Midland Metro to be run by new publicly-owned operating company
Transport for West Midlands is taking over direct operation of Midland Metro trams from October 2018 when the current contract with National Express ends. TfWM, which is the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority, says the move means it will be able to “plough millions of pounds of future profits back into expanding the network”.
Existing National Express staff will be transferred to a new subsidiary company – Midland Metro Ltd - which will be wholly owned by the WMCA.
The combined authority is set to start a number of extensions which will see the network triple in size over the next decade, with passenger numbers forecast to increase from around 6.5 million at present to more than 30 million.
The Metro is expected to generate profits of around £50million over the first 11 years which the WMCA says will go back into the network for the benefit of passengers and the local economy.
“Metro is a fundamental part of our future plans not only for transport but for the West Midlands economy as a whole,” says Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead for transport. “It is a proven catalyst for economic growth and is critical to best connect and feed into HS2 so we can reap the maximum economic benefits possible from the high speed rail line.
“That’s why Metro is embarking on an unprecedented period of expansion and we believe bringing services in-house will provide the extra flexibility and adaptability needed to meet this exciting new chapter while generating millions of pounds for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers.”
The WMCA board says it was informed that if it decided to continue outsourcing tram services from October next year then the tendering process alone to appoint a private operator would cost taxpayers several million pounds.
Laura Shoaf, managing director, TfWM, adds: “The end of the existing concession provides us with an ideal opportunity to change the way we operate services to better meet the needs of passengers, the wider community and ultimately the economy.
“If we didn’t do this and instead outsourced operations to a private company at a time of such major expansion then it would be extremely difficult to accurately define the scope of services required from the operator. That would lead to continuous and expensive commercial negotiations to agree the price for the delivery of those network changes.
“So while bringing operations in house is not without risk we believe those risks are far outweighed by the advantages and that ultimately the move is good for passengers, good for taxpayers and good for the future prosperity of the West Midlands.”
The planned expansion of the Midland Metro network includes an extension of the route from New Street Station to Centenary Square, with services expected to start running in 2019.
A Transport and Works Act Order has also been submitted for an extension through Digbeth in Birmingham, running from Bull Street via Albert Street and on to the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail station at Curzon Street. From there it would go along New Canal Street and Meriden Street into High Street Deritend, stopping at Digbeth Coach Station and the Custard Factory. It is anticipated the line could be open by 2023.
In Wolverhampton work is set to start on an extension through the city centre as part of the £51.8million Wolverhampton Interchange project. The route will take trams along Pipers Row, stopping directly outside the bus station before continuing on to the railway station which is also being redeveloped as part of the project. The line is expected to open in 2019.
And a business case is also being prepared to extend the Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.