Wolverhampton city centre forms the main focal point for the road network within the northwestern part of the West Midlands conurbation, and out into the rural hinterland of Staffordshire and Shropshire. The road network within the boundaries of the city council area is entirely maintained by Wolverhampton City Council, whilst those parts of the urban area outside the city council area have their networks maintained by Staffordshire County Council, with the exception of M54 and A449 on the northern fringes of the urban area which are maintained by the Highways Agency.
Major historical improvements to the city's road network include Thomas Telford's Holyhead Road which was constructed between 1819 and 1826 to improve communications between London and Holyhead, and hence to Ireland. The majority of work within the city saw improvement to the contemporary network, though the both Wellington Road in Bilston and the cutting at the Rock near Tettenhall were newly constructed for the road, although the improvements at The Rock were constructed by the local Turnpike Trust rather than Telford himself. In 1927, the A4123 Birmingham-Wolverhampton New Road was constructed as both an unemployment relief project, and to relieve pressure on Telford's road through the Black Country. It was the first purpose built inter-city road in the United Kingdom within the 20th century, and was said to be the longest stretch of new road in Britain since the Romans. It took just three years to complete and cost £600,000. Also in 1927, the first automatic traffic lights in the United Kingdom were installed in Princes Square in the city centre. Princes Square was also the location of the United Kingdom's first pedestrian safety barriers, which were erected in 1934.
The city also has an Inner Ring Road, which circumnavigates the city centre linking the majority of the city's radial routes. It was constructed in sections between 1960 and 1986, and carries the number A4150.
Wolverhampton is near to several motorways, with four being located within 7mi of the city centre. The first to be constructed in the area was the M6, which opened in sections between 1966 and 1970, and connects the city with the north-west of England (including Manchester and Liverpool), Scotland as well as Birmingham and Coventry to the east, and London via the M1. Together with the M5, which opened in the area in 1970 and links the city with the south-west of England, and London via the M40, the two motorways form a north-south bypass for the city.
The section of M6 motorway nearest to the city is one of the busiest within the UK, and to relieve congestion on this stretch, the M6 Toll which bypasses both the Wolverhampton and Birmingham sections of the M6 motorway was opened in 2003.
The M54 motorway forms a northern bypass to the city, passing just within the fringes of the urban area, and links the city with Telford, Shrewsbury and Wales. It opened in 1983.
In addition to the motorways presently constructed, there have also been several proposed near to the city that have not been constructed, or have been constructed to a lower standard. Included within these are the Bilston Link Motorway, which was first proposed in the 1960s and was eventually constructed to a lower standard in the 1980s as the A454/A463 Black Country Route; and the Western Orbital or Wolverhampton Western Bypass, which was first proposed in the 1970s as a bypass for the western side of the city and the wider Black Country conurbation. Currently proposed by the Highways Agency is the M54 to M6 / M6 (Toll) Link Road. The route was initially proposed in the 2000s to relieve the overloaded sections of A460 and A449 near the city, and to replace a section of the cancelled Western Orbital. Whilst it appears in the current roads programme, a date for the start of construction has not been set.
Wolverhampton's first railway opened in 1837, with the opening of the Grand Junction Railway, the first long-distance line in Great Britain. The main station for the city was, however, not located in the city centre, but at Wednesfield Heath, now Heath Town on the east side of the city. This station was considered to be a First Class station, though its location was obviously not ideal and it became a goods station after passenger services ceased in 1873. The station buildings were demolished in 1965, but the main station area is now a nature reserve just off Powell Street, called Station Fields and part of the edge of the northbound platform is still in situ. The track running through the station is, however, still in live use.
The first station in the city centre was opened by the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway in 1849. This station was only designed to be a temporary station, and was located on the north side of Wednesfield Road beside Broad Street Basin. The station was constructed as the opening of Wolverhampton High Level was delayed. The station closed in 1852, and was demolished in the mid-1970s. In addition to the temporary station, Wolverhampton railway works were also established in 1849 by the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway and became the Northern Division workshop of the Great Western Railway in 1854.
The permanent station on the line finally opened on 24 June 1852, and was initially known as Wolverhampton General, before being renamed as Wolverhampton Queen Street in 1853, and finally Wolverhampton High Level in 1855. The station was initially a joint station between the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway and the London and North Western Railway, though there were problems in the relationships between the two companies, and the station became solely LNWR in 1854 before the Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway gained access to the station in 1867. The original High Level station was demolished in 1965 as part of the electification of the West Coast Mainline, and was replaced by the current buildings on the site.
Two years after the opening of the High Level station, the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway opened their city centre station immediately to the east of High Level. Initially called Wolverhampton Joint, it was renamed Wolverhampton Low Level in 1856. As well as the OWW, the station also served the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway and the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway. As the first two companies were supported by the Great Western Railway, broad gauge track was laid to the station, meaning that Wolverhampton Low Level became the most northerly station on the broad gauge network before being converted to standard gauge in 1869. Despite being featured in the second Beeching Report, The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes in February 1965 as being on a line the should be further invested in, services were withdrawn from Low Level starting in 1967 soon after being moved from the Western Region of British Railways to the London Midland region, whose services used the High Level station. Low Level was converted to act as a Parcels Concentration Depot in 1970, and the final passenger services were removed in 1972. Passenger services to Birmingham Snow Hill were only suspended and never legally withdrawn by British Rail, and so the station is technically still open.
There were also a number of suburban stations in Wolverhampton – including Dunstall Park and Bushbury north of the city centre; Tettenhall and Compton to the west side of the city on the GWR's Wombourne Branch Line; Wednesfield and Heath Town on the Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway; Portobello on the Walsall to Wolverhampton Line; Priestfield and Bilston Central on the Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level Line; and Bilston West and Daisy Bank on the Oxford-Worcester-Wolverhampton Line. Today, all of the suburban rail stations within the city have been closed, although Coseley, Codsall and Bilbrook are just outside the boundaries.
The former High Level station, now simply known as Wolverhampton station is today one of the major stations on the West Coast Main Line. It has regular rail services to London Euston, Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly, as well as most other major cities in the UK. In addition to the long-distance services, there are many local services, including those on the Cambrian Line into Wales, the Walsall to Wolverhampton Line to Walsall, the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury Line to Telford and Shrewsbury; and the Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line to Stafford and Coventry.
The 1960s buildings of the station are proposed for redevelopment, with the main station buildings being demolished in a project called Wolverhampton Interchange. It was due to open in 2012, but work has been delayed whilst funding is sought.
Buses in the city are run commercially by a number of bus operators, the largest provider of services is National Express West Midlands. As well as serving suburbs of the city, buses from the centre of Wolverhampton also provide a direct link with the city of Birmingham and connections to Walsall, Telford, West Bromwich, Stourbridge, Cannock, Sedgley, Bilston, Bloxwich, Bridgnorth & Dudley.
The city's bus station operated by Centro is situated at Piper's Row, near to the railway station, providing an interchange between the two modes of transport.
The station has recently had a complete rebuild. Its previous Piper's Row incarnation opened on 26 October 1986, just six years after its predecessor of 1981. The station underwent a further upgrade in 1990 which saw the grade II listed Queen's Building incorporated into the bus station. A mild refurbishment took place in 2005/06 with new toilets and the addition of a coach stand. In July 2009 plans were unveiled for a complete rebuild of the bus station to form part of a new bus and rail interchange. The development will also see the railway station rebuilt and new flats and shops built nearby. The bus station closed in April 2010 and was demolished almost immediately, with the new £22.5 million station that opened on Sunday 24 July 2011.
Along with the rebuild, buses for Wolverhampton and the west of Walsall were renumbered, with several re-routed, though this has not proved popular with some residents.
The Midland Metro, a light rail system, currently connects Wolverhampton St. George's to Birmingham Snow Hill station via West Bromwich and Wednesbury, mostly following the former Birmingham Snow Hill-Wolverhampton Low Level Line. There are plans for further lines within the city, with both a city centre loop and a line to Walsall via Wednesfield and Willenhall, mostly following the route of the closed Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway.
Wolverhampton's original airport was at Pendeford, opened in 1938 and closed on 31 December 1970. The current Wolverhampton Airport, renamed from Halfpenny Green, is a small general aviation airfield located 8mi southwest of the city. Expansion of the airport has been suggested, but this has been successfully resisted by local residents.
The nearest major airport is Birmingham International Airport, approximately 25mi away. The airport is easy to reach by train, with a direct express service to it. By car, it can actually sometimes be quicker to reach Manchester Airport instead, due to traffic delays on the M6 eastbound motorway towards Birmingham International.
There are no navigable rivers within the city, but there are 17 miles of navigable canals. The Birmingham Main Line Canal passes through the city centre, connecting with the remaining portion of the Wednesbury Oak Loop at Deepfields Junction, and the Wyrley & Essington Canal at Horseley Fields Junction, before passing between the railway station and the bus station in the city centre and then descending 132 feet through the 21 Wolverhampton Locks and terminating at Aldersley Junction where it meets the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, which in turn connects with the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction.
Most places in the borough and some of the neighbouring villages in South Staffordshire are within easy reach by pedal cycle of the city centre and terrain is moderately hilly. Climbs tend to be of two to three minutes duration. Cycling benefits from the 20mph city centre within the Ring Road and a number of routes that use quieter roads and paths to avoid the ten 'A' roads that radiate from the Ring Road. Wolverhampton is on the Smethwick to Telford section of Sustrans National Cycle Network Route 81. This follows the Birmingham Main Line Canal towpath from Smethwick to Broad Street Basin, Wolverhampton where the route splits in two. The choice here is between riding the 21 locks section of the Birmingham Main Line Canal to Aldersley Junction or taking the Cross-City route braid to visit the city centre, West Park or Smestow Valley Leisure Ride before returning to Aldersley Junction. NCN81 continues to Autherley Junction along the towpath of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and then along the east bank towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal as far as Pendeford Mill Lane before turning to Bilbrook in Staffordshire. The lanes of nearby South Staffordshire and east Shropshire provide ideal cycle touring conditions.