Receive our newsletter - data-led analysis, original reporting and insights
Transport / Mass transit

Birmingham proposes disappointing new transport masterplan

Guys, guys, take a look at this, the West Midlands has just launched the most exciting thing EVER. From the BBC:

Three tram lines could be built in Birmingham, alongside high-speed bus routes, under a £4bn transport plan.

The city council’s 20-year Birmingham Connected scheme also includes details for reopening rail lines and building two new stations.

Finally, a proper local transport network covering the entire cit-

It said it did not currently have “all the funding in place”.

…ah.

The report goes onto say that a number of options are on the table – money from Westminster, money from Europe, ring-fenced business rates (which local businesses are, of course, delighted by). But all these ideas are a little on the theoretical side, and, at this point, Birmingham could be promising to fund its future using Monopoly money, and it wouldn’t be that much less fantastical than the plans on the table at the moment.

But let’s ignore all that for the moment, and look at what’s actually on the wish list.

Expanding the Metro tram system

That means:

                a) finishing the planned extensions, to Edgbaston and Digbeth;

                b) extending the latter line out to the airport;

                c) Maaaaaaaybe adding three more lines somewhere along the way: along the A34 heading north, the A38 heading south, and the A45 heading east to the airport. This last looks suspiciously like the one they already mentioned in point (b), but okay.

All this will take quite a while, though – “over the next 20 years”, the Birmingham Connected report says – so in the mean time it’s…

Buses to the rescue!

“Sprint” is “envisaged to be the primary, “transformative” public transport mode for Birmingham over the next 20 years”. It’s “bus rapid transit”, which means priority lanes, limited stops, a cashless payment system, and a minimum journey speed of 20mph. It’s basically buses-as-metro. Here’s a map:

And the rest

There’s more – reopening a couple of rail routes; adding new stations; sticking the A38 trunk road, which cuts the city centre in two, into a massive great tunnel. It’s all very exciting.

Nonetheless, it’s all a bit on the if-wishes-were-horses side. If Birmingham had the money and power to do all these exciting things to improve its transport system, it would do them. But since it doesn’t, the exciting bits of the plan are so far into the future that they’re barely visible, and the ones that look likely to happen (buses!) aren’t that exciting.

Manchester, in a little over 20 years, has built a fairly extensive light rail system and shows little sign of slowing down. Birmingham, meanwhile, is dependent on cars, and wasting time arguing with the neighbours over whether they’re part of the city at all. It feels significant that the Metro extensions are so far in the future, the city authorities haven’t even bothered to make a map.

“Second city”? Sort it out, guys.
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.