As Cabinet Member for Transportation in Birmingham from 2003-4 I was challenged to introduce charging for entering the city centre. I resisted because of the poor provision of public transport in Birmingham and the region, not because I am opposed to doing something drastic to combat congestion and pollution. I did support the development of the Midlands Metro, bus lanes, park and ride, cycling routes and any way to improve the quality of transport and the environment. Clearly though a sustainable future requires something much more fundamental than tinkering at the edges. Even so I was branded by the motoring lobby as anti-car. Some of these people are fanatical in their insistence on living for the present, damn the consequences of continued gridlock now and much worse for our children in the future. Anyone who dare support improvement for the public transport system can depend on them for venting their wrath. They must be pleased with the current post holder who succeeded me, “Gridlock” Gregory, who has done is best to put to reverse what was done by the Labour Council and the Passenger Transport Authority. Bus usage continues to decline apace and there are no alternatives while Metro developments are in limbo.
The strong lobby of motorists opposing road charges threatens the agenda to seriously combat the effects of pollution on the climate, which we’re are continually told are potentially catastrophic.
In the Midlands we are dependent on the car and roads more and more, yet the result is increasing gridlock and misery. To travel abroad flying is the cheapest and easiest option, with as yet no prospect of a rail link with Europe taking in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. Some are saying that New Street development will be expensive and short lasting. The problem is that 12 tracks funnel in to 4 because of tunnelling restrictions. An alternative of a Grand Central Station in Eastside is proposed, but Birmingham like Edinburgh has its station right at the heart of things, a situation envied by many others.