Transport Tsar, Mayor or Transport for Birmingham - solving the transport stranglehold

Estates Gazette has published a Birmingham Focus which EG writer Lisa Pilkington has commented on in her Midlands Property blog with a post titled Must try harder... That's the conclusion to the review of transport problems in the Birmingham Focus and reflects the increasing calls and desire for a figurehead to bring together transport away from the political football of party politics, achieving real progress for the residents, business and tourists of the Greater Birmingham area.

And that's a shame, as the city's transport infrastructure is much bigger than party politics; it has a real effect on the economic (and mental!) well-being of all those who live and work in and around Birmingham.

Lisa Pilkington is asking for comments on her blog but she suggests for inspiration the West Midlands Business Transport Group and also the quick-wins survey results on which are small improvements to local transport infrastructure that might make a big difference.

While Advantage West Midlands has done some work and West Midlands CENTRO attempts to focus on transport what we need is a figurehead to bang heads together and to take a leadership role on an issue that will increasingly make or break the future of the West Midlands and wider region. With the ongoing saga of the Midland Metro, the delay to redevelop New Street Station and issues of connectivity across Birmingham and the Greater Birmingham area we need a leader above party politics who can focus on the transport.

Transport offers a massive opportunity to embed the regeneration the Midlands has experienced over the past thirty years and to bring together more regeneration opportunities and to allow people to travel easily between and through the region. The successful lobbying to extend Birmingham International Airport's runway and the redevelopment of New Street offering a welcoming face to Birmingham will not achieve the dramatic success they could in attracting business and visitors as they do not tackle the confusing transport network around Greater Birmingham and the lack of transport connections.


Anonymous said…
Campaign for Better Transport are doing a great job. From what goes on in Birmingham, the need for monitoring of unaccountable bodies affecting transport future seems increasingly apparent.
An issue arose about Moor Street station and one of the CBT team wrote to Network Rail about the apparent conflict between a 'supplemental agreement with Chiltern Railways' about Moor Street Station and aspirations to have a short new railway at Bordesley. The purpose of the new railway or chord at Bordesley would be to add a local train service for new stations at Balsall Heath/Highgate, Kings Heath, and Hazelwell to the rail network.
Indications are that infrastructure owner Network Rail are thinking about construction of two new chords at Bordesley with the intention of diverting some 'medium distance' train services such as the little ones that run to Cardiff and Nottingham into Moor Street (New Street being full).
Network Rail has to be fully behind ideas as they make the proposals to secure funding from central government. Network Rail prepare a draft strategic business plan, DfT make a Statement of Funds Available - and the process goes from there. NR made no provision in their draft strategic business plan for local stations in Birmingham.
A non NR source of funds is the Regional Funding - but RFA2 Advice submissions from the Region (Local Transport Today LTT514 27 Feb 2009) made no allocation whilst concentrating on road schemes (Shrewsbury, Hereford) and Metro extensions.

Having had an unsatisfactory response from NR (it was an amateur effort that said strategic transport decisions are not made by us), CBT's volunteer wrote to local MP Roger Godsiff who promptly responded and passed the matter to Department for Transport (DfT).

The reply from DfT is instructive: at Moor Street the Third terminating platform is not to be used because Park Street bridge is not up to it. The stabling sidings could be 'removed relatively easily (were the site on which they sit required for 4 track operation).
DfT closing paragraph reads 'It would be for Centro to promote the project to build the Camp Hill Line connections. Although with funding to be identified from regional and local funding sources and planning approvals still to be sought, it was felt that the approach taken by Chiltern Railways was the most appropriate, to facilitate the reconnection of Moor Street terminating platforms in the shorter term while not precluding potential future work to provide four tracks into Moor Street station.'

There is to be a meeting on wednesday 15 July about the Kings Heath Station proposals. One of those attending is Councillor Martin Mullaney who attracted 1000 people to sign a petition in 2005, that appears to have achieved nothing.

Finally, one of the CBT members has noted that train stopping patterns intended to benefit longer distance commuters travelling to Central Birmingham are disadvantaging other travel arrangements - examples include Stratford branch trains having final stop at Spring Road before running non stop to Birmingham Moor Street (ie not including a stop at either Tyseley Junction Station or Small Heath) thus frustrating journeys to places such as Solihull. There is also to be a skip stop service on Cross City Line (this is not the semi-fast arrangement long in use in the South) but one based on the intended destination of all journeys being central Birmingham.

We are a long way from having walking and walking to reliable public transport provision as number one choice.

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