Work is due to start on a long-awaited £11 million transport project to improve links between Solihull and the region’s biggest airport and exhibition centre.

The Airport NEC Integrated Transport Scheme (ANITA) aims to improve links to Birmingham International Airport and the NEC by introducing better bus services, reducing journey times and creating improved facilities for passengers.

The Department for Transport-funded scheme also aims to cut congestion levels by helping to maintain the flow of traffic during major events being held at the NEC.

The first phase will begin at the end of the month, with completion planned for 2010.

Managers from the airport and NEC met with the cabinet member for transport and highways, Councillor Ted Richards, yesterday at the entrance of Birmingham International railway station – one of the key locations in the project.

Coun Richards, said: “The starting of this work is the first step towards the opening up of public transport links between the north and south of the borough. This will have a real impact on employment opportunities, opening up areas to people who previously were not able to reach through public transport. It will reduce congestion, and give people the opportunity to travel safely by bike or other modes of greener transport.

“We hope to keep disruption to a minimum, and ask travellers for their patience and understanding while these works are being carried out.”

The first phase will start in two areas – carriageway work at Station Way to introduce bus priority lanes on the approach to the roundabout of Station Way with Bickenhill Lane and work to provide bus lanes on Bickenhill Lane from the link road between Bickenhill Lane and Birmingham International station.

Other aspects of the project include an improved interchange, creating better links between buses and trains, new bus shelters, more bus services introduced to the NEC, improvements for disabled travellers including easier access kerbs, and real-time information boards.