General election 2019, Your Questions Answered: Dudley's buses

Written by on November 27, 2019

We’ve had a number of questions from audience members about public transport.

Some residents say their commute from the outskirts of Dudley causes daily frustration and improvements cannot come quickly enough.

Sian, who lives in the borough of Dudley, asked the BBC’s Your Questions Answered team: “When are we going to see more funding to make public transport a realistic and reliable alternative to driving to work?”

We posed the question to the four candidates standing in Dudley North – one of four constituencies serving the borough. In the 2017 election, this marginal seat was won by Labour by just 22 votes.

Sian said a “receding” bus service over the past eight years meant she had to get “multiple buses” and endure a two-hour commute home from places such as Birmingham and Sandwell.

She said a bus journey from her home in Wall Heath to Dudley town centre took more than an hour, in what would be a 15-minute journey by car.

“It makes my work options extremely limited,” she said.

A bus service shake-up led to dozens of passengers protesting at Dudley bus stops in the summer.

Meanwhile, the 2011 census recorded 43.6% of Dudley residents drove to work, compared to 36.9% in England.

The West Midlands Local Plan until 2026 is guided by the 2001 census, which showed Dudley had one of the lowest percentages of people travelling to work on public transport in the West Midlands conurbation. It was 10.1% compared to 22.8% in Birmingham.

What is planned?

Work will start next year on the £449m Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro tram extension which is set to open in 2023, said Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

It will mean a 40-minute journey time between Birmingham and Dudley town centre, taking in 17 stops.

Linked to that scheme is the proposed £18m Dudley Interchange project, which will be a hub for buses, Metro trams and eventually Sprint buses.

A £30m investment programme announced recently will be partly used to fund a so-called “rapid bus corridor” between Dudley and Birmingham, said TfWM.

What do Dudley North’s candidates say?

Melanie Dudley – Labour

Labour candidate Melanie Dudley said investing in public transport was a “crucial” element of the party’s promise to tackle the climate emergency.

“The deregulation of buses by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s was a disaster for passengers,” she said.

“The next Labour government will act to reinstate the 3,000 routes cut across the country.

“By giving people a more accessible public transport system they can rely on, we believe people will become less dependent on their cars. Which is good news for the air we breathe too.”

Ian Flynn – Liberal Democrats

Ian Flynn, for the Liberal Democrats, said: “In Dudley, while we welcome the coming of Midlands Metro, Dudley is the largest town without a mainline rail link and by the time the Metro comes, this will represent 58 years of failure of local transport policy.

“Some parts of the area are well served by rail, and public transport is already a very practical alternative to commuting by car, but in other areas these links are woeful and where links are good, increasing overcrowding is becoming an issue.”

He said his party had campaigned locally for better road and rail policy, including further stations and the reopening of freight-only lines to passenger traffic.

Mike Harrison – Green Party

Green Party candidate Mike Harrison said public transport was generally OK for return journeys between people’s homes and city centres.

“The problem is when you need to go ‘around the clock’, which usually requires a bus into town and another out to your destination,” he said.

“To make this a realistic prospect, public transport would need to be more reliable and more timely.

“Overall, we’d like people to trim the amount of travel they do, make public transport cheaper and more reliable and make fossil fuel more expensive.”

Mr Harrison added rail improvements led by the West Midlands Combined Authority “could be tackled more aggressively”, such as by introducing a tram between the town of Dudley and Sandwell and Dudley rail station.

Marco Longhi – Conservatives

The Conservative Party’s Marco Longhi said the area was seeing “unprecedented investment in public transport” with operators, [Tory-run] Dudley Council and Conservative mayor Andy Street working together.

“One of the biggest single investments in public transport in the region is happening here in Dudley as we see the expansion of the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury out to Dudley town centre and we are close to work starting on this,” he said.

He added a commitment to redevelop the town’s bus station and a fleet of new Platinum buses meant Dudley would be a big winner, despite years of “relative underinvestment”.

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