More than £10m has been earmarked to expand park and ride sites at several rail and tram stations in a further boost for commuters, the economy and cleaner air.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has already ploughed around £17m into providing more than 8,500 car parking spaces at 38 rail stations and three Metro stops over the last two decades.
With congestion costing the West Midlands economy more than £2bn a year, the park and ride facilities have bolstered the transport authority’s wider efforts to reduce the number of cars on local roads and improve air quality.
(l-r) Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Transport for West Midlands network access manager Erica Pearson and Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council
Now TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has announced plans to extend several park and ride sites, many of which are so popular they are typically full to capacity before the end of the morning rush hour.
The plans come as Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, marked the official start of work on a new £2.6m park and ride facility for the West Midlands Metro tram stop at Bradley Lane which currently has no on-site parking.
The Mayor said: “Park and Ride has been very successful in encouraging people to use public transport for the main part of their daily commute.
“It is a useful tool for helping to tackle traffic congestion and poor air quality but it’s fair to say that park and ride has become a victim of its own success and many facilities are full to bursting by 8am.
“That can have knock on effects with people parking inconsiderately in nearby residential streets or simply choosing to continue their journey by car so we are focusing on expanding those sites that can bring the most benefit.”
The Bradley Lane park and ride scheme will provide 196 spaces and is due to open this summer. The start of construction follows several weeks of preparation and exploratory work due to former coal mines under the site.
Cllr Bird added: “The future prosperity of our region will rely to a great extent on efficient public transport.
“This investment in the Metro system along with proposed improvements to the local rail network is a positive step forward and I very much welcome it.”
Meanwhile planning permission has now been approved for park and ride expansion schemes at Longbridge rail station, including plans for a decked car park, and at Tipton station which could see its 71 space capacity nearly double.
TfWM is also working with Coventry City Council on adding capacity to the existing 330 spaces at Tile Hill.
Transport chiefs expect to see the schemes carried out over the next four or five years with money coming from a variety of sources including the WMCA’s HS2 Connectivity Fund and Capital Programme.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We are looking at investing over £10m in developing and expanding park and ride sites across the West Midlands over the next few years.
“We are also looking to establish temporary park and ride sites for the Commonwealth Games and work is already underway to identify suitable locations.
“Together with local councils we are developing a Park and Ride strategy that will provide a West Midlands wide approach to future expansion and development so we can bring the maximum benefit to both passengers and residents.”
Subject to further funding being found on top of the £10m, a number of other sites are also being looked at in close liaison with local councils for expansion.
These include Dudley Port, Sandwell and Dudley and Tame Bridge Parkway. TfWM is also working closely with Solihull Council on plans to increase capacity and improve accessibility.