In a pre-announcement from next week’s budget, it has been confirmed that several city regions in England are to receive billions of pounds to help improve public transport – including investment in trams and light rail. The funding package will go to Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City region, South Yorkshire, West of England and Tees Valley, although from a tram/light rail point of view its just the usual suspects who will benefit.
Details of exactly what the funding will go towards are still a little sketchy and it will require further specific bids to go to the DfT to confirm exactly what does go-ahead – but at least it’s a start and we now know that the funding is on the table.
The areas with tram/light rail projects in mind are:
- Greater Manchester – £1.07 billion: To go toward next generation Metrolink tram-train vehicles – previous suggestions of routes where tram-trains could run included Manchester-Marple, Manchester to Glossop, Manchester to Wigan via Atherton and Stockport to Manchester Airport. Other non-tram projects include bus corridors in Bury and Ashton-under-Lyne.
- West Midlands – £1.05 billion: Projects including Metro extension (the article on the BBC News website suggests this will include the already commenced extension to Brierley Hill, although this is not mentioned in the West Midlands Combined Authority press release). The funding is expected to go towards the early planning and development of four new Metro lines in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton plus the roll out of Very Light Rail network in Coventry.
- South Yorkshire – £570 million: Starting a Supertram renewal project – with the original Siemens-Duewag trams now almost 30 years oldd it is expected some of this cash will go towards procuring a new fleet of trams with infrastructure improvements also required. Other improvements planned include installing a “Dutch-style” roundabout in Barnsley Town Centre.
These funding packages will cover five years starting in April 2022 and although the outline plans are what they would like to fund, further development is required in each region with discussions to start locally as to which projects they will take forward with this funding now in place.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I am absolutely delighted that our ambition has paid off and we’ve secured more than £1billion of Government investment to continue our transport revolution here in the West Midlands. It is the largest single transport sum we have ever received, and I know the team cannot wait to press on and start getting diggers in the ground on some truly game-changing schemes. From more Metro lines and train stations, to new bus routes and EV charging points, this cash will help us to continue to build a clean, green transport network that connects communities and tackles the climate emergency.”
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of South Yorkshire, commented: “South Yorkshire deserves and needs a world-class transport network. I’ve fought hard to secure the transformative investment we need for South Yorkshire and repeatedly called on ministers to match my ambitions. That message has finally been heard by Government. The money we have secured will get South Yorkshire moving and help deliver a public transport revolution – benefitting all parts of our region and making public transport the first choice for travel.”
And Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, said on Twitter: “This is a big step towards a London-style, integrated public transport system for Greater Manchester. We are pleased the Government has backed our vision. We now just need revenue support to lower fares to London levels and the BeeNetwork can become reality by May 2024.”
There is no doubt this is a positive announcement for the city regions but it does not pave the way for new tram systems to be built elsewhere in the country. Expect to hear more about these planned projects over the coming months and years – and for countless additional announcements about the same funding being made available.