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. Centro will be abolished in April 2016, when its functions are assumed by the West Midlands Combined Authority, which will also have highway management powers similar to Transport for London.[2]


Centro's activities include:[3]

  • Subsidising, and seeking government subsidy for, some remunerative bus, train and tram services which it considers socially necessary.
  • Providing and maintaining bus stops, shelters and stations.
  • Providing timetables and public transport information. Network West Midlands also provides real time electronic information on several bus routes, in co-operation with operators.
  • 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 the West Midlands Passenger Transport Area, including the large West Midlands conurbation, which included the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton and what are now the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.

Buses in WMPTE livery, in 1975.

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.

Many bus services continued to be run by the Midland Red bus company. This was considered undesirable by WMPTE, 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]

Class 150s in the old Centro livery

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, most notably covering Coventry (although it continued to operate a handful of out-of-county services to towns in the metropolitan area).

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 borough authorities.

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]


The original Centro logo

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, print media, and online media. All bus stops, Metro stops, and train station signage were replaced with Network West Midlands signage. Under the Local Transport Act 2008, WMPTA was renamed West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

Centro will be abolished and its functions transferred to the West Midlands Combined Authority in April 2016.[9] Network West Midlands will remain as the public facing brand for transport in the county.

Key projects[edit]

New Street railway station[edit]

Centro has backed the Gateway Plus project.[10]

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".[11]

Midland Metro[edit]

Main article: Midland Metro

The Midland Metro is owned by Centro and run under concession by National Express. It opened in May 1999. An extension through the city centre of Birmingham is due to open in 2015.[12]

Bus rapid transit[edit]

Plans are in place for a new network of 'Sprint' services.[13]

Environmental initiatives[edit]

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, educates school pupils and teachers 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.[14] 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.


Main article: Swift card

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.[15] Bus operators slowly began to accept the scheme during this roll out; National Express West Midlands now accept pay-as-you-go Swift cards.


Centro House, the organisation's current headquarters

Since 2014, Centro has been governed by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, a committee formed from the leaders of the seven boroughs of the West Midlands county, and three non-voting representatives of the region's three LEPs; greatly simplifying the authority's governance structure. The strategic agendas of the authority are set by the WMITA. These agendas are broken down into six groups, with a set of councillors responsible for each:

  • Transport Delivery - responsible for overseeing the work of all other delivery committees
  • Policy Co-ordination and development - responsible for ensuring Centro's policies are effective in their delivery
  • Finance, Delivery & Performance Monitoring - responsible for managing the authority's budget
  • Putting Passengers First - ensures the authorities policies meet the needs of the public
  • Task & Finish - ensures the task and finish groups of Centro meet their delivery timescales
  • Partner Engagement, Petitions & Appeals Sub-Committee - considers appeals against bus shelter placements. Also ensures the authority works effectively with industry partners.

Public consultations are held to gather public views on proposed projects and policies.[16] The authority is primarily funded by a council tax levy from the seven metropolitan boroughs, although some projects are funded by the Department for Transport and the EU.[17]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]