West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive

West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive
West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive
Type Passenger Transport Executive
Industry Public transport
Founded 1969
(Transport Act 1968)
Headquarters 16 Summer Lane,
Area served West Midlands
Parent West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority
Website www.centro.org.uk
1509 (P509 KOX), a Volvo B10L/Alexander Ultra, in Birmingham on route 301. At the time of the photo, it was CNG gas-powered

The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE), sometimes known as Centro, is a local government organisation (Passenger Transport Executive) responsible for certain transport services in the West Midlands county in England.

Policies and budgets for the Executive 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. The name 'Centro' has been used to refer to the Transport Executive alone, the Authority alone, and to the merged Executive and Authority secretariat.



A Centro liveried train at Kidderminster.

Privatisation in the 1980s and 1990s led to the end of Centro as a public transport operator. Its activities are now restricted to :

  • Subsidising, and seeking government subsidy for, some remunerative bus, train and tram services which it considers socially necessary. Some supported services have attracted public attention, such as the Stationlink bus in Birmingham which averaged 1.6 passengers per journey[2] and the Walsall to Wolverhampton train, which carried on average fewer than 7 passengers per journey[3] (both now discontinued).
  • Providing public transport street furniture, and bus stations. Virtually all bus stops are owned by Centro but there are several thousand without any form of shelter.[4] The vast majority of stops have no seating, but since 2006 basic timetable information is usually provided. Bus station provision is patchy, with the largest urban centre (Birmingham) not having one.[5]
  • Limited public transport information.
  • 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.
  • Limited participation in setting the fares and service levels of local train services. In practice, the government and Network Rail are the principal decision makers.[6]
  • 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 thousands of parking spaces being provided at rail stations at a cost of up to £30,000 each.[7] Centro has claimed that a car going to or from a park and ride is not a road journey[8] and the environmental benefits have been challenged.[9] The environmental credentials of Centro's bus lane implementation has also led to policy reversals.[10]



Following the 1968 Transport Act, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive was established 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'.

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. Most of the Passenger Transport Area was not served by PTE buses, and the Executive had minimal involvement in operation and planning of railway services. The Authority and Executive closed down the Walsall trolleybus system in 1970, and did nothing to stop closure of the Wolverhampton Low Level to Birmingham Snow Hill railway in 1972.

In the West Midlands conurbation many bus services continued to be run by other operators. This was considered undesirable by the PTE, so it entered into negotiations to buy them out. In 1973 there was a transfer of assets and services between the Executive and the Midland Red company, giving WMPTE a bus near-monopoly within the conurbation. At its peak, its fleet numbered around 2,500 vehicles.[citation needed]

Railway services

A picture of a Centro E.M.U. at Coventry station in 2001.
A picture of a Network West Midlands British Rail Class 323 EMU interior in the early 2000s.

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 and Wear Metro.

In the 1980s WMPTA/WMPTE decided to restore rail services through Snow Hill station despite having made no effort to stop the closure of the Snow Hill lines in 1972. 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

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 be coterminous with the new county, although it continued to operate some services out-of-county.

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

As a result of the 1985 Transport Act, bus services across Great Britain were deregulated. This brought about the creation of a private company, West Midlands Travel Ltd (WMT), which took over the bus assets and services of the WMPTE on 26 October 1986. From that date, WMPTE's functions were reduced to sundries such as transport planning, promotion, and concessionary passes.

WMT remained in public ownership under the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority until 1991, when it was sold to its management and employees in a behind-closed-doors process in which external offers from other businesses such as Stagecoach were excluded. The sell-off was required as a condition of the government funding construction of Midland Metro. At the time, this was estimated to have cost the public purse £25 million.[11]

Unlike Greater Manchester, where the former PTE bus operations were split up to reduce the likelihood of a dysfunctional market, WMT was privatised as a single unit, with a market share of about 80%. Its power was further bolstered by the 'Travelcard' season ticket range inherited from WMPTE, to which other operators had no access. The extent of consumers' losses from the WMT monopoly are not known, but in 2009 the Office of Fair Trading found that bus fares tended to be about 9% higher in areas where there was no competition.[12]


In 2009 Centro expected to lose £800,000 as a result of having money invested with an Icelandic bank.[13] It had previously invested funds with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was forcibly closed in 1991.[citation needed]

In October 2009, it emerged that chief executive Geoff Inskip was likely to receive a "bumper" 18% pay rise, worth £24,000-a-year, irrespective of any general public sector restraint. According to the Authority's spokesman, the raise was needed to bring the pay into line with the "industry standard".[14][15]


Old Centro logo.
Network West Midlands Logo.

In the early 1990s WMPTE adopted the 'corporate' name of Centro, although the name was already being used by a transportation authority in New York State, USA.

In the late 1990s WMPTE planned a segmentation of the public transport offer, incorporating a tier called 'Network West Midlands' (NWM). The concept, still being pursued as late as 2003,[16] was never implemented. The name was re-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.[citation needed] The NWM graphic design resembled the British government's Preparing for Emergencies 'campaign'.

Promotion of the brand has included television advertising, and a Youtube video.[17]

Class 150 in Network West Midlands Livery at Moor Street station.

Following on from this, Centro's own corporate identity was reworked. Its new strapline, "transforming public transport", belies the fact that decisions on routes, frequencies, fares, and vehicle procurement are mostly made by other organisations, such as the Department for Transport, and National Express.[citation needed]

Following the Local Transport Act 2008, WMPTA has been renamed 'West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority'. However, supply of public transport remains deregulated and non-integrated, following the model established in the mid 1980s.

Key projects

New Street railway station

A plaque celebrating the rebuilding of Dudley Port station’s upper level in 1989.

Centro has backed the Gateway Plus project, over alternatives such as construction of an entirely new railway station for central Birmingham[citation needed]. Centro claims that Gateway Plus would "double the passenger capacity" of New Street station.[18]

High speed rail

In August 2009 Centro's chief executive backed construction of new railway in the West Midlands area for use by high speed trains, which would allow existing lines to have "better and more frequent local services".[19]

Showcase bus

In the 1990s, Centro considered 'Showcase' to be a new approach to running buses. In parallel with the introduction of new shelters, timetables, and raised kerbs at stops, bus operators would introduce low floor vehicles, and run them to timetable.[citation needed]

The designation was used for a few routes only. Increased use of low floor buses, and appearance of basic timetables at most stops from 2006, led to decreased use of the 'Showcase' name.[citation needed]

Midland Metro

Construction of a light rail network has been pursued since the mid 1980s, but only one line has been built. Midland Metro Line 1 carries about 5 million passengers per year, one third of the number forecast by Centro.

Bus rapid transit

Centro has shown a sporadic interest in bus based rapid transit. In the mid 1980s, it promoted the short-lived 'Tracline' guided bus,[20] and since 2006 it has promoted more conventional bus rapid transit under the name 'Sprint'.[21]

Car parking

As one of the biggest providers in central England, Centro has spent £14 million on building car parks since 1997.[22]

Speed cameras

In 2009 Centro provided two members of the five-seat board administering speed cameras in the West Midlands county. This was restructured to a three-seat board, with (in March 2010) no mention of Centro. Peter Francis, one of the two members credited from Centro in 2009, was now credited as being from 'CEPOG'.[23] Councillor Angus Adams, 'chair' of the speed camera board, was also Centro's 'Chairman of the Capital Projects Committee' and 'Lead Member for District Liaison & Metro/Rapid Transit Development'.[1]



On its website, Centro has stated that it 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." However, no explanation of this figure is given.[24]

In addition, the Letzgogreen (sic) website, using static cartoon figures of a style similar to South Park, has been set up to project Centro's view of public transport to schoolchildren. It suggests that a car journey from an unspecified point, near Marston Green, to Coventry would produce more carbon dioxide than a combined service 71 bus and train journey.[25] However, a report co-funded by Centro stated that public transport in PTE areas has generally been more polluting than car travel for many years.[26]

Midland Metro

In the foreword to its five year Environmental Strategy, Centro chairman Councillor Gary Clarke and chief executive Geoff Inskip stated that Midland Metro's emissions were "practically zero".[27] However, Centro later stated that it did not know how much energy Midland Metro consumed, or what its emissions were.[28]


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 transport operator has its own ticket range. In general a ticket is not usable on another company's service, but Centro passes with multi-operator validity are available, allowing travel on rail and/or bus, for periods ranging from 1 day to 1 year.

Chris Perry, then Centro's 'Customer Services Assistant Director', announced that Centro's nnetwork and nbus [sic] commercial tickets would "go Smart from April 2009".[29] This did not happen, allegedly due to computer problems,[30] and the completion date for network implementation is not known. The Birmingham Mail newspaper reported that local rail implementation would start in 2010.[31]



Centro publishes a number of documents related to corporate governance and transport strategy, including 'best value' reports, though in practice, there is no requirement to deliver best value. The reporting period runs from 1 April to 31 March of the following year.

For the year 2008-2009, financial documents included the WMITA Final Accounts, the WMITA 'Group' Final Accounts, and the WMPTE Statement of Accounts.[32]

The Centro website does not provide an organigramme, or describe the size and activities of individual departments.

Centro falls within the scope of the 2000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)[33] but in practice, more information was available before the Act was passed. For example, the number of statistics provided in the Centro 1997-98 Annual Statistical Report was much larger than the 2008-2009 equivalent.

Privatisation of transport operations has also affected disclosure. Centro has referred at least one person requesting information about property that it owns to Travel Midland Metro, a private concern apparently exempt from FOIA.[28]

Governance and expenses

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[34] 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".

Councillors receive additional payments for serving on the Transport Authority, but the Centro website does not detail scope of these payments, individual hours spent on ITA business, number of meetings attended by councillors, or agendas and minutes of meetings.

The Integrated Transport Authority has seven Transport Users' Forums covering the district areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Public participation

Centro has stated that 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.[35]

Special needs transport

In the latest available accounts (2007-2008), Transport Authority councillors are named in the West Midlands Special Needs Transport directors list.[36] Special needs transport is effectively a monopoly, and not exposed to a tender process of the type used to fill nominal gaps in the main bus network.

Companies providing local travel services

Pictures of Centro liveryed Class 150 DMUs in the year 2001. Dorridge is above and Solihull is below.
A W.M .Travel bus in Dorridge.
A W.M .Travel bus in Dorridge.
A W.M .Travel bus in Dorridge.
A W.M .Travel bus in Dorridge.
Midland Metro tram 14 leaving Snow Hill railway station tram stop.


  • A Line Buses
  • A Line of Coventry
  • AirParks
  • AK Travel
  • AM PM Travel
  • Arriva Midlands
  • Banga Buses
  • Central Buses
  • Central Connect***
  • Central Logistics
  • Claribels
  • Coach Express
  • Coastal Liner
  • Codsall Cars
  • Diamond Bus***
  • Finesse Coaches
  • FirstGroup
  • Golden Line Buses
  • Grosvenor Coaches
  • GRS Travel
  • Hansons
  • Harringtons
  • Heartlands Express
  • Hi-Ride
  • Joes Travel
  • Johnsons of Henley
  • Lynx Solutions
  • Midland
  • Midland Bus Company
  • Midland Rider
  • MRD Travel
  • National Express Coventry*
  • National Express West Midlands*
  • Redwing Contracts
  • Sandwell Travel
  • Silverline
  • Stagecoach
  • Star Bus
  • Sunny Travel
  • Thandi Buses
  • The Green Bus (Independent School bus company)
  • Travel de Courcey
  • Travel Express
  • Warstone Motors
  • Wombourne Private Hire
  • Valley Travel



* - Part of the National Express Group
** - Part of the Go-Ahead Group
*** - Part of the Rotala Group
**** - Part of the Arriva Group

See also


  1. ^ a b "Councillors". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/corporateinformation/councillors.aspx. 
  2. ^ "Birmingham's free Stationlink ends". busandcoach. 2008-01-04. http://www.busandcoach.com/newsStory.aspx?id=1761. 
  3. ^ "Walsall to Wolverhampton Rail service Briefing Note". Walsall Council. http://google.com/search?q=cache%3AQG6G47LJdGwJ%3Awww2.walsall.gov.uk%2FCMISWebPublic%2FBinary.ashx%3FDocument%3D6213. 
  4. ^ "Bus Stops & Shelters". Centro. http://www.networkwestmidlands.co.uk/bus/busstops.aspx. 
  5. ^ Annual Statistical Report 2008-2009. Centro. 
  6. ^ "Donald leads PTE fight for quality bus and rail". Centro. 2005-07-29. http://centro.journalistpresslounge.com/centro/news/index.cfm/fuseaction/details/id/771278C8-1109-834F-D1F44326FA054281/cnt/6/ref/archive/type/Features/ses/1.cfm. 
  7. ^ "Transport chiefs aim to buy land for Metro". Express and Star. 2008-10-22. http://www.expressandstar.com/2008/10/22/transport-chiefs-aim-to-buy-land-for-metro/. 
  8. ^ "Region comes top for park and ride". Centro. 2004-06-15. http://centro.journalistpresslounge.com/centro/news/index.cfm/fuseaction/details/id/845D1275-1262-4BDE-8E7725B60CD1BC2E/cnt/1/ref/main/type/news%20releases/ses/1.cfm. 
  9. ^ "Are we being taken for a (Park and) Ride?". Birmingham Friends of the Earth. http://www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/newslet/news1203/STORY_10.HTM. 
  10. ^ "Failed Tyburn Road bus lane in Birmingham cost over £2.6m". Birmingham Mail. 2009-07-23. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2009/07/23/failed-tyburn-road-bus-lane-in-birmingham-cost-over-2-6m-97319-24221642/. 
  11. ^ "Cheap sell off of West Midlands Travel 1991". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McY5DFirXsg. 
  12. ^ "Bus fares are higher where no competition exists". Daily Mirror. 2009-08-21. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2009/08/21/bus-prices-aren-t-fare-115875-21612821/. 
  13. ^ "Centro expects to lose £800k in Iceland banking crisis". Birmingham Post. 2009-04-24. http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-transport-news/2009/04/24/centro-expects-to-lose-800k-in-iceland-banking-crisis-65233-23459944/. 
  14. ^ "£24k pay rise for boss of Centro". Express and Star. 2009-10-12. http://www.expressandstar.com/2009/10/12/24k-pay-rise-for-boss-of-centro/. 
  15. ^ "Centro chief's 18% pay award is out of keeping with public sector pay restraint". Birmingham Post. 2009-10-14. http://www.birminghampost.net/comment/post-comment/2009/10/14/centro-chief-s-18-pay-award-is-out-of-keeping-with-public-sector-pay-restraint-65233-24924410/. 
  16. ^ "20 Year Public Transport Strategy, Chapter 7, Network West Midlands and Local Networks". Centro. 2003-02-27. http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:vjSTZhQCH8UJ:www.centro.org.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp%3FlID%3D1792%26sID%3D4272+centro+20-year+strategy&hl=en&gl=uk. 
  17. ^ "Centro public transport Christmas carol". Centro. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOoXWoOHDhY. 
  18. ^ "Work set to start on New Street Station". Centro. 2009-08-12. http://centro.journalistpresslounge.com/centro/news/index.cfm/fuseaction/details/id/0EE10261-13D3-97AA-2D83F04ABECE4A1F/cnt/1/ref/main/type/News%20Releases/ses/1.cfm. 
  19. ^ "West Midlands transport bosses welcome High Speed Rail". Centro. 2009-08-27. http://centro.journalistpresslounge.com/centro/news/index.cfm/fuseaction/details/id/5B472640-13D3-97AA-2D33CE558316DF19/cnt/1/ref/main/type/News%20Releases/ses/1.cfm. 
  20. ^ "Tracline opening "it's not a gimmick" says Phil". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xHYDSoA7iI&feature=related. 
  21. ^ "New sprint bus will be a vital link". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 2006-06-27. http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/north-warwickshire-news/2006/06/27/new-sprint-bus-will-be-a-vital-link-92746-17299524/. 
  22. ^ "environment". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/environment/environment.aspx. 
  23. ^ "Who's who and where". West Midlands Casualty Reduction Partnership. http://www.wmsafetycameras.co.uk/foiwho.php. 
  24. ^ "Environment". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/environment/environment.aspx. 
  25. ^ "Centro: 7-11 years". Centro. http://letzgogreen.org/ks2/index.html. 
  26. ^ Scenarios and opportunities for reducing greenhouse gases and pollutant emissions from bus fleets in PTE areas. Passenger Transport Executives Group. 
  27. ^ "Environmental Strategy 2009-2014. Centro. 
  28. ^ a b "Information on Midland Metro". whatdotheyknow. http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_on_midland_metro#incoming-72146. 
  29. ^ "Centro-WMPTA Smartcard Project, Montreux". Centro. 2007-05-02. http://google.com/search?q=cache:1CDbXXkacucJ:www.scnf.org.uk/members/presentations/CENTRO_PILOT.PPT. 
  30. ^ "Date set for Birmingham's delayed bus smartcard system". Birmingham Mail. 2009-10-09. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2009/10/09/date-set-for-birmingham-s-delayed-bus-smartcard-system-97319-24890571/. 
  31. ^ "West Midlands public transport users soon to see electronic ticketing system". Birmingham Mail. 2009-10-17. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2009/10/17/west-midlands-public-transport-users-soon-to-see-electronic-ticketing-system-97319-24949502/. 
  32. ^ "publications". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/corporateinformation/publications.aspx. 
  33. ^ "Publication Scheme". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/corporateinformation/FreedomofInformation/PublicationScheme.aspx. 
  34. ^ "committees". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/corporateinformation/committees.aspx. 
  35. ^ "transport user forums". Centro. http://www.centro.org.uk/corporateinformation/tuf.aspx. 
  36. ^ "Annual report 2007-08". West Midlands Special Needs Transport. http://www.ringandride.org/content/download/406/2535/file/Annual%20Report%202007-08%20v2%2013%20Jul%2008.pdf. 

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