The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE), better known as Centro, was the public body (Passenger Transport Executive) responsible for promoting and co-ordinating public transport services throughout the West Midlands (county)|West Midlands county in England from 1969 until 2016. It has been superseded by Transport for West Midlands.
Centro was the operating arm of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority (WMPTA) which set policies and budgets for the executive. The WMPTA was a joint-authority, made up of 27 councillors appointed from the seven West Midlands metropolitan district councils of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The authority had ten councillors from Birmingham, three councillors each from Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton, and two from Solihull .
Centro and the WMPTA did not actually run passenger services after 1986, which were run by private companies, but were responsible for:
- Subsidising some bus, train and metro services which are considered socially necessary but would not otherwise be commercially viable.
- Providing bus stops, shelters, timetables and passenger information services.
- Operating twelve major bus stations throughout the West Midlands.
- Managing the funding and administration of concessionary fares for the elderly and disabled etc. Centro also subsidised the Ring-and-Ride door to door service for the elderly and disabled which was operated by West Midlands Special Needs Transport.
- Control of local train services operating in the county, and specifying fares and service levels - the services were operated on Centro/Network West Midlands's behalf under a franchise agreement.
- Operating multi-modal ticketing schemes.
- Developing public transport facilities across the county, such as new stations, transport interchanges and the Midland Metro.
- Helping to partly fund the Centro Hotline (also known as Traveline West Midlands) via WMTIS (West Midlands Transport and Information Services Ltd) giving out timetable information and fares within the Centro region.
The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive was created in 1969, following the 1968 Transport Act, and was established to operate and co-ordinate public transport across the West Midlands conurbation. The PTE initially acquired the vehicles, holdings and operations of the municipal fleets in Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. The former Birmingham City Transport was by far the largest constituent part of the new fleet, as a consequence of which a modified version of that operator's blue and cream livery was adopted by the PTE.
Operations initially covered the Birmingham/Black Country area and some surrounding towns such as Redditch and Bromsgrove. In 1973 the PTE consolidated its control when it acquired from the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company (commonly known as "Midland Red") those operations which lay within the conurbation. The transfer included all the staff and vehicles within the area, with the exception of Bearwood Garage and Digbeth Coach Station, which were retained by BMMO. BMMO officially changed its name to the Midland Red Omnibus Company the following year, dropping the reference to Birmingham.
The 1972 Local Government Act led to the creation, on 1 April 1974, of the West Midlands metropolitan county. The WMPTE's operating area was adjusted to be coterminous with the new county, which resulted in the takeover from that date of[Coventry's municipal fleet and operations.
Between 1969 and 1974 the WMPTE was administered by a Passenger Transport Authority under the joint control of the local county boroughs. In 1974 the role of the PTA was assumed by the new West Midlands County Council. When the metropolitan county council was abolished in 1986, joint control of the WMPTA passed to the metropolitan district councils.
As a result of the 1985 Transport Act, bus services across the UK were deregulated and privatised. This brought about the creation of a private company, West Midlands Travel Ltd, which took over the vehicles and passenger carrying operations of the WMPTE on 26 October 1986.
From that date WMPTE assumed its new role coordinating the services of all local operators, and adopted the trading name of Centro shortly thereafter, to better distinguish itself from its previous role as an operator.
The name Network West Midlands was used for a rebranding of the existing bus and train services 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.
WMPTA was reconstituted as the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority following the Local Transport Act 2008.
Following the creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority in 2016, TfWM was established as its transport arm. Centro and the WMITA were abolished, and their responsibilities, functions, assets, and staff were transferred to the Combined Authority. Network West Midlands remains as the public-facing brand for public transport information in the region.
Centro brought in several discount rail passes as a way of stimulating passenger use in the 1990s.
Whilst individual bus fares were set and collected by the bus operators, train fares were set by Centro. There also remains a range of day and season tickets which were initiated by Centro:
|Ticket name||Validity period(s) available||Modes of transport|
|nbus*||day, week, four week, school term (under 18s only), year||buses (all operators) - may also be used on metro if a supplement for a 'metro add-on' is paid|
|ntrain||week, four week, school term (under 18s only), year||trains (a zonal system is used)|
|nnetwork||week, four week, thirteen week, school term (under 18s only), year||bus, train, metro (Z1 or Z1-2 tickets not valid on metro)|
|one day nnetwork||day||bus, train, metro|
Network West Midlands is also the name of a fictional set of routes written for the freeware cab-view rail simulator BVE (Bose View Express), whilst being heavily based upon the real life network. The routes are created by the Trainsimcentral team.