Free passenger Wi-Fi is to be trialed at Walsall’s newly refurbished bus station ahead of a roll out across the region.
The trial was announced by Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, as he visited St Paul’s bus station to congratulate staff following a £680,000 revamp.
The works included the installation of new energy efficient LED lighting, a new cycle storage area, a driver rest area, CCTV upgrades, new public information displays and refurbished toilets.
Asad Kalang (WM Young Combined Authority), Andrew Ward (bus station supervisor TfWM), Bukky Okusanya (project manager WMCA), Andrew Thrupp (operations manager TfWM), Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Louise Collins (Transport Focus), Sue Tycer (bus station supervisor TfWM), Adam Rideout (National Express), Sue McCormack (bus station manager TfWM)
The building, which is nearly 20 years old and used by eight million passengers a year, has also been given a fresh lick of paint and clad in the new distinctive red West Midlands Buses branding.
The station, from which there are nearly half-a-million bus departures a year, is run by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Mayor Andy Street said: “I am delighted that passengers will soon be able to browse using free Wi-Fi while they wait for their buses at stations across the West Midlands.
"This Wi-Fi upgrade comes after other recent improvements delivered with our Bus Alliance partners such as contactless and smart ticketing, live travel information apps and low fare zones.
"On top of this we are also spending significant sums improving stations where needed. It was great to visit the improved Walsall St Paul’s station, which is looking fantastic after our £680,000 investment.
"These improvements show how committed we are to improving the public transport experience, and I am proud that this approach is yielding results - with bus passenger numbers up in our region but down across the UK."
Last year, before the work started, customer surveys revealed the bus station was regarded as a cold, unwelcoming and cramped. Recent feedback has been much more complimentary with passengers feeling safer, finding it more spacious and enjoying the improved facilities.
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “The transformation at Walsall St Paul’s bus station has been very popular with passengers and we are delighted to be moving on to carry out similar schemes at more of our bus stations, including Pool Meadow in Coventry in the near future.
“We are investing billions of pounds in public transport across the region to make it easier for people to leave their cars at home and take the bus, train, tram or cycle instead.”
Young Combined Authority member Asad Kalang, said: “As a regular user of the bus station coming back from school every day it was a scary and daunting experience, especially during the winter months.
“Now thanks to the investment it is a lot more safe with the LED lighting and updated CCTV. It is a much more welcoming place.”
In July, year 2 children from Blue Coat School in Walsall visited the station and filled new planters with flowers to create a brighter environment as part of TfWM’s Brighter Bus Stations community initiative.