Top government officials were today (Jan 18) given the opportunity to see first-hand several major transport schemes now underway across the West Midlands.
More than 100 senior Department for Transport (DfT) managers, including Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly, travelled from Whitehall to Birmingham for a regional tour, which included a welcoming speech by Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street, who also chairs the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), the transport arm of the WMCA, provided the civil servants with a tour of key schemes already under construction and part funded by government. The tours also included visits to the locations of other major projects in the pipeline.
(l-r) Huw Rhys Lewis, managing director of the Urban Growth Company, Cllr Bob Sleigh, Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands and leader of Solihull Council, Laura Shoaf, managing director of Transport for West Midlands and Bernadette Kelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport
Some of the schemes, between them, represent up to half a billion pounds worth of investment.
Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, accompanied the permanent secretary on a tour of UK Central Hub, at the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham Airport site.
They were met by Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands and leader of Solihull Council, Cllr Bob Sleigh and Huw Rhys Lewis, managing director of the Urban Growth Company who explained plans to transform Birmingham International railway station into a major transport hub.
The project aims to provide seamless connections to Birmingham Airport and the new HS2 Interchange Station by 2025, bringing together rail, tram and bus services, as well as private vehicles, taxis and bicycles.
Other DfT officials were taken to the Midland Metro depot at Wednesbury to see plans for the tram extension to Brierley Hill which was given government funding last November.
A third party went to Wolverhampton to see the Wolverhampton Interchange project which involves a redevelopment of the city’s railway station and an extension of the existing tram line.
Cllr Sleigh said: “The West Midlands is enjoying a renaissance right now but we need to make sure we have a transport network that can not only meet the increasing needs of passengers and businesses but also help accelerate that economic growth.
“That’s why we will be spending £3 billion on new transport infrastructure over the coming decade to provide more tram and rail lines, better roads and more cycle routes.
“I’m therefore pleased we have been able to welcome Bernadette and her staff to the region and show them how these schemes make a real difference to people’s everyday lives.”
Bernadette Kelly said: “The Midlands is at the heart of the UK and its transport network. Modern, effective links are critical to driving forward the Government’s commitment to make the Midlands a powerful engine for economic growth, both regionally and across the country.
“We are improving connectivity, shortening journey times, reducing congestion and transporting people, ideas and goods. We are making every day journeys better and connecting lives, jobs and communities.
“I and colleagues are pleased to have seen some of that work first hand today.”