The £15m scheme, funded through Centro and by the government, could be operational by 2016The Midlands’ first bus rapid transit (BRT) system in recent years could be operational by 2016.
Sprint, which will follow the alignment of bus route 9 between Birmingham and Quinton via Broad Street and Hagley Road is being launched by public transport authority Centro working with Birmingham City Council. According to Centro, the scheme will be the first in the UK with bespoke rapid transit vehicles.
Centro Chairman, Cllr John McNicholas, said: “This is a completely new form of public transport in the West Midlands and we want to know what people think about the idea. It is a proven concept in other European cities and measures such as dedicated lanes, traffic light priority and limited stops will make Sprint journeys a fast and reliable alternative to the car.”
Sprint will be a fleet of up to nine diesel/electric vehicles with features that include onboard real-time information and next stop announcements, low-level flooring and multi-door boarding for easy access, and onboard WiFi.
The scheme will cost £15m and is funded through Centro and by the government via Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership). If approved this year, construction could start in 2015 with the system going live 18 months later.
£50m has also been earmarked to implement a Sprint route to the airport by 2021. That will link the city centre with the proposed HS2 (High Speed 2) interchange and Birmingham International station.
Broad Street/Hagley Road was chosen because currently there are only two means of transport to Quinton from Birmingham – the bus and car. Factors were expected passenger demand, deliverability, potential for economic development and less impact on the environment. Sprint would integrate with the existing bus network.
The proposal includes 16 new stops along the route from Colmore Row in Birmingham to Ridgeway Avenue/Hagley Road West in Quinton. It would also see road widening and a new bus lane installed along Hagley Road, and traffic light reconfiguration to give priority to Sprint vehicles. Following consultation and funding approval Centro will tender for the build of the Sprint vehicles and for an operator to run them on its behalf.
Centro Chief Executive Geoff Inskip said: “Sprint is part of the vision we have for a world class public transport system in the West Midlands. By offering a fast and reliable alternative to the car, we believe we can get more people on to public transport, thus reducing traffic congestion that costs this region’s economy £2.3bn a year.”
The public is invited to give its views on Sprint by filling in a questionnaire online at www. centro.org.uk by September 21. The first of two public exhibitions took place on Tuesday (August 12) at Victoria Square, Birmingham. The second will be on September 6 between 0900 and1500hrs outside Marks & Spencer in Birmingham’s High Street.