Centro (Network West Midlands)

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Network West Midlands logo.svg
West Midlands UK locator map 2010.svg
Location of the West Midlands within the United Kingdom
Formation 1 October 1969
Type Public body
Purpose Transport authority
Headquarters 16 Summer Lane
Region served
West Midlands Metropolitan County, part of Staffordshire including Cannock and Rugeley (Rail Zone 5 only)
Roger Lawrence
Parent organization

West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority

Website www.centro.org

Centro, publicly branded as Network West Midlands, is the public body responsible for public transport services in the West Midlands county in England.

Policies and budgets are set by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA), formerly known as the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority (WMPTA). The Authority has 27 representatives appointed from the seven West Midlands metropolitan district councils (ten from Birmingham, three each from Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton, and two from Solihull).[1]

Following a reorganisation in 2006, the Transport Authority and Executive are, for many purposes, a single entity.


Original Centro logo
Centro House, the organisation's headquarters
Centro liveried Class 150s at Kidderminster station in June 2011

Centro's activities include:[2]

  • Subsidising, and seeking government subsidy for, some remunerative bus, train and tram services which it considers socially necessary.
  • Providing public transport street furniture, bus stops and shelters, passenger information and bus stations. Bus stops are owned and maintained by Centro. There are bus stations at Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, Merry Hill, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, Bearwood, and Coventry, plus several large interchanges (such as Cradley Heath).[3] Timetable and real time electronic information is usually provided.
  • Administration of concessionary fares, and funding the Ring-and-Ride door to door service for the elderly and disabled, operated by West Midlands Special Needs Transport.
  • Operating multi-operator travel pass arrangements.
  • Planning facilities and improvements, such as railway stations, park and ride, bus lanes, and the Midland Metro. Park and ride has been a priority for Centro, with 6,700 free parking spaces provided at rail stations.



Following the 1968 Transport Act, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive was established on 1 October 1969 to operate and coordinate public transport in a large part of central England[citation needed] (the West Midlands Passenger Transport Area) including the large West Midlands conurbation which included the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton as well as the Black Country.

Policy for the Executive was set by the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, which was formed at the same time. The PTA included elected representatives from councils in the Passenger Transport Area.

On its formation in 1969 the PTE acquired the vehicles and other assets of the municipal bus fleets of Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. The former Birmingham City Transport was by far the largest constituent part of the combined fleet, and a modified version of that operator's blue and cream livery was adopted by the PTE. The ex-Birmingham assets became 'South Division', with the others forming the Walsall-based 'North Division'. The buses were subsequently known as Wumpty buses, in reference to the WMPTE name.[4]

Although it was tasked with planning and coordinating bus and rail transport in the Passenger Transport Area, the Executive's activities in its early years were largely confined to partially integrating the inherited municipal bus operations. Much of the Passenger Transport Area was not served by PTE buses, and the Executive had minimal involvement in operation and planning of railway services.

In the West Midlands conurbation many bus services continued to be run by the Midland Red bus company. This was considered undesirable by the PTE, so it entered into negotiations to partly buy them out. On 3 December 1973, there was a transfer of assets and services between the Midland Red and the Executive involving routes that operated wholly (or almost wholly) within the proposed West Midlands county.[5] By April 1974, the PTE's fleet numbered around 2,600 vehicles.[6]

Railway services[edit]

In the mid 1970s the Executive began to take a more active interest in the development of local railway services, but their operation remained in the hands of British Rail. The Cross-City line, implemented in 1978, was a joint BR/WMPTE project, but modest in scope compared to Merseyrail's Loop and Link or the Tyne & Wear Metro.

In the 1980s, WMPTA/WMPTE decided to restore rail services through Snow Hill station. The two-stage restoration process, completed in 1995, did not include the Wolverhampton Low Level line, which was reserved for the Midland Metro.

Revised operating area[edit]

The 1972 Local Government Act led to the creation, on 1 April 1974, of the West Midlands metropolitan county. As a result, WMPTE's operating area was adjusted to match that of the new county (although it continued to operate a handful of out-of-county services).

At the same time, the PTE took over a fifth municipal bus fleet, Coventry, which became its 'East Division'. The PTA was abolished, and its role taken over by the newly established West Midlands County Council.

When the County Council was abolished in 1986, a new Passenger Transport Authority was established, with membership drawn from the metropolitan district councils.

Bus deregulation[edit]

As a result of the 1985 Transport Act, bus services across Great Britain were deregulated. This resulted in the transfer of the bus services to a separate legal entity, West Midlands Travel Limited (WMT),[7] which took over the bus assets and services of the WMPTE on 26 October 1986.

WMT remained in public ownership under the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority until 1991, when it was sold to its management and employees.[8]


Centro is funded by a levy from the seven West Midlands metropolitan districts.[2]


In the early 1990s WMPTE adopted the corporate name of Centro. When Central Trains operated trains in the area, Class 150s were painted in a green Centro livery. Following the franchise passing to London Midland and the introduction of Class 172 rolling stock, this has been phased out.

The name Network West Midlands was used for a rebranding of the existing bus and train service from 2005 onwards, based on the premise that survey information had indicated that more people would use public transport if a strong brand was identifiable. Promotion of the brand has included television advertising, and a Youtube video.[9]

Following on from this, Centro's own corporate identity was reworked. Under the Local Transport Act 2008, WMPTA has been renamed West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

Plans are in place to retire the Centro and Network West Midlands brands and rename the authority Transport for West Midlands. [10]

Key projects[edit]

New Street railway station[edit]

Centro has backed the Gateway Plus project.[11]

High-speed rail[edit]

In August 2009 Centro backed construction of new railway in the West Midlands area for use by High Speed 2 trains, which would allow existing lines to have "better and more frequent local services".[12]

Midland Metro[edit]

Main article: Midland Metro

Midland Metro Line One, is owned by Centro and run under concession by Travel Midland Metro. It opened in May 1999. An extension through the city centre of Birmingham is due to open in 2015.[13]

Bus rapid transit[edit]

Plans are in place for a new network of 'Sprint' services.[14]



Centro is "committed to sustainable forms of transport which benefit the environment and help to reduce global warming. It is especially important when you consider that road congestion on the West Midlands' busy roads costs regional businesses more than £2.3 billion a year." Centro has a comprehensive green charter and action plan for the environment and is a full signatory of the UITP Charter for Sustainable Development.

In addition, the award winning Letzgogreen (sic) website, uses cartoon figures to help school pupils and teachers learn about the benefits of sustainable transport.


A 2005 and 2006 Centro Daytripper discount rail card, a 2001 Centro Airport Flyer rail card and 2007 Network West Midlands Daytripper rail card

Each operator has its own ticket range. One operator's ticket is not usable on another company's service. Network West Midlands tickets are valid across the entire network, on any operator involved in the 'n' scheme.


nBus tickets are valid on almost all operators in the county, and are available in different travel areas, or across the whole county. Tickets may be purchased with validity ranging from one day to a year.[15] Metro travel may be added onto nBus passes.


nTrain passes are valid on all local train services within the Network West Midlands zonal rail map, or to select out-of-county stations in the Birmingham travel-to-work metropolitan area.


Swift is the West Midlands' multi-modal, multi-operator smart travel card, similar to the Oyster card scheme in London. Rather than being a single card, it is a range of passes and cards (including contactless payments) that share a common system and brand name. Introduction began in 2012, with a phased rollout estimated to be completed by the end of 2015 when the system is rolled out across the local rail network, as part of rail devolution in the West Midlands county.[16] Bus operators slowly began to accept the scheme during this roll out; National Express West Midlands currently do not accept pay-as-you-go Swift cards.


The Integrated Transport Authority and earlier Passenger Transport Authority have used committee structures, the form of which has changed over time. Membership is normally a subset of the full 27-member Authority. In March 2010, extant Committees were listed[17] as:

  • Transport Strategy (15 councillors) - "responsible for setting the policies and strategies of Centro"
  • Business Improvement (12 councillors) - "responsible for monitoring of performance management process and the continuing improvement of its processes, structures and cultures"
  • Pension Fund (7 councillors) - "responsible for the proper administration of the Authority's Pension Fund"
  • Standards (6 councillors and 2 "independent co-opted members") - "responsible for promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct by members of the Authority"
  • PTA Urgency [Sub-Committee] (at 10 March 2010, described as 'PTA', not 'ITA', on the Centro website, 5 councillors) - "to consider any matter of urgent business that cannot wait until the next scheduled meeting of the Authority"
  • Bus Shelter Appeals [Sub-Committee] (6 councillors) - "responsible for considering appeals against the siting of bus stops and shelters".

The Integrated Transport Authority has seven Transport Users' Forums covering the district areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Public participation is available through Transport Users' Forums, which "meet on average every two months at a local venue" in the 7 district areas, and allow submission of views to the Transport Authority via the Transport Strategy Committee.[18]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]