No tram in Birmingham? Then what?

The Birmingham Post today (23/2/2008) questions the future of the Midland Metro, which consists of one line between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton. As Cabinet Member for Transportation 2003-4 I felt it a matter of great importance to advance new routes.
Every new tram system brings out the NIMBY groups and so it did here with the Tories drumming up opposition in Edgbaston and Lib-Dems canvassing residents living along the Walsall Road. What I didn’t expect was for other Labour councillors to try to outdo the Lib-Dems in opposing plans. They enlisted the support of Khalid Mahmood, M.P. for Perry Barr who described it as a “white elephant”. Since he was then PPS to Tony McNulty, a transport minister does he bear any responsibility for stalling the one hope we have of getting some sort of public transport system which will help get cars off the road. The problem is he and others have no alternative suggestions. The only idea they have is the bus, which instead of improving in Birmingham gets steadily worse. Anyway the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition have closed bus lanes I approved! Desperate! The underground? Well it was always patently obvious that if we were having difficulty funding the Metro then the likelihood of getting an underground was below zero, but you couldn’t tell them that. Anyway the Metro can be an underground, or it could become a “sky train” like in Vancouver. If it ain’t there at all it can’t do anything.
Nottingham managed to get its plan through for a tram employing a public relations officer to build enthusiasm for the venture. Yes the NIMBY lobby were there but not allowed the upper hand. Their numbers pale into insignificance compared to other residents. Councillors opposing the scheme in Birmingham did not bother to sound out other opinion.

Dick Knowles, former Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, passed away last week. His contribution to the development of Birmingham really shows up the lack of vision the present leadership has. They go crazy because the City has been offered New Street Station renovation, which should have been done as a matter of course. Two tracks make it impossible to develop the rail system properly. It has been reported our local rail service is the poorest in the country. Then it has to compete on that line with intercity and freight!
The one light at the end of the tunnel is to see the raised platform intended to take the Metro beyond Snowhill. There is talk of taking it at least to New Street to link in with the new station there. At least it will not remain hidden from view. I wanted to see a mock-up of the tram placed in Victoria Square where the proposed route would pass the Iron Man, perhaps moving him a short distance. However this didn’t happen and no one was appointed to promote it. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
Ken Livingstone’s comment that “Birmingham hasn’t got a public transport system” looks like being validated once again. Our so-called leaders are truly pathetic!

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