be more “zonal” and cover a wider area; for example there is a wide area within central Birmingham where interchange takes place between rail stations, tram and many streets with key bus stops – the city centre is an interchange.
When we plan our transport system and when we think about how we want to use land, it’s vital to think about the opportunities that interchanges can bring. Networks of services offer more to travellers when there are more opportunities to make connections between them, linking services can boost overall demand for them helping is deliver better levels of service, and we can create better access to economic and social opportunities by intensifying development around interchanges and using the land for a mix of purposes.
The types of transport services and amenities available at interchanges is an important part of what defines their value to citizens. However, there are other critical design factors and features to also consider.
- Interchanges need to be easy for all to navigate through design of the infrastructure and information that helps people navigate them.
- They need to be comfortable and safe places to spend time as citizens navigate them and wait for services.
- As well as accessing public transport and shared services, people might need infrastructure and amenities to support other forms of travel such as storage for personal vehicles.
- They can offer conveniences such as parcel pick-up/drop-off, shops, and places to eat/drink to help make citizens lives easier.
- And interchanges need to be well connected into the places they are serving by infrastructure and information to help them connect into their surrounds, not just to facilitate connections between services.
It is important that as well as making the most of opportunities at major interchanges, we also deliver standards at minor interchanges. This includes the many places across the West Midlands where citizens have to make connections between different bus stops at street level and where it should be safe and easy to do so.
As we move towards our Vision for Travel, the variety of transport services and amenities available to people in different places will change. Most interchanges in neighbourhoods are currently limited to basic bus stops and information, however, there may be more services such as shared services, demand responsive services and public EV charging that we could consolidate in neighbourhood mobility hubs. New services like these may also be integrated into existing key interchanges in towns and cities across the region. It’s important to review provision at interchanges as services change.
TfWM will develop a programme of interchange improvements and develop new mobility hubs based on a thorough audit of existing facilities against new interchange design, amenity and accessibility standards, to ensure a consistent, high quality and safe customer experience at passenger facilities across the region.
- We will develop a strategy for the improvement of public transport interchanges, this will include common design standards for all interchanges and guidance for what design features, services and amenities are suitable for different types of interchange.
- We will develop a programme of interchange improvements based on a gap analysis of known interchanges to bring them up to standard.
- We will explore the case for and design of mobility hubs that co-locate a range of transport services.
- We will work with transport operators and land use planners to make the most of interchange opportunities through service and land use planning.
Mobility hubs are compact public spaces that bring together shared transport services, secure bike storage and travel information.
Mobility hubs have an important relationship with the integrated public transport system, bringing transport services together to create transport interchanges with greater amenity.
Mobility hub development in the West Midlands is based on initial pilots in 2023 for local areas of:
- East Birmingham
- University of Birmingham
A family of mobility hubs will be implemented, with neighbourhood hubs. Interchange hubs and central hubs.
The connection between mobility hubs and cycling and scooting is explored further in the Walk, Wheel, Cycle and Scoot Big Move.
A number of services will be provided at mobility hubs including car club provision, West Midlands Cycle Hire, e-scooter hire, secure cycle storage and a parcel locker.
Interchange hubs are the key interfaces with the regional rail and metro network and town and city core turn up and go networks. These will provide focus points where several alternatives to private car use are on offer in one sensible location. They are therefore an important component in the development of an integrated public transport system for the West Midlands.
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Park and ride facilities allow people to access rail and rapid transit by car by providing parking at stations and stops.
There are around 13,000 car parking spaces provided across the area at dedicated park and ride facilities. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) provides approximately 9,000 of these spaces with the majority currently being provided at no cost to users.
Aims, policies and principles for park and ride were agreed by WMCA in 2019 and these remain valid.
Ultimately, as the coverage of rail and rapid transit services improves in the West Midlands and as cycling and scooting facilities improve, fewer residents will need to drive to their nearest station/stop as they will be easier to access by other means.
However, in the interim there is a role for targeted park and ride to play in helping residents access the rail and rapid transit network as part of an integrated transport system. Even with a fully developed rail and rapid transit network there will be an on-going role for park and ride near to the edges of the built up area to intercept inbound travellers.
TfWM will improve park and ride provision at priority locations. We will continue to govern park and ride according to the approach outlined in “Park & Ride Policies and Principles - Towards a Strategy”
The policies below are taken from WMCA’s Park & Ride Policies and Principles - Towards a Strategy, which contains additional guidance on developing park and ride and applying charging and booking at sites.
Users of West Midlands transport services are highly valued and TfWM needs to demonstrate a duty of care to our customers. This ranges from accessibly designed services and ticketing systems, to accurate real time information and security measures.
It is primarily important to provide a base level of service, which means the transport system is at least reliable and gets customers to their destinations safely and in a timely manner. Many of the other concepts explored in this section of the LTP, such as accessibility, easy interchanges and smart ticketing, also contribute to a base level of transport service.
If there are any disruptions to a service or plans for improvement, customers must be provided accurate and up-to-date information so that they can still utilise the transport system to its fullest.
TfWM needs to understand users’ experience and perception of the West Midlands transport system. This can be done through monitoring:
- Customer care- The Combined Authority’s statutory duty to provide public services translates into customer care. Transport users should feel valued and given a high standard of service.
- Customer service- TfWM commits to providing high quality customer service for those who interact with the transport authority. This will be done through improved training for public-facing staff, improving affordability, and providing accessible services.
- Experience- User experience is determined not only by the quality of transport services, but also the staff members people interact with. Accurate service information, easy-to-use ticketing methods, as well as clean, well-maintained stations and vehicles are key to the experience of public transport.
- Feedback- TfWM commits to listening to user feedback to improve services and user experience. Responses should be timely and courteous, especially when addressing customer complaints.
Positive experiences and perceptions of public transport contribute to behaviour change, as people are less likely to use a service if the experience is unpleasant or unsafe. Private vehicles offer a high level of privacy and flexibility, so public transport needs to improve its customer experiences to offer a viable alternative.
TfWM will work with operators to establish more consistent and high quality customer experience standards, for all parts of the journey, including travel information and payment, first mile/last mile, waiting facilities, and customer service from staff. Regular customer feedback will be used to identify customer painpoints and potential improvements.
Customer service will be improved across the West Midlands transport system by:
- Committing to a high standard of customer service
- Providing training for staff, including bus drivers
- Committing to a consistent level of service across the transport system. Transport operators will be engaged to develop this level of service.
- Exploring new technologies and platforms that can improve customer service, transport services and capture customer feedback.
- Engaging with users to gather feedback and understand shortcomings to help improve our approaches.
Feeling safe, and being safe, whilst using public transport, is a fundamental requirement of the system. This requires improvements to the walking environments to and from stops and stations. This is alongside improvements to the look and feel of some older stops and shelters, the availability of real time information, the conditions inside vehicles and the behaviour of other passengers. Increased use and more “open” types of vehicle design, such as tram and articulated bus design could help with perceptions of personal security and will be explored with the transport operators.
Public awareness is also a key part to improving safety. Campaigns should not only focus on personal awareness of surroundings and reporting anti-social behaviour, but also the positive perception of safety on public transport.
Through devolution the region is asking for more powers to enforce bus byelaws. Currently Transport Safety Officers and the Safer Travel Team of WM police can issue fixed penalty notices, obtain personal details and proactively deal with nuisance behaviour that occurs on public transport property, but not on bus vehicles. There are still significant safety issues and perceptions on buses themselves, so it’s important to allow for wider enforcement of byelaws.
Public Transport can also be planned in a way that decreases wait time at stations and provides users with more accurate service information, contributing to a more positive perception of PT. New development and regeneration can also help to create safer, more secure places with improved lighting and by creating natural surveillance. This will be picked up in the Transport in new developments guidance.
Security also contributes to public transport’s integration with active travel and micromobility. Cyclists and scooter users require secure parking facilities, so that these vehicles can be confidently used for last mile connections and interchanges.
A four-year Safer Travel Plan (2022) sets out how the region's police and transport bosses will work together to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on public transport. TfWM have also developed national guidance with DfT on tackling violence against women and girls on transport. These form the basis of our safety and security policies.
TfWM, local authorities and partners will improve the actual and perceived personal security of public transport use, making improvements to the walking, waiting, interchange, and in-vehicle elements of public transport trips.
TfWM will work with local law enforcement and transport operators to improve safety and security through crime prevention measures, such as:
- Greater CCTV coverage of stations and stops
- Improved lighting at stops, stations and along nearby paths
- Secure scooter and cycle parking facilities
- Timetabling measures and real time information to reduce the wait times at stops and stations
Transport operators and law enforcement will also be engaged to produce and distribute communications around personal safety and security on public transport.
Accessible means that all customers will be able to utilise transport infrastructure and services regardless of age, mobility, gender or other vulnerable characteristic. Accessibility is becoming more important as 1.4m people in the region are disabled and the elderly population in the UK and WM increases. It is also vital for the public transport system to be inclusive, so that everyone can have access to work, education and leisure opportunities.
TfWM will work with partners to ensure that accessible design & services are is deployed throughout all elements of the integrated public transport system. This covers the design of infrastructure, services and information provision and will need to be in accord with latest national guidance and standards.
TfWM will also reflect the WMCAs adopted Social Model of Disability through ensuring disabled people’s priorities are at the heart of all policies and practices , helping to overcome any environmental, physical or attitudinal barriers they may face. This will include the co-production of all groups who use transport services, through ensuring they are consulted upon and are involved from the start to the end of any intervention or policy which may affect them.
The West Midlands will ensure that accessible design is deployed throughout all elements of the integrated public transport system by applying design standards based on the Equality Act 2010. TfWM will work towards a barrier-free transport system, in both services and infrastructure across the network.
TfWM will work with community partners to identify barriers within the transport system, understand the needs of vulnerable groups in the region and provide information on accessible transport measures. Partners will also help TfWM develop accessibility training for drivers, conductors and station attendants.
There are a variety of different transport user groups that could be considered as vulnerable and in need of accessibility measures. It is important we acknowledge intersectionality, with people often having multiple needs which may include:
|Disabled and long-term health conditions||People with disabilities and long-term health conditions are disproportionately impacted by poorly adapted public transport facilities and infrastructure, by the lack of travel assistance available to them, by poor conditions for active travel, by the costs of using transport, by anti-social behaviour and discrimination and through the fragmentation of different modes and operators. Those with hidden disabilities are further not always considered through the lack of quiet rooms, being able to access audio-visual alerts or through limited access to up-to-date travel information and re-routing when sudden changes to the network occur. This group may also feel more prone to attitudinal barriers through not always been treated with respect and dignity by other fellow passengers.|
|Age||Younger people are often impacted through transitioning from full time education into full or part time work. This reflects the combination of a loss of access to discounted public transport and a lack of access to private transport. For older people, the lack of public spaces can limit their interactions combined with inadequate seating and resting facilities which then increases isolation and loneliness for this age group.|
|Parents and those with caring responsibility||Those travelling with small children or using pushchairs encounter similar barriers to wheelchair users and face additional time factors when travelling on the network. Those with caring responsibilities also face barriers including exposure to fragmentation and unreliability in the transport system. Linked to this, they are more likely to be forced into car ownership to fulfil their responsibilities, but the costs associated with this can result in significant hardship. They are also more impacted by poor active travel conditions, particularly when travelling with children or when accompanying those using mobility aids.|
|Gender||Women are often more dependent on public transport, more likely to be on lower incomes, devote more time to caring responsibilities which includes travelling with children and require additional facilities such as baby changing and breast-feeding facilities. Women are also more likely to be impacted by harassment and discrimination on transport, and face greater constraints in how, where and when they travel as a result.|
|Race||Ethnic minority communities are more likely to be impacted by anti-social behaviour, harassment, and discrimination when using the transport network and are three times more likely to be killed or serious injured on our roads. These experiences may then constrain how and where they travel, and consequently limit their access to opportunities. Average incomes between ethnic minority and White British residents can also result in ethnic minority communities being more exposed to determinants linked to low incomes.|
|Religion and faith||Religious and faith groups are more likely to experience hate crime and harassment, experience greater barriers to using active travel and have not seen relevant adjustments been made for them to assist in their travel due to their religious beliefs.|
|Sexuality and gender identity||LGBTQ people are more likely to be impacted by anti-social behaviour, harassment and discrimination when using the transport network. These experiences can cause those affected to change or constrain how and where they travel, and consequently limit access to opportunities.|
|Low-incomes||While this heavily overlaps with other groups, the Cost of Living crisis has severely impacted those on lower incomes. This group have greater prevalence of shift working and casual employment and may reside in areas of deprivation, be less likely to own a car and have lower levels of public transport accessibility. This then constrains the journeys they can take, and their ability to adapt to disruption in their journeys, with delays having the potential to lead to loss of pay or even loss of work.|
TfWM will work with Government, local authorities, operators and developers to maximise funding available to deliver public transport servivces and concessions. We will maintain local access standards and guidance to ensure concession and service subsidies are well targeted to best support citiziens and communities and deliver value for money.
We will also work with Government to influence how national legislation and funding can evolve to better support the West Midlands subsidy needs.
Concessionary fares and tickets are discounted from standard rates to support particular groups with the affordability of travel. They can help vulnerable people within our region have access to transport services for health, retail, leisure, education and employment, but also access to community facilities where they can engage with others. They are particularly helpful for those who struggle to stretch their disposable income to meet their needs.
These concessions can be funded through public funds or by working with operators who may voluntarily offer particular groups discounted rates.
In the West Midlands we have statutory obligations to provide concessionary bus fares for older and disabled residents as part of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS). Funding from ENCTS represents a significant proportion of the overall funding available for bus operators to run services.
We also provide a number of local discretionary concessions in our area with local funds and by working with our operators. This includes:
- Extensions to ENCTS to cover West Midlands Metro and Rail services within the metropolitan area, and allowing people to travel after 11pm on a weekday for ENCTS pass holders
- Our Workwise scheme offering free travel to work (inc apprenticeships) for qualifying low income jobseekers
- Discounted travel targeted at children and young people 18 and under
- Discounted travel for students
- Discounted travel for family of Network season pass holders
Finally, as part of the Governments National Bus Strategy, a Bus Service Improvement Plan has been produced for the region where a range of short term bus incentives including discounted and free travel offers will be provided to vulnerable and excluded groups. These will be rolled out over the next 3 years.
We will continue to deliver national statutory obligations to fund concessionary fares.
We will also use local public funds and collaborate with operators and local authorities to provide discretionary concessionary travel fares and tickets targeted at people in the West Midlands who face the greatest affordability challenges with travel. We will consider concessions across all forms of fixed and dynamic public transport as well as access to shared services such as cycle and scoot hire.
We will ensure concessionary schemes are well promoted to target users and we will ensure that related application processes and customer services are well designed so as to ensure eligible citizens are able to access the concessions.
Subsidies can be and are used to directly support the operational costs of transport services in the West Midlands. Public funds can be used to subsidise services but third party funds may also be secured to do the same, for example through securing contributions from land developers as new developments are bought forward. There are a number of significant subsidised services currently operating in the West Midlands.
We have statutory duties to provide ‘socially necessary’ subsidised bus services, under the 1985 Transport Act. This means we use available local subsidies to fund bus services that provide a vital public service, but would not be commercially viable otherwise. Funds are used to extend routes to places that would not otherwise be served, boost frequencies in areas of very infrequent service, and to extend operating hours of services in the morning and evening. We often work with neighbouring authorities to coordinate subsidy on cross-boundary services. The direct subsidies we provide to bus services funds approximately 10% of all miles travelled by buses in our area. However, over the years as public funds have shrunk in real terms and as demand for buses has continued to drop we have faced continuing struggles to maintain service levels. We have developed Access Standards to support subsidised network reviews to ensure that as subsidies for buses are reviewed, we deliver best value for money for the public by targeting support where it is most needed.
We also provide subsidies to demand responsive and accessible transport services, including the West Midlands Ring and Ride service, West Midlands On-Demand trials, and some services provided by Community Transport operators. These subsidies can provide services in places where a fixed bus service would represent poor value for money, and to provide services for people who might find it difficult to use conventional public transport. Partners in the West Midlands also fund services through social care and education budgets, for example funding home to school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Finally, we can subsidise shared services in the West Midlands and we currently subsidise the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme which provides bikes and ebikes for hire. Scoot and cycle hire schemes often require support to be financially viable, especially to extend services into areas of lower demand to grow the market.
We will continue to subsidise services by using local public funding and also by influencing how operator revenues are reinvested in less profitable areas of operation to ensure that communities remain connected to economic and social opportunities and key services and amenities.
In the West Midlands there is a variety of transport modes with multiple transport operators within the system. This fragmentation of modes has resulted in a proliferation of both operator-specific journey planners and apps, as well as multi-modal apps. This creates confusion for users and makes understanding routes, timetables and interchanges more difficult. Users are missing the whole picture and preferences based on their needs i.e. fastest, cheapest. This can be resolved through simplified fares, ticketing platforms and branding.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is the overarching brand for public transport in the area encompassing the bus, tram, rail networks and shared mobility services. In addition SWIFT, the UK’s largest contactless ticketing scheme outside of London also has its own recognizable brand. The TfWM branding ensures consistent messaging across the different modes of transport and improves customer experience by providing unmistakable, simple signage and creating smoother journeys. The TfWM brand was developed in order to promote a single integrated transport system.
The TfWM brand was developed in order to promote a single integrated transport system. To ensure customer experience is at its best, it is imperative that branding is consistent and removes confusion to support easier and Better Journeys.
While this does occur across the different modes of transport, the TfWM bus network branding is still having to exist alongside individual operator branding. Individual operators still have autonomy over their own branding and communications.
Branding provides a clear opportunity to remove confusion and build on a ‘one network’ vision which supports Better Buses, Better Journeys and Better Fares across an integrated transport system. The Enhanced Partnership requires operators to ensure that vehicles are in an appropriate finished livery, which clearly identifies either the bus operator or brand route.
West Midland partners will work collaboratively to develop and apply common branding across services, infrastructure and travel information to help the public recognise and navigate the public transport and shared mobility network.
Information and tools to help citizens navigate transport services is a critical component of system management. Travel Information can and should be provided across a range of channels.
TfWM has duties to provide some passenger information to citizens such as timetables at bus stops but we also provide additional information and journey planning tools for wider benefit. We provide a range of printed and digital information on leaflets, at stops/interchanges (including Wolverhampton Travel Centre), and via websites and apps.
Other organisations also provide information, including operators themselves and third parties (including mapping and travel apps).
Customers can be confused and overwhelmed with poorly communicated and conflicting information.
Customers have noted difficulty in navigating the information provided at bus stations. Whilst some good improvements are underway delivering Better Journeys requires further change in the ease, access and simplicity of with which customers can access the right information, at the right time
Our £2m Transforming RTI project is delivering a new “back office” functionality, via the integration of real time data feeds direct from bus operators and from the DfT Bus Open Data Service. This will create a platform on which we will be able to monitor the performance of buses in real time (supporting the operation of the RTCC), as well as using historic data to plan for the future and provide significantly improved information to customers.
We will continue to provide and develop simple, clear and up to date information and tools for citizens in a range of formats to meet their needs in navigating services and planning journeys.
We will work with partners in order to ensure we communicate a single version of the truth to avoid conflicting information.
For the current network to deliver a truly integrated transport system the payment process needs to be optimised, fares need to be affordable and ticketing improvements need to be joined up the new schemes This will ensure that the region achieves the maximum possible benefits from investment in the transport network and linking transport modes together to make access quicker and easier.
Swift has provided over 52 million smart payment enabled journeys in the 12 months up to the COVID-19 lockdown and supports over 250,000 regular users. This is by a large margin the largest smart payments operation in the UK outside of London.
There are still, however, segmented ticketing processes between and within transport modes, which can exclude or discourage users. The Fares and Payment Strategy outlines improvements to the ticketing and fares system:
- Simplification of fare types, zonal structure, etc.
- Customer experience with payment interfaces and ticketing purchasing
- Collaboration with LA’s, transport operators and others to deliver improvements and integrate fares for all transport modes
- Trust in fares through transparent pricing
- Inclusivity for those that may experience barriers to accessing the transport network.
As part of the Bus Service Improvement Plan and Enhanced Partnership TfWM have put in place a number of requirements of operators and are taking forward actions to replace the thousands of ticket options with a streamlined and cheaper set of just 6 ticket types that will be accepted on all operators’ services with aligned pricing. This will include single, day and season tickets making it much easier for customers to understand which ticket offers them best value. TfWM will also deliver a contactless solution so that customers can achieve a best value cap when using their bank card across operators’ services.
The West Midlands will provide a simple range of multi-modal, multi-operator, affordable fares for the public transport system, supported by smart ticketing and payment solutions and digital journey planning tools.
Digital mobility platforms integrate the services and information provided by different partners to enable citizens to plan and undertake travel and pay for the services they use.
Digital mobility platforms can have front-end interfaces that citizens directly engage with as well as back-ends for operators and system management.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a concept for changing the way we consume transport by providing citizens with web-based platforms for planning for, booking and paying for a wide range of services (from buses, through to private hire vehicles and bike hire). Through these apps or websites, citizens can also receive tailored information to help them choose options for travelling that best meet their priorities (for example whether their priority is to arrive quicker or to pay less). This has a significant contribution in making public transport more inclusive and accessible.
As well as providing citizens with the best information to meet their needs, the information operators and partners receive through the digital platform underpinning MaaS can help planners better plan services and manage the demand for services (for example by warning citizens when overcrowding might be higher in the day).
TfWM has been working with partners to develop, trial and deliver Mobility as a Service in the West Midlands.
The West Midlands will continue to make the most of digital mobility platforms to better integrate information, payments, and tools for planning for citizens.
The West Midlands will continue to work with partners towards development and deployment of Mobility as a Service in the region (and to support Mobility as a Service beyond our borders).
Across the UK, the responsibilities for transport are highly complex. There are different powers and responsibilities awarded between national, regional and local bodies, including public authorities and private agencies. Planning, managing and operating a coherent transport network is challenging in this environment; it can be difficult to maximise the benefits from coordinating services are design and delivered in a way that meets our communities’ best interests.
Running a complex transport system is always going to require collaboration with partners and this is something we remain committed to. However, we will strive to ensure that the way transport is governed in our area delivers better outcomes for the public.
The Government has acknowledged, through the Levelling Up White Paper, that Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) can take on greater powers and responsibilities to plan their transport systems more effectively. This includes exploring further devolved transport responsibilities, in order to level up the transport system to the standards of Greater London.
TfWM are seeking additional devolved transport responsibilities for the CA and constituent authorities to deliver an integrated public transport system. However, there will still be a need for effective partnership working and influence over:
- Rail services in the West Midlands: rail services procurement and specification is largely governed by DfT, as it is a national entity. The region, through devolved functions through WMRE, has secured limited influence in the planning, specification and performance of local services and stations, within the West Midlands Franchise. There may be opportunities provided through the proposed Great British Railways (GBR) framework, but that is subject to government approval.
- Metro services: Midlands Metro Limited, as wholly owned company of the WMCA, running services via a Public Services Contract. The WMCA has greater say on fares, services and its wider integration with other service modes.
- Bus and rapid transit services : There has been significant success through partnerships, with West Midlands Bus Alliance providing sufficient accountability and influence over bus services. An adopted Enhanced Bus Partnership is attempting to strengthen this overview and boost joint working between TfWM, operators and constituent authorities. These have come about as a result of a deregulated bus network in the West Midlands. A Full Franchising Assessment is currently being investigated to determine effective of the deregulated bus network mark and whether Franchising offers a more effective arrangement.
There are many models for distributing the responsibilities of governing transport services, all with pros and cons.
However, as we work to refine governance locally, we will aim to achieve the following common aims:
- Improving service quality and network performance, with the passenger/customer at the heart of the system.
- Encourage continued in investment in services, information and infrastructure by public authorities and the private sector.
- Enabling innovation to support improvement in services
- Achieving a balance between commercial outcomes vs public policy outcomes.
- Ensuring that expertise is deployed in the right places.
- Bring greater accountability to service development, performance and delivery.
- Providing stability and continuity in service through financial sustainability.
There are many models for distributing the responsibilities of governing transport services, all with pros and cons.
However, as we work to refine governance locally, we will aim to achieve the following common aims:
- Improving service quality and network performance, with the
passenger/customer at the heart of the system
- Encourage continued in investment in services, information and infrastructure by public authorities and the private sector
- Enabling innovation to support improvement in services
- Achieving a balance between commercial outcomes vs public policy outcomes
- Ensuring that expertise is deployed in the right places
- Bring greater accountability to service development, performance and delivery
- Providing stability and continuity in service through financial sustainability
WMCA and the Mayor will continue to work with Government and local partners to explore opportunities to reform the way that public transport services are governed, funded and delivered that would allow delivery of the outcomes set out in the LTP Core Strategy.