The West of England’s public transport is set to receive a government boost of more than half a billion pounds.
Metro mayor Dan Norris has welcomed the “bumper cash injection” which will help transform local infrastructure, including more segregated bus lanes and walking and cycling routes, over the next five years.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce in the budget and spending review on Wednesday that the region will get about £540million – £568 per person.
Mr Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), said this was the highest investment per head of population in the country.
He said: “This transport money is only available to areas with metro mayors – and we’ve come out on top.
“This is a big success for our great region. It’s an important vote of confidence in the West of England.
“Everyone locally knows why we need the cash. It’s to tackle traffic jams and the congestion holding us back.
“Currently only one in 11 commutes are made by public transport. This investment will also help us as we strive to meet our ambitious net zero targets by 2030.”
The money, called the city region sustainable transport settlement, will pay for short to medium-term projects in areas with metro mayors, with Weca choosing to focus on improving the reliability of buses and creating more priority routes and “key strategic corridors”.
It is hoped that this will pave the way for longer-term ambitions, including the mass transit system, and is on top of existing funding streams such as bus revenue support and money for active travel.
Mr Norris, who has been at loggerheads with the region’s four council leaders over how WECA runs, said: “A big thank you to everyone involved in making this happen including the unitary authority leaders for agreeing to back a strategic bid with local contributions, and to our local civil servants on doing the essential legwork to make this happen.
“Now we must deliver. If we show the Government we can get on with the job, they will trust us with more devolution, more powers, resources and cash. So let’s make it work.”
The £568 per head of population compares with £454 for Liverpool, £376 for Greater Manchester and £354 for West Yorkshire.
WECA submitted its bid to Whitehall in September and will now produce more detailed business cases to deliver the projects.
Its prospectus describes a programme of investment in public transport, walking and cycling and liveable neighbourhoods, what they will achieve, their benefits and outcomes and how the combined authority will do all this.
Essentially the goal is for quicker, reliable and more frequent bus services, as well as continuing WECA’s 10-year rail delivery plan for more trains, new and more accessible stations and expanding the proposed Metrowest network to the south.
Some of the money will be dedicated to supporting innovation such as single ticketing and payments for travel on different modes of transport and on services run by different operators.
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter