So, this week I led the debate in the House of Commons on the East Birmingham Tram. It's a critical bit of infrastructure that will help guarantee that the communities of East Birmingham - the land between the new HS2 stations - are connected to the jobs we foresee created over the decade to come. But! We've been talking about the tram for ten years. It'd time to crack on and start delivering it. So, on this page, I'm supply some of the key background documents for those interested in the detail.
You can see the speech in the House of Commons here: https://twitter.com/liambyrnemp/status/1674775654158696449?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet
I've attached the original business case from 2017 and a short slide pack on how our plans for a Levelling Up Zone fit into the strategy for maximising the economic benefits of HS2 for East Birmingham.
The background is as follows:
Briefing Note: EBNS Levelling Up Zone and Rapid Transit/EBS Metro
The East Birmingham and North Solihull Levelling Up Agenda
East Birmingham is a vibrant, diverse area but with very high deprivation, the highest in the city and one of highest in the country in terms of unemployment, low labour market levels, lower life expectancy and poor life chances. These challenges are persistent and entrenched, having been further exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.
East Birmingham is home to more than 300,000 people, making it equivalent to a city the size of Newcastle (note: this follows the recent working redefinition of EB as the entirety of 20 Wards, rather than the previous EB Strategy boundary which would be closer to 250,000 people, and compares to Derby). It has the highest proportion of children and young people in the country - a third of the population. Addressing the needs of these people, and realising their potential, is critical to the city and the region and is the top priority in the region for addressing deprivation.
In response to this the City Council developed an inclusive growth strategy (published in February 2021), has set up the EB Board to bring together key stakeholders, and has put in place capacity and funding for a regeneration programme which is piloting innovative approaches to inclusive growth delivery.
East Birmingham has much in common with neighbouring North Solihull, in terms of both its challenges, and the enormous opportunities associated with major investments such as the new HS2 stations which will bracket the two areas.
BCC came together with Solihull last year to develop an at scale plan for EBNS and to make it a centrepiece of the WMCA devo deal. Birmingham has championed the idea of a levelling up zone (LUZ) with business rate retention to unlock investment in infrastructure, drawing on the model of the highly successful Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone.
Following the inclusion of the LUZ in the WMCA Deeper Devolution Deal in March, joint BCC/SMBC/WMCA engagement is now underway with Government to agree detail and formally establish the Levelling Up Zone.
The role of rapid transit within the LUZ
Foremost among the challenges for EB is that it has very poor connectivity. The majority of the EB area is rated “very poor” or “poor” for public transport accessibility, and more than a third of households do not have access to a car.
The rapid economic growth throughout the region has increased congestion. Over the last decade, 216,000 fewer people are within one hour’s bus journey of Birmingham City Centre.
Increased congestion has drastically reduced user accessibility, whereby bus journeys are slower, less reliable, and operating costs have increased as a result.
The levels of NO2 in Birmingham are 50% higher levels than the recommended limit. Birmingham sees up to 900 premature deaths per year because of air pollution
As Centre for Cities has said in a series of reports, Birmingham represents much of the lost productivity of the region, billions of pounds. Poor connectivity is a key part of this. Growing the Birmingham economy is critical for regional economy and UK Plc and East Birmingham is part of this.
Business rate growth retention can raise hundreds of millions to invest in the transport infrastructure and the extension. It isn’t sufficient for the whole cost, but it can enable progress.
The government’s Transport Decarbonisation White Paper (2021) said all regions should have a TfL-style transport system – Birmingham agrees and EBNS is exactly the place that such a system would be of benefit. Britain lacks mass transit regional systems akin to France and Germany where even small cities and towns have extensive systems. The West Midlands metro is relatively small and needs to be expanded. Manchester has made progress on its tram and now has 8 lines, 99 stops over 64 miles, the largest tram network in the UK.
The EB to Solihull extension would enhance the investment in HS2. EBNS is between two HS2 stations Curzon and Interchange. The tram and other transport improvements would connect to HS2 stations and this will increase value of HS2 investment and bring a decarbonised transport system to the city and EBNS area.
The eastwards tram extension is approximately 17km which would serve North Solihull and terminate at the High Speed 2 (HS2) interchange station, allowing passenger access by West Midlands Metro to Birmingham airport, the National Exhibition Centre and future planned developments.
Initial work on the project in 2015-16 focussed on high-level engineering studies to develop the indicative route with which to test the viability of the project through development of an Initial Outline Business Case (IOBC). This work demonstrated that good value for money case exists for the project, with a Benefit: Cost Ratio of 1.6:1, rising to around 2:1 when wider benefits are considered.
The headline benefits of this route align to key regional transport polices, including; the Birmingham Transport Plan, Solihull Connected Transport Strategy and the WMCA Local Transport Plan Re-fresh. These are:
Modal shift to metro, resulting in journey time savings and reduced congestion reducing the negative impacts that transport has on the environment, such as improved air quality and reduction in noise
Regeneration benefits including the interface with enterprise zone, and the major developments in East Birmingham, North Solihull and the UK Central Hub – enhancing opportunities to support the creation of new jobs and skills
Improving access to jobs, education and services along the EBNS corridor – supporting inclusive growth and empowering communities to contribute to the creation of a healthier and fairer society
Improving connectivity to other public transport modes as part of an integrated transport network promoting greater inward investment
East Birmingham is a key focus of the emerging Birmingham Transport Plan Delivery Plan, which sets out the principles that aim to support the city on its journey to tackle the climate emergency, reduce transport’s damaging impact on the environment and on people’s health whilst making the most of opportunities to support the economic success and development of the city. The measures outlined in the BTPDP aim to serve a future EB that is home to more people, and that is a better environment in which to live and work for all citizens.
The WMCA Local Transport Plan outlines the goal of an expanded metro. Extensions are underway from Brierley Hill to Wednesbury and Eastside (with the EB to Solihull extension continuing from the Eastside extension). There are programmes of work and funding to deliver Brierley Hill to Wednesbury and Eastside but not EB to Solihull.
The extension requires a new Transport and Works Act Order application to be submitted to provide the powers to construct, maintain and operate the tram extension.
An obvious route is direct funding from government as London has previously received and which has helped deliver other transport improvements in the capital and in other places, but this has not been forthcoming for the Metro.
CRSTS is devolved transport funding to the WMCA ,but it is not sufficient to deliver the extension. A scheme such as EB metro would certainly exceed the total regional allocation of any future CRSTS Programmes (assuming they remain in the region of £1bn) and a significant share of the first two rounds of CRSTS is already proposed to be utilised to complete the existing Metro schemes for which we have TWAO approval.
Other options are giving devolved revenue raising powers.
Details are still to be negotiated including sites within the zone for BRR. Government must support a maximal approach to enable the biggest level of investment that can be generated. It would demonstrate the government commitment to growth, tackling deprivation and unlocking green transport system.
There is also an opportunity to explore harnessing the work of Coventry and University of Warwick in developing urban very light rail and applicability for the EBNS extension given the lower costs VLR entail.
It should be noted that the construction of HS2 Curzon Station has resulted in delays to the programme for the Birmingham Eastside Metro - consideration will need to be given as to the impact of this on any programme for an EB Metro scheme and how these would integrate.
Next steps are to draw up a deliverable plan, harnessing the levelling up zone, exploring VLR, taking forward a TWAO with a deliverable plan with ambition from government, the mayor and local authorities to get the transport system needed.
Timeline of EBNS Metro Route
The need for improved public transport connections through East Birmingham and North Solihull has been recognised for many years, and a tram route connecting Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport was originally proposed as one of three proposed Midland Metro lines in 1988. Parliament granted delivery powers for these lines to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive in 1989, however to date only Line 1 has been completed (with subsequent extension through the city centre to Edgbaston Village).
The route was strongly emphasised in the GBSLEP HS2 Growth Strategy 2015 as a key element of the HS2 connectivity package estimated to improve GVA in Birmingham and Solihull by £2.226 billion per annum equivalent to circa 26,000 jobs.
A joint project board was convened in 2016 (BCC/SMBC and Centro). This coincided with the commissioning of the Peter Brett/OCSI Infrastructure and Baseline Study which informed the EB Inclusive Growth Strategy for the regeneration of the corridor.
Route options were reviewed, sifting from 12 to a short list of 3, and ultimately identifying a preferred option from Adderley Street in Digbeth, via Bordesley Green, Stechford, International Airport, the NEC and the UK Central Hub. Concept designs were completed.
An initial Business Case was undertaken by the Metro Alliance in 2017 (attached). The next step was to be a TWAO submission, however this was deferred to “allow for further scheme refinement, assessment of the impacts and benefits of the proposal, definition of the overall funding strategy and to allow time for a thorough consultation on the proposal” and has not been completed to date.
The route has continued to be included in WMCA/TfWM plans and is identified as a commitment for delivery by 2026 in the current WMCA Transport Plan
It is briefly referenced in the updated WMCA 2021 HS2 Growth Strategy
Work is currently underway on further extensions to the network: the Wednesbury–Brierley Hill extension, and the Midland Metro Eastside Extension which will extend the existing network to Digbeth. The Eastside Extension will provide a connection point for a future East Birmingham to North Solihull route.
In 2022 a mode-agnostic corridor study on EBNS was prepared for TfWM. This has informed the provisional allocation of CRSTS funding, which includes bus priority measures for the 97 route (partly the same as the proposed metro route), and will inform the development of infrastructural investment proposals as part of the LUZ.
In addition, a VLRRP Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) was approved by WMCA’s Single Assurance Framework (SAF) January 2022, and work has been commissioned which aims to deliver a SOBC by March 2024, and an OBC by 2026/27. This study will evaluate options for rapid transit including VLR and Sprint, alongside a review of the previous Metro scheme.