Light Rail Strategy

Role of Light Rail

Light rail has much to offer the public transport network of the West Midlands region.  This is because of its ability to serve large urban populations, move people around main centres, attract investment to the regeneration areas it serves, entice large numbers of motorists from cars, provide travel opportunities to all people, penetrate urban areas (especially business and residential areas) directly and influence urban land use patterns.  It can integrate effectively with both road and heavy rail systems to maximise travel opportunities.  Investment in a light rail system demonstrates a long-term commitment to the future of the area.

These features of light rail are why Midland Metro will help the West Midlands region ensure economic revitalisation, accessibility and social inclusion, and provide sustainable travel patterns and modal integration safely.  Since the UK’s first new generation street-running light rail line opened in 1992, major investment in light rail systems has taken place in many cities in the UK, including Midland Metro Line 1 in the Metropolitan Area, with many others currently under development or being implemented.  There are currently 158.7 million journeys per year made on light rail in the UK (DfT Light Rail Statistics 2004/05).

Midland Metro is a fundamental element of the demand management and modal shift thrust of the West Midlands Regional Transport Strategy, within the RSS.  The proposals also accord with recommendations in the West Midlands Area Multi-Modal Study (WMAMMS).  Complementary traffic management measures are integral to the development of Midland Metro.  Thus Midland Metro Extensions, as part of an integrated network, are a key element of the overall LTP2 strategy.

The ways in which light rail has a key role to play in achieving the LTP2 objectives are set out below:

  • Economic Revitalisation – A network of light rail lines, as part of an integrated, multi-modal, main network, will help attract investment into the West Midlands region.  In particular extensions to Midland Metro Line 1 will boost the Regeneration Zones they serve.  This is by attracting investment to the Zones and then providing quality access to new developments.  The light rail strategy will encourage the transfer of car trips to public transport to reduce congestion and improve the efficiency of the highway network to move people and goods.  The network will also significantly add to the vitality of the town and city centres it serves
  • Social Inclusion and Accessibility – Development of the Metro system will give access to a wider range of facilities across the Metropolitan Area, significantly assisting people without access to a car.  Through greater network coverage and integration with accessible transport provision at interchanges, fully accessible Midland Metro services will overcome barriers to travel for people with disabilities
  • Sustainable Travel Patterns – The light rail strategy will reduce the number and, with Park & Ride, length of car journeys as modal transfer is achieved.  Metro also has an important role in influencing future land use patterns in our Area, promoting intensive use development in its catchment areas.  This fosters sustainable travel patterns
  • Safety and Health – Metro transfers car use to use of a mode that is pollution-free in operation.  It therefore helps us meet local air quality targets that relate to heath issues, particularly with respiratory related illnesses.  Features to promote personal security are core to Metro development.  Walking and cycling to Metro stops can improve health for all
  • Integration – Network West Midlands integrates Metro, rail and bus services, as a cohesive public transport system.  Defining a core public transport network of links and interchanges within this overall system informs development location policies which help lead to the sustainable travel patterns discussed above.  The light rail strategy relates to social inclusion / accessibility, health, community safety and disability issues

Present Situation

One of the building blocks of the LTP2 is the Twenty Year Public Transport Strategy for the Metropolitan Area.  This sets out the vision of a high frequency, multi-modal integrated public transport network supported by complementary local bus networks.  A key component of this network is light rapid transit based on the Midland Metro light rail system for high demand ('high volume') corridors.  This is still very much in line with current Government thinking, where affordable light rail schemes can be efficiently procured.

Opened in May 1999, Midland Metro Line 1 between Wolverhampton and Birmingham Snow Hill represents the best in public transport, reliability averaging 98.9% in 2004 (% of services operated within 3 minutes of timetable).  It is a modern light rail system with inbuilt quality features for customers such as high speed, frequency, reliability and accessibility.  It has an attractive image and is pollution free in operation.  It is also able to penetrate areas of high population density.

It is unsurprising that surveys show that Metro is attracting large numbers of former car users.  An element of this attraction is the ability to park and ride and Line 1’s Park & Ride facilities have subsequently been expanded.  Surveys have indicated that the majority of passengers use the Metro for longer journeys, with the average distance travelled being 13 kilometres.  It is not only car users who are attracted, Metro is a system that serves all sections of the community.

Metro does and will improve the overall public transport experience by the provision of high quality rapid transit services, crucial in contributing to the achievement of the regional transport strategy.  Attitudinal surveys point to a high degree of satisfaction amongst users of Metro, where cleanliness, punctuality, journey times, space on vehicle and frequency are all rated higher than bus and heavy rail.

Phase 1 Expansion

The first steps in the expansion of the successful Midland Metro Network are the proposed two Extensions of Line 1.

The first to be authorised is a 12 kilometre extension from Metro Line 1, at Wednesbury, to Brierley Hill via Great Bridge, Tipton and Dudley town centre.  Transport & Works Act Order powers for this route were confirmed in December 2004.  The route of this Extension is illustrated in Figure 1 ‘Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Extension’.

 

The second is a 3 kilometre street running extension from the existing terminus at Snow Hill in Birmingham city centre to Edgbaston.  Transport & Works Act Order powers for this route were confirmed in June 2005.  The route of this Extension is illustrated in Figure 2 ‘Birmingham City Centre Extension’.

In June 2000, Centro submitted an Initial Outline Business Case (IOBC) to Government.  The objective of this document was to demonstrate that the evaluation of both Extensions had been carried out in accordance with the evaluation methods specified by the Government and that the evaluation demonstrated that both are robust projects that meet all the criteria required for implementation.  The Government formally responded to the IOBC in December 2000 stating that it was satisfied that:

  • the evaluation appraisal had been carried out in accordance with the requirements set out in LTP Guidance
  • the scheme passed the Government’s economic appraisal tests which are used to decide whether a project is eligible for funding
  • both extensions when procured together as a single project represent the best value for money compared to separate contracts

In addition to the above, funding has already been and will continue to be sought from several sources including contributions from private sector interests, mainly in the form of contributions from developers along the route, and funds from the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) and local authority partners in proportions to be determined.

In 2004, Birmingham City Council commissioned a study into the feasibility of putting the city centre Line 1 extension into a tunnel.  This study reported in 2005 and confirmed that street-running is the cost-effective way forward.

Following the Government’s confirmation of the TWA Orders for the Phase 1 Extensions, the final Outline Business Case will be submitted to Government.  Tenders will be sought for the design, construction and maintenance of the two extensions, the supply and maintenance of vehicles and the operation of the expanded network, in a way that seeks to minimise the costs of procurement by appropriate allocation of project risk.

Phase 2 Expansion

The PTA has decided to proceed with a phased approach to the development of the Metro network.  This approach has been endorsed by the West Midlands Joint Committee.  Discussions with DfT have underlined the urgency for preparing further Initial Outline Business Case submissions for the Phase 2 routes such that they will form an integral part of the LTP2 submission.  The production of an IOBC requires increasingly robust technical and economic information for scrutiny by DfT.

The Phase 2 routes, as formally prioritised in 2004, consist of the following corridors (subject to evaluation):

Phase 2a Birmingham City Centre - Great Barr via A34 (the Varsity North route)
  Birmingham City Centre -  Quinton via A456 Hagley Road (the Birmingham West route)
  Wolverhampton - Walsall via Wednesfield and Willenhall (the initial phase of the Wolverhampton to Wednesbury '5Ws' route)
Phase 2b Birmingham City Centre - Birmingham Airport and NEC via A45 Coventry Road
  Walsall - Wednesbury (the remainder of the '5Ws' route)

Prioritisation of the routes between Phase 2a and 2b is kept under review and may be subject to future change in response to local needs.

Figure 3 ‘Currently envisaged Network’ shows Phases 1 and 2 as currently envisaged.  There are other possible routes, along high-volume corridors, in line with WMAMMS recommendations.

Work on draft alignments for these corridors was the subject of detailed public consultation during 2003/04 in close co-operation with six of the seven Metropolitan Councils situated on the alignments (i.e., excluding Coventry City Council).  Contracts have been let to consultants to examine the environmental and economic implications of the engineering alignments under development.  The environmental impact assessment work has followed on from the scoping study produced and the economic work is progressing with model building complete and model runs being updated following public consultation and cost estimation.  Land valuation consultants have given advice on property values and blight in connection with the Phase 2 corridors.

Following political approval of the alignments, public consultation was undertaken as a key part of the process of finalising the appropriate route alignments for the Phase 2 Extensions during 2003/04.  Following local authority partner agreement to a design freeze for the route alignments Initial Outline Business Case (IOBC), submissions will be made for each of the routes in the Phase 2 network expansion.  This will involve developing the technical work for the chosen options to the next level of detail, further refining the economic cases for the schemes and developing the funding and procurement strategy for the implementation of these extensions.  The Phase 2 expansion will see the completion of a first stage light rail network that could lead to increasing annual patronage from 5 million to 40 million.

It is currently envisaged that IOBCs will be submitted starting in 2007 in a similar process to the Phase 1 Extensions.

Current Policies

Government  White Paper - 'Future of Transport'

The Government’s approach to light rail is contained in its White Paper - 'Future of Transport' (July 2004).  The emphasis of the Government’s strategy is that light rail is appropriate for routes with the highest traffic and passenger flows.  For these routes, cost-effective means of procurement are required, learning from experience of light rail development in the UK.

The strategy adopted in the West Midlands region is totally in accord with this approach.

Regional Spatial Strategy

The West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) was published in June 2004, as RPG11: Regional Planning Guidance for the West Midlands.  The approach centres on urban renaissance of the region’s Major Urban Areas.  To underpin this, the RSS includes a Regional Transport Strategy (RTS) to achieve a high quality transport system, including the development of a high quality integrated public transport system for the West Midlands Metropolitan Area.

Midland Metro is a critical element of the RTS.  Policy T5: Public Transport states:

'An integrated hierarchy of public transport services will be developed with the highest priority being given to investment in infrastructure and services to support the regeneration of the MUAs (Major Urban Areas).  This will include investment in:

i. the development of high quality public transport systems, building upon the existing Metro system within Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.'

Policy T12: Priorities for Investment includes:

Metro extension through Birmingham city centre to Five Ways, Metro extension Wednesbury to Brierley Hill and further extensions in Birmingham / Black Country conurbation.

Metropolitan Area Perspective

The PTA and Centro have developed a 20 Year Public Transport Strategy for the Metropolitan Area.  This strategy provides the framework for delivery of high quality public transport services and facilities for our Area.  The strategy itself is a key component of the wider plans to regenerate the region and forms an integral part of the LTP2.

The Midland Metro network is itself a key part of the strategy, delivering a public transport solution in locations where demand is high.  The Metro extensions are priority schemes within the LTP2.

A network of high volume corridors has been identified in the 20-year Strategy document, for possible further development of the Metro network within the Metropolitan Area. The PTA has adopted an incremental approach to developing the Metro network, an approach endorsed by Government.  This wider expansion will help deliver the proposed ‘Network West Midlands’ public transport services and facilities.  The two proposed Phase 1 Extensions will commence the expansion of the network and have considerable local support, with significant financial contributions already secured from public and private sector partners.

Consultation

General

Strategic consultation on the 2003 LTP provided strong support for Metro extensions, with good bus linkages to lines.  In all quantified responses, Metro was identified as a high priority.

Consultation on the 20 Year Public Transport Strategy provided strong support for further Metro lines as part of an integrated public transport network.  The business community, in particular, is vociferous in its support for the development of Metro, with calls from such bodies as the CBI urging the Government to commit funds for extensions to Metro.

The 2004 and 2005 consultations showed that extending the Midland Metro was a 'high' priority in a strategic context  when ranked against a range of other modal issues.

Detailed consultation on each of the proposed Midland Metro routes has also taken place.

Phase 1 route Consultation

Early in the development of the Birmingham Tramway Extension, consultation was undertaken to identify a preferred route.  The public were asked to indicate their preferred option and the route identified was subsequently developed and taken forward to Transport and Works Act application stage.

After approval of the IOBC for both the Birmingham City Centre and Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Extensions, route plans were developed in further detail and environmental impact assessments undertaken.  These were presented to the public at a number of exhibitions at key locations along the route and at meetings to which all those living or working along the proposed routes were invited.  Where appropriate, feedback from the meetings and exhibitions has been incorporated into the plans.  Separate meetings took place with key businesses and statutory consultees to ensure that they were fully aware of the scope of the plans.  Ultimately, full formal statutory consultation took place as part of the TWA Order application process.

Updates on scheme progress are publicised in the Metro newsletter ‘Track Record’, which is available in Travel Shops and Libraries as well as being delivered to residents along the routes.

High Volume Corridors Study Consultation

As part of the process of determining the priorities for the incremental approach to developing and implementing the future Metro routes identified in the 20 Year Public Transport Strategy, a one-day seminar was arranged to reduce these to three or four that could be taken forward for initial development.  The seminar was attended by 120 delegates, including elected members, district council and Centro officers and representatives of local transport providers, Railtrack and the SRA.  Local business interests, environmental organisations, voluntary groups and interested bodies were also represented, giving a broad cross-section of attendees and views.

Preferred routes were prioritised in Phase 2 (subsequently further sub-divided into Phases 2a and 2b) with other routes being placed in Phase 3.  As part of the ongoing development of these routes, detailed consultation was undertaken with businesses, transport users and the public, especially those living along the proposed routes.  This consultation took place during 2003 and early 2004 and following further route definition work IOBCs will be submitted for this package of routes.

Proposed Strategy

The Phase 1 Extensions to Brierley Hill and through Birmingham City Centre to Five Ways have now secured TWA Order powers and final business case submissions for these routes to government are imminent.

The Phase 2 routes are currently being developed to the following anticipated programme:

2007 Submission of initial outline business case
2008 Decision in principle from Government
2009 Submission of TWA
2009/10 Public Inquiry and inspectors decision
2011 Decision to proceed
2011/12 Procurement and tendering
2013 Start construction
2016 Opening

Phase 3 will be developed later in the plan period for implementation beyond 2016.

In line with their geographical location away from the other parts of the conurbation in the Metropolitan Area, Coventry City Council have an aspiration to develop what they currently term a ‘very light rail’ system for the city.  Consideration is also being given to the role that light rail could play on the existing Coventry to Nuneaton heavy rail corridor.

Targets

Based on the projected opening of the Phase One extensions being in 2011, the LTP2 target for Midland Metro is to increase light rail use from 5.1 million trips per year in 2003/04 to 5.8 million in 2010/11.

Projects and Programme

The schemes that are being developed under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Metro network development are listed above.

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