Major improvements along the busy A4123 commuter route linking Wolverhampton city centre to Hagley Road via Dudley and Sandwell are to be delivered through at £30 million partnership of Black Country local authorities.
Plans for the 17 km highway include a proposed segregated cycleway and upgraded footpaths, which will improve safety, provide greater priority at junctions, and encourage more people to swap cars for bikes, particularly on shorter journeys. Bus priority measures will also be installed along the route, allowing for quicker and more reliable bus services and to make them more attractive to commuters.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is working with Dudley, Sandwell and City of Wolverhampton Councils on the project, which is designed to encourage more people to walk, cycle or use public transport. The improvements will be delivered in stages over the next four years.
A promotional strategy is currently being developed by TfWM and the local authorities to encourage greater use of these exciting new improvements. The A4123 runs from the Wolverhampton city centre ring road to Dudley and passes through Oldbury, Coseley and junction 2 of the M5 before meeting Hagley Road (A456) on the edge of Birmingham.
Options for future development of a rapid bus or tram route on Hagley Road are also being explored to provide quicker links onto Birmingham and other local centres. TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is using funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement awarded by Government last year to pay for the scheme which, pending business case approvals, will be completed by 2027.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “This is a key commuter route through the Black Country and - given how congested it can get at peak times – we can and must do more to ease congestion.
“That’s why we’re investing in cycling and public transport infrastructure to give local people the option to leave their cars at home – reducing traffic jams, improving our air quality and helping tackle the climate emergency.
“We’ve set ambitious targets for increasing cycling and walking but we know that safety fears can act as a barrier. Creating a safe cycleway will make it easier and more convenient for residents to get on their bikes – having fun and boosting their mental and physical health along the way.”
Adam Tranter, the WMCA’s cycling & walking commissioner, said: “This is a hugely ambitious project which will provide significant connectivity for active travel in the Black Country.
“When delivered, this cycleway will be one of the longest continuous urban cycling routes in the country giving people new, sustainable, and cost-effective transport options. Connecting with other projects scheduled for delivery, eventually people will be able to cycle, protected from traffic, from Wolverhampton to Birmingham.”
The outline business case is under development and the Black Country Partnership, made up of local councils, is now designing and developing plans and options for the project.
This will be followed by engagement with stakeholders and the public in the next few months giving them the opportunity to see the plans and express their views.
Cllr Damian Corfield, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for highways and environment, said: “We very much welcome this investment as an opportunity to tackle congestion and improve people’s health by making it easier to travel via alternative methods such as cycling. This has long been a priority in Dudley borough, and I am pleased that is a shared goal across the region.”
Cllr Craig Collingswood, cabinet member for city environment and climate change with City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We are keen to find ways to offer alternative transport options to our residents. There are many benefits to walking and cycling including improved physical health, better mental well-being and positive environmental impacts.
“We do understand that people may have concerns about using busy routes and the proposed segregated cycleway and improved footways in this scheme are being carefully planned with users’ safety in mind, providing an easily accessible and affordable means of transport for local communities.
“As a city we are committed to exploring options that can improve our infrastructure for more sustainable transport, encouraging healthier lifestyles and reducing carbon emissions.”
Cllr Peter Hughes, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This investment in Sandwell to improve walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure as well as tackling congestion along this key transport corridor will not only improve overall transport connectivity but it will support decarbonising transport and changing travel behaviour as well as supporting other environmental benefits for our residents.”