£81m bus improvements for West Midlands

West Midlands transport authority (Centro) and National Express West Midlands have announced an £81m investment in improvements to buses, including new vehicles, smartcards and better information at bus stops. A new bus station in Merry Hill and improved infrastructure for Coventry and Wolverhampton city centres are other highlights of the Partnership Plus agreement. The deal sees £65m invested by National Express and £16m by Centro. They pledge to deliver 300 new buses, including 15 hybrids; ten new ‘gold’ bus corridors; more real time information at stops, extra on-bus cleaners, 350 new bus shelters and refurbishments to Dudley bus station. It will also see the introduction of the Swift smartcard on to the National Express West Midlands network, allowing all ticket deals to be loaded on to the card. Each ITA member is to adopt a key local route to ensure that investment delivers the improvements passengers want. The two year agreement is expected to build on the improvements delivered by previous partnerships.

According to the operator, the previous Transforming Bus Travel 2 partnership achieved 100% of its objectives, including the introduction of a smartphone app, delivering the region’s first green hybrid buses and increasing the number of ticket inspectors on the network. National Express Chief Executive, Dean Finch and Centro Chairman, Cllr John McNicholas, signed the agreement at the new Wolverhampton Bus Station.

Chief Eecutive of Passenger Focus, Anthony Smith, said, ‘Passengers in the West Midlands will welcome this further investment in buses and, crucially, work to allow buses to move around faster. Our Bus Passenger Survey (BPS) showed that the bus journey time was a key factor in passenger satisfaction in the West Midlands, so passengers will be pleased to see that this is to be tackled. This demonstrates what we always say – that passengers need to be at the heart of all decision making and spending plans. Centro has worked closely with us to boost the coverage of BPS in their area and these investments should improve satisfaction as they are closely tied to passenger priorities. For example, passengers tell us that they want accurate, up to date information about their bus – so the announcement of more real-time displays at stops is a positive step. Only half of passengers are satisfied with value for money, meaning that new vehicles and easier ways to pay for the daily journey will be good news.’

Pic: (LtoR) Cllr John McNicholas; Centro Chief Executive, Geoff Inskip; Dean Finch and National Express West Midlands MD, Peter Coates.

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