Birmingham City Council launched its ‘Birmingham Transport Plan’ a few days ago, and it is fair to say that it has received a mixed reception so far.
Below you’ll find a PDF slideshow from the presentation, as well as a summary of the key proposals. I have read through the full document available from the Birmingham City Council website (link below), and it is typically full of the usual waffle with lots of vague ideology and ambition but little precise detail as of yet.
Birmingham Transport Plan PresentationBTP_launch_presentation
The key proposals are:
Cars banned from driving ‘through’ the city centre
Cars will no longer be able to traverse Birmingham’s centre via the A38 and will instead have to go around it on the A4540 Middleway ring road which will be ‘upgraded’.
Downgrading the A38 tunnels
The iconic tunnels through the city centre could become ‘car free’ – though this is likely to be one of the final pieces of the puzzle rather than an immediate measure.
20mph speed limit will be ‘default’
Outside of the city centre the most significant change will be reducing Birmingham’s default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. This would apply to residential streets which make up around 90 per cent of the city, and not the key A and B routes.
Car-free school streets
This proposal is to restrict and manage parking outside of schools to encourage ‘active travel’ such as walking and cycling.
Here’s where things start to get more vague. The BTP acknowledges how important and influential the cost and availability or parking is in the levels of car travel. It talks about using parking as a means to ‘manage demand for travel by car through availability, pricing and restrictions’.
A separate document outlining the council’s future parking strategy also emerged last October which included proposals to remove all free on-street parking in the city centre, introduce more restrictions, discourage long stays through charging and the replacement of off-street car parks.
Public transport will be king – dethroning the car
This is likely to include more bus lanes, bus gates and preferential treatment for buses, alongside expansion of the Metro system and the – hoped for – arrival of HS2; allied to improved cycle lanes and pedestrianisation schemes
People will be able to submit comments to birminghambeheard.org.uk when the consultation launches. In the meantime visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/transportplan where the full documents are available to read and download.
So what about buses then?
Personally, as someone who has never owned a car and doesn’t drive, please forgive me for coming at this subject with a bus-skewed perspective.
The most common complaint I hear from bus users, in particular those who use services that travel to/from Birmingham city centre, is the question of service reliability. The main issue is that bus services are unreliable, especially at peak times, due to traffic congestion in and around the city centre, as buses have to work their way through the same traffic jams and bottlenecks that other vehicle drivers have to endure.
So while I would welcome measures to reduce the amount of traffic congestion, thus allowing buses to move more freely, I do have concerns about how this Transport Plan affects those who need a car more than others may do.
There is very much a “chicken and egg” situation in place here; the council is very keen to encourage motorists to ‘ditch the car’ and use public transport instead, but the problem is that people are put off from using public transport because it is perceived as being ‘unreliable’ or even ‘unsafe’.
But beyond the promise of further Metro extensions and the introduction of ‘Sprint’ bus rapid transport (BRT) services, which we already know about, the only other mention of buses in this draft document is a vague promise to introduce ‘cross-city’ bus services.
Now of course older readers may remember that we used to have such services in the past, for instance there used to be a Perry Barr to Northfield service that went via the city centre, and I do remember the 66 service running from Bearwood to Star City / Nechells at one point. And the reason these services were curtailed or split up was due to reliability issues caused by… city centre traffic congestion.
The other issue that I have which causes bus service unreliability is the seemingly never-ending roadworks and changing of road layouts in Birmingham city centre over the years.
My concern is that in order to ‘deliver’ this Transport Plan by the aimed 2031 there are going be even further huge amounts of disruption caused by roadworks in order to remodel the city centre road layout yet again.
I seem to recall just a few years ago a lot of work was done at the end of Broad Street at the junction with Paradise Circus, when that was being demolished, then it was only a short time after that when the ‘new’ road layout was once again dug up in order to lay down the tram tracks. Talk about shambolic planning!
There is going to be further disruption for bus users over the next few years, will it be worth it in the end? That remains to be seen. As to whether enough motorists can be convinced to give up their cars and use public transport to commute to/from the city centre, that again will depend on how much priority is given to buses while roadworks take place.
Or maybe people will just travel elsewhere…
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