West Midlands Mayor Andy Street pledges to double investment into region's transport if re-elected

The Mayor is standing for re-election on May 6.

Andy Street is standing to be re-elected as West Midlands Mayor
Andy Street is standing to be re-elected as West Midlands Mayor

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has pledged to double the amount invested into transport in the region by securing more Government funding if re-elected.

The Conservative Mayor said £277 million had been spent during 2020/2021 and that he was looking to bring that investment to more than £500 million a year.

The funding will be used on transport projects across the region – including the reopening of railway stations – in the push for a "world-class" transport system, he said.

Mr Street, who is vying to be re-elected on May 6, made the pledge alongside commitments to building more houses, 100,000 new jobs, and tackling climate change. Labour's Liam Byrne is seen as his main rival at the election.

The Mayor, who was first elected to the role in 2017, said the main focus was now on kick-starting the region after the impact of Covid-19.

Mr Street, speaking at the launch of his manifesto, said: "We did make really good progress over the three years pre-pandemic and the West Midlands, genuinely, was beginning to reclaim its rightful place as a thriving and economically successful region – but we have to be very honest and say that we know the pandemic has hit us very hard.

"There's one overriding objective in our manifesto and that of course is to restore the progress we were enjoying and indeed to go well beyond it – and ensure the benefits of that success are shared with everyone across the region."

He vowed to reopen Willenhall, Darlaston, Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazlewell stations by the end of 2023 as well as win funding to reopen Aldridge railway station.

The reopening of Tettenhall railway station will also be "accelerated" with the possibility for new stations at Balsall Heath, Pelsall and Brownhills being explored.

Feasibility studies and business cases would be developed to bring another 18 – on top of the five opening by the end of 2023 – railway stations in the region into use.

Mr Street said: "International research says very simply that it's those city regions with really good public transport networks that drive productivity and sustain the high paid jobs of the future.

"We know our region was badly under-invested in and we've made a really good start, but there's more to do.

"There's a promise to double transport spending on top of what we've already achieved, to open those new Metro stations in Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and begin the expansion in North Solihull.

"And to open those five railway stations in Walsall and South Birmingham and make the case for 18 more across the region. The pledge [to double the amount invested] is big – £277 million is the number for the year we finished on Sunday, the end of the financial year, so we're looking to double that to just over half a billion a year.

"The number for the next year that is budgeted is £363m, the number for the following year is £403m, so you can see the tick-up there. It's easy to say but hard to do, but it's all about the quality of the business cases – we won the money for the Metro extension in the Black Country on the basis of the business case that I presented to the Transport Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"With Transport for West Midlands, and local authorities, we will continue to put our cases together and then it's about the quality of those cases and then the advocacy that goes with them for Ministers to agree the funding. Some of the funding could come from the private sector then, you don't just have to go to the Government but the hope as we move into the next term is that we will see more diversity of sources of funding as well."

The Conservative candidate set a target for the creation of more than 100,000 new jobs and training opportunities – within two years – and securing an electric battery Gigafactory for Coventry which would bring 4,000 jobs and protect thousands more.

Mr Street pledged thousands of affordable homes would be built, to help young people get onto the housing ladder, as he re-affirmed the need to build on brownfield land first.

He added: "I gave the pledge 12 months ago when we thought the election was going to be last May and we called it the "green belt pledge".

"We said there does not need to be any green built development around the Black Country perimeter at all. It was based on a calculation of the number of the housing that is required. We believe there's sufficient space in the Black Country and its neighbouring authorities on existing development land to protect all the green belt in the Black Country.

"It remains the case and what we have to do is to make sure when the Black Country Local Plan is updated, probably next year and into the following year, improve those numbers and then there will be no need to release land for development.

"The critical point about how we can improve the numbers is that we get on with all the regeneration of the brownfield sites, those numbers go into the calculation and then it becomes very clear to each of the councils they do not need to give any permission for our green belt. So our development of brownfield is directly the way in which we protect places like the Seven Cornfields."

Other pledges include creating local co-working office spaces across the region, make Birmingham the national home for eSports and gaming events, and make the region the home of driverless vehicle testing in the UK. He has also pledged to support the campaign to build a velodrome in the West Midlands after the Commonwealth Games by developing a business case and seeking funding.

Mr Street will go up against Labour's Liam Byrne, the Green Party's Steve Caudwell, Lib Dem Jenny Wilkinson and independent candidates Tim Weller. Independent candidate Ashvir Sangha has pulled out of the race.

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