Stoke-on-Trent has been awarded £29 million of government funding to improve transport links across the city.
The money from the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) will include around £9 million for a major revamp of Stoke Station, which will see two weather-proof canopies across Station Road and an expanded pedestrian area.
A similar sum will be spent on turning College Road into a dedicated bus route in order to improve travel times to and from the city centre.
There will also be £1.2 million for Longton Station, along with better bus, cycling and walking routes to key employment sites around Stoke-on-Trent.
Once funding from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and other partners is taken into account, the total funding package will be around £36 million.
But the funding from government is some way short of the £59 million council chiefs had been hoping for in their bid to the TCF. This would have covered a wider range of transport improvements, including works to Longport Station.
A major part of the funded plans will see Station Road become a no-through route past the station, except for buses and access to existing businesses. General through traffic will also be removed from College Road, with access to businesses permitted.
Council chiefs hope these and other changes will increase public transport use by improving bus reliability, thereby reducing congestion in the city while boosting the local economy.
First Bus has agreed to invest £3.5 million in 15 new buses once the infrastructure work has been completed.
Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure and heritage, said: “This announcement is great news and a real game changer for transport and connectivity in the city. The investment is coming at a critical time as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and power up Stoke-on-Trent for years to come, and it will give the city a real shot in the arm. It’s very encouraging that the government are supporting what we are trying to achieve in the city and it’s a real endorsement for the future of Stoke-on-Trent at a national level that we have been given this money.
“Stoke railway station, where passenger numbers have shot up to record numbers in recent years, is a big part of the project but the benefits will be felt all over the city. This is not just about improving the look and feel of Stoke Station but improving public transport in general, particularly bus travel, and making sure the station connects with the city centre and key sites in the city. “
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The £1.2 million works to Longton Station will include get improved public realm, a cycle hub, passenger waiting hub and a new platform lift.
There will be another £1.2 million for improvements at at key bus delay hotspots across the city. The council is planning four new routes which will link the city centre and Stoke Station to key sites such as Longton, Burslem, Tunstall, Royal Stoke University Hospital and Trentham Lakes.
Nigel Eggleton, managing director at First Potteries said: “The announcement of Transforming Cities Funding being awarded to the Potteries is great news for people who use the local and wider bus network. This exciting news could provide a multitude of opportunities to restore cross city services, improve bus priority and introduce ‘Tap and Cap’ technology making it even easier for people to pay for their journeys.
“I am looking forward to working with the city council, its officers, MPs and key stakeholders on developing a plan that can improve bus provision in the area. As the main bus provider, we are committed to delivering bus services to communities where there is a demand and with this additional funding there is an real opportunity to grow the network further and make bus travel an attractive proposition for travel over other modes of transport”.
The TCF money will also pay for the following projects:
- Improvements to promote walking and cycling on Boughey Road, meaning better links to the city centre via Hanley Park – £1.2 million
- Improvements to Hanley bus station to cater for through services and passenger interchange – £1.4 million
- Enhanced walking and cycling routes to Etruria Valley (£.4.2 million) and Trentham Lakes (£1.6 million)
- A new cycle and pedestrian route across the Station West car park onto the canal from Glebe Street to the rear of the station via Swift House – £104,000
- A new cycle and pedestrian link directly from the canal to the rear of the station via Vernon Road – £400,000
Mr Jellyman added: “We’re committed to improving public transport and sustainable travel in the city and this funding will deliver many worthwhile schemes across the city, including the reintroduction of cross-city services and more than £1 million of improvements at Longton train station, so it’s great news for passengers.
“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to make this bid a success and I’d like to thank everyone involved. However, the work really starts now as we aim to deliver the scheme in the timescales set by Government. It’s important to be clear from the offset that this level of investment will almost certainly lead to some disruption in the city, but it will be short-term pain and the benefits will be enjoyed by everyone for many years to come as we transform our infrastructure and make Stoke-on-Trent a truly connected city.”
Professor Martin Jones, deputy vice-chancellor at Staffordshire University, also welcomed the funding announcement.
He said: “Given the university’s close proximity to the train station, we certainly welcome this exciting funding announcement for the city. Anything that improves the experience and environment for our students is a positive step forward and the investment in public transport will certainly benefit our students who live in the locality.
“It’s vitally important that the city not only continues to grow, but has the necessary sustainable transport infrastructure to meet future aspirations and this work will go quite some way towards achieving that.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Transforming Cities Fund allows cities across the UK to better connect their communities and open up access to jobs, housing and services, and this multi-million-pound investment will make it quicker and easier to get around Stoke-on-Trent, providing a real improvement to the everyday lives of residents.
“This Government is committed to levelling up transport infrastructure around the country. Today’s funding announcement demonstrates this commitment, boosting the local economy whilst helping Stoke-on-Trent build back better from Covid-19.”