Policy priority 1: A quick win

Getting people out of their cars

  • Signal an intent to keep West Midlands moving by retaining the M6 toll, the metro mayor should commit to use scarce funds on other transport priorities instead.
  • Pledge to increase walking, cycling and taking public transport to work, commit to making other transport options more attractive and easy to use.
  • Simplify ticketing across the West Midlands by fully integrating the Swift card and making it easier to use.
  • Improve public transport with a strategic plan to make the West Midlands work as a single city region to live, work and travel across.

Road congestion is a challenge for any city region and, while efforts have been made to remove the ‘concrete collar’ and improve public transport in the West Midlands, congestion is especially acute in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. To tackle this, the metro mayor must strategically plan for a West Midlands that works as a coherent city region, rather than separate towns. If residents struggle to get around, this not only makes it difficult to access the amenities and services on offer but also limits the jobs each person can reach and businesses’ access to talent.

Signal your intent to keep the West Midlands moving by retaining the M6 toll

There are few quick wins in transport but on the metro mayor’s first day they should rule out scrapping the M6 toll road fee. Instead the mayor should signal the importance of other forms of transport and focus scarce public money on improving public transport and prioritising space for cycle lanes rather than more cars. Research shows that residents in poorer, disconnected areas disproportionately benefit from better public transport, and job seekers especially rely on bus services rather than private cars. It must be the metro mayor’s priority to make transport work for these communities by developing alternatives to the car.

Pledge to increase walking, cycling and taking public transport to work

At the same time as committing to the M6 toll, the metro mayor should make ‘getting people out of their cars’ a strategic priority for their transport agenda, and work on providing better alternatives.

The city region currently lags behind comparator areas in other ways of getting to work: eight out of ten commutes are by car while just two per cent of residents cycle to work and three per cent take the train.

The metro mayor should use their position to call on residents to use other types of transport around the city region where possible, and make cycling and walking an appealing way to get to work. Backing this by dedicating more road space for buses and bicycles on key strategic roads should make these alternative methods of travel more attractive and viable.

Simplify ticketing in the area

Improving public transport across the city region will also help residents get around and access job opportunities whether they live or work in Dudley, Solihull, Coventry or Birmingham. At the moment, the Swift card helps to a certain extent, but the metro mayor will have new regulatory powers to make it more integrated across modes and operators, and crucially to incorporate capped fees. Rather than a topped up cash-card system, introducing an ‘oyster style’ card will mean users have a clearer and simplified ticketing system that makes taking multiple trips cheaper, especially when run by different bus operators. This would be a more effective way of spending resources than removing the M6 relief road toll and would mean real change for residents who cannot currently access all the opportunities of the West Midlands.

Improve public transport to make the West Midlands a single city region

While signalling a shift in priorities and simplifying smart ticketing will help change minds and make travel easier, significant change to commuting patterns will also require long term investment in rail and bus links.

To achieve this, the metro mayor should support the strategic aim of the ‘Movement for Growth’ strategic plan:1 that each resident can access at least three main strategic centres, including Birmingham, within 45 minutes at peak times. Currently only around half of West Midlands residents have this access but implementing these changes would be transformative in areas such as Dudley, Brierley Hill, North Wolverhampton, North Walsall, and East Coventry – making it a single accessible city region.

Footnotes

  • 1 WMCA (2016) MOVEMENT FOR GROWTH: The West Midlands Strategic Transport Plan