Mayoral hopefuls lay down manifesto tracks
As the issue over which the new West Midlands Mayor will have most powers and existing structures, transport is set to be a major battleground for the candidates.
Siôn Simon, the Labour candidate, is today announcing one of his manifesto pledges: to cap bus fares at £4.40 for an all day ticket and freeze this price cap for at least a year. The fare rate will enable passengers to travel on buses and trams within the West Midlands, according to the Labour hopeful.
He will say in West Bromwich today that by “taking back control from London, we can do something about the comparatively poor public transport provision in the West Midlands.”
For too long people have been ripped off because politicians in London have taken no interest in our transport here, while travel operators have put their own interests above those of the people using public transport.
Mr Simon says there are currently around 20 different pricing tariffs for public transport journeys across the West Midlands, meaning that people are often paying more than they need to.
Following “an extensive process of consultation on public transport in the West Midlands,” Mr Simon believes that across the West Midlands people:
- have endured year-on-year cost rises but service improvements do not justify such rises
- are concerned about their personal safety, when considering public transport, due to antisocial behavior [sic] and so-called ‘everyday crime’
- regularly experience unclean buses.
Mr Simon’s ‘Mayor’s Plan for Transport’ includes:
- introducing an integrated contactless payment system across the West Midlands public transport network, that in time will include all public transport
- setting out his intention to introduce a franchise for the operation of bus services in the West Midlands
- taking forward the planned phases of expansion of the Metro.
In the weeks ahead, Mr Simon says he will pledge further measures to reduce congestion on “our roads and improve the public transport system across the West Midlands.”
Launching his West Midlands Transport Plan Siôn Simon will say:
The buses that we use are run by companies. The unwritten deal – struck by government three decades ago – was that the companies are given almost complete freedom to operate on our roads, roads that we pay for, in return for good quality services at reasonable prices.
But that deal between the companies and the public has been broken, as the attentions of politicians in London drift to the issues of their day, not ours, bus companies have been left to their own devices.
Our buses – unclean, sometimes leaving people feeling unsafe, and always costing more – tell the story of the so-called ‘small things’ that are actually really big things.
Taking back control of the West Midlands from London means we’ll be in charge. I have seen bus prices going up and up, year after year. Costs have risen, incomes have been squeezed. So let’s do something about it – now that we’ll finally have a Mayor to lead the charge. It’s about time.
Mr Simon says that it is his intention, irrespective of the passage of the Bus Services Bill that is currently going through Parliament, to secure for the people of the West Midlands a better deal, that will benefit living standards and increase passenger patronage.
Andy Street also has a big focus on buses, including issues like leg room, wifi and charging points, contactless payments and tackling anti-social behaviour. “The buses in the West Midlands are not good enough because they are just too slow”, says Mr Street. He adds:
This is our chance for a new approach to our buses in the West Midlands. Someone needs to get a grip.
But the headline transport points in his ‘Renewal Plan’ include ruling out a second runway at Birmingham Airport and “any universal congestion charge on drivers in the West Midlands.”
Unlike Mr Simon, Mr Street is not calling for the M6 Toll to be nationalised but he does seek the opening up of the road in peak times for lorries and heavy vehicles and at times of serious incidents on the M6.
Mr Street says:
Unlike the other candidates in this election, I don’t think we need to build a second runway at Birmingham Airport. There are currently 11 million passenger journeys a year, and we can get to 30 million journeys a year with just one runway. Why would we tarmac over the green space around the airport if we don’t need to?
The Conservative begins his chapter on getting our transport system moving again by saying:
The West Midlands is choking on its own exhaust fumes. The congestion across our towns and cities is dreadful. The M6 is one of the worst traffic blackspots in Europe.
- Explore a scheme to incentivise more lorries and heavy vehicles to use the M6 Toll at peak times, and open up the M6 Toll for free where it will help during a serious traffic incident on the M6
- Push Network Rail and the rail operators to increase the number of carriages and frequency of trains to ease overcrowding on busy lines, for example the Chase Line, Cross-City Line, Coventry to Birmingham
- Reopen the Camp Hill / Tamworth rail line, with new stations opening at Moseley, Kings Heath, Stirchley, The Fort, and Castle Vale
- Reopen Sutton Park line to Aldridge Station, and explore opening the line through to Water Orton, including Walmley station.
Other plans include:
- Increase overall spending on cycling forty-fold to £10 per head across the West Midlands (up from 25p per head), by seeking new Government funding
- Increase cycling from 1% of all journeys to 5% of all journeys by 2023
- Implement the Clean Air Zone as required by Government, which will charge older, more heavily-polluting trucks and heavy vehicles to enter parts of Birmingham City Centre.
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