MAYOR of the West Midlands Andy Street believes bus services across Birmingham and the Black Country are as good as anywhere in the country.

Mr Street, who heads up public transport for the region, admits “traffic issues” remain a concern but stated how the West Midlands Combined Authority has continued to invest heavily across its bus, train and Metro network since 2017.

In September, £70m was spent on improving connectivity in Birmingham following the creation of four new cross-city bus routes. The vast majority of the region’s 394 regular bus services remained unaffected – but there were changes to 32 services including the scrapping of the 25 (Bromford to Erdington Six Ways), 600 (Brookvale to Erdington Circular) and 19 (Tile Hill to Coventry).

During a Q&A with BBC WM, Mr Street was asked about the unreliability of some of the region’s bus services. He said: “Overall, we have protected 90 percent of the services that have run in the West Midlands pre-Covid. That number of 90 per cent is better than any other region outside of London.

“We’ve also held our fares lower than 2017 so, overall, a huge amount of public money has gone into protecting our network. A very, very small number of routes were stopped but we always look for alternatives to replace them, hence the 16A, but if that’s not working I will willingly take that up with the operator.

“But that’s the big picture of how we’ve tried to protect all of our services. The good news which justifies the situation is we’ve now got ridership on our buses and people paying for our buses ahead of where we were pre-Covid – so we protected it during the downturn and now patronage is coming back and those fares are still incredibly competitive.

“But while we have protected bus services and kept the fares as low as they are, we also have to get the reliability from the operators. When I meet the CEO of National Express and the CEO of Diamond, this is what we talk about.”

He added: “Of course there are traffic issues, nobody’s denying that, but the big picture here on public transport is we have defended – whether it be our Metro system, or bus system, our train system – through huge under-utilisation through Covid and the recovery has taken time but nearly all of those services are still there. We are continuing to invest in both the infrastructure and opening new routes and then making sure the vehicles used are clean, reliable because people want that and, of course, the fares are held down.

“That’s the big picture to give people the option to return to public transport. We’re investing seven times what we were before the Combined Authority and Mayor came about so we’re moving much faster than we were before.”