Backing for £10.5m transport links plan
A MULTI-MILLION pound plan to cut congestion and speed up journeys between several of North Staffordshire's biggest employment sites has won Government approval.
Funding of almost £10.5 million will be invested over the next four years on creating high speed public transport links between key sites like Keele University and Hanley.
The Government will inject £4.92 million to kick-start the scheme, while Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council will invest a further £5.5 million.
It follows a landmark joint bid to the Government from the two councils to provide cleaner transport and better access to jobs for thousands of people.
Cash will be used to pay for dedicated bus routes cutting commuting times between Keele University, Newcastle town centre, Stoke station, the University Quarter and Hanley.
The number of buses travelling to growing business sites like Trentham Lakes, Etruria Valley and Chatterley Whitfield will be increased, while traffic management systems at traffic lights and junctions will help buses beat queues.
Evidence compiled as part of the bid shows the region's A-roads are among the country's slowest, contributing to unreliable bus journeys.
It currently takes almost an hour for a bus to travel from Keele University to Hanley, which highways bosses hope to cut to 35 minutes.
New cycle lanes will also be provided after studies showed big gaps in the cycle path network prevent people from cycling to work.
County councillor Mike Maryon, cabinet member for highways, below, said: "Today's funding will not only help deliver a package of measures to tackle congestion, cut carbon emissions and promote economic growth, but will also play a huge role in making it easier for people to choose a more sustainable mode of transport.
"This partnership will improve bus operations and services in North Staffordshire, make travel for our 31,000 students easier and encourage families to make a greener choice of transport."
The councils originally planned two separate bids which would have resulted in £13.7 million investment.
But they were asked to combine the bids to increase their chances of succeeding.
City councillor Ruth Rosenau, the city's cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transportation, said: "This will help to make our roads less congested and significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
"We are pleased that our funding bid has been successful, and for the benefits it will help us to deliver.
"The successful bid contains prioritised elements of two individual bids.
"We are confident the same benefits of both schemes will be achieved."
The scheme is part of a masterplan, backed by both universities and major city centre developers including Genr8 and Realis, to create a system of 'employment corridors' spanning Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
The successful bids were confirmed as part of a national £266 million Government cash injection through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Announcing the funding, Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "Investing in these schemes shows that we are serious about funding infrastructure where there is a clear business case for doing so.
"The money we are putting into these projects will unlock much greater economic benefits for communities as well as improving the environment. It's a win-win."