WHEN WILL THE MIDLANDS EVER GET A DECENT TRANSPORT SYSTEM – NOT EVER IF THE TORIES AIDED BY THE LIB DEMS CAN HELP IT!
The West Midlands is crying out for a sustainable transport system. The Midland Metro, begun in the early nineteen ninties, runs between Wolverhanpton and Birmingham, Snow Hill. We worked hard last year to take the route further to Five Ways at Edgbaston, to be followed by a route to the planned Eastside development as far as Vauxhall and Duddeston. This would create a link with the rail network and relieve pressure on New Street. The problem is the Tories want an underground. This was tried in the late nineties when a proposal was made for a route from Five Ways to Duddeston. The prohibitive cost drove it out of the window. However Tories and their Lib Dem partners in crime (Lib Dem voters would you have voted for them if you knew you would get a Tory led Council?) continue to press ahead to destroy our one hope of getting a good reliable system which will get people out of their cars. The existing line is increasingly popular. All the money and work put into this following the Local Transport Plan (2000, revised 2003) will have been for nothing. Will they never learn?
“Darling – Tube is holding you back”, Birmingham Post, Nov 3 2004
The existing Metro cannot reach its full potential unless it is extended into the city centre. There has been a public enquiry and everything is set to go ahead – apart, that is, for the agreement of Birmingham City Council.
A few years ago I visited Leipzig as part of the PRESUD sustainability programme in which Birmingham was a partner. As with other European cities the tram, or light rail systems are the norm. In one recently built suburb residents were campaigning for the tram to be extended to their locality to be told that the population was not dense enough to warrant it. In nearby Halle which is a very old town with narrow streets, trams were frequent. here will be a case for future Birmingham tram routes to go under the city, but frequent stops on the surface are its benefits as you can see in Manchester. Let’s get on with it. The underground is a separate argument and shouldn’t be used to hold up metro developments. I felt in a year as Cabinet Member for Transportation that many gains were made in tackling congestion and pollution, and improving safety on our roads. I despair to see all that work being put into reverse.
One comment I overheard was that it was a good thing that the new administration is more “car friendly”. Well if increasing car use clogs up the road network and continues to undermine health and environment I fail to see the gain. The freedom to sit in your car in traffic gridlock is not my idea of helping even the most die-hard of the driving fraternity! The Association of British Drivers does seem to be a hysterical lot. Needless to say they were convulsed when it was reported that I had been issued with a parking ticket. This they saw as “poetic justice”. Being told I’m Birmingham’s answer to Ken Livingstone is no insult as far as I’m concerned, if only we could bring Birmingham’s transport system forward as far as has happened in London. I did not advocate congestion charges in Birmingham precisely because the public transport system does not yet provide an adequate coverage. I’ve no doubt it will come, but first things first!