Getting the a revamp of New Street Station is a great achievement so I don’t want to sound ungrateful on behalf of fellow citizens of Birmingham or any other users of the facility across a considerably wider region. (People in Shropshire and Wales, for example depend on it as a gateway to London and elsewhere.)
As a Londoner, however, I would like to suggest we look at Birmingham and the region as the Heart of the Nation rather than the “Second City” or second anything. That means our expectations should not be capped to the spending of millions when it is announced that a cross city line in London will run to billions without anyone turning a hair!
The Evening Mail today rightly states that while the plans will ease congestion for people (that’s great), pity about the trains. Two tracks between Coventry and Wolverhampton accommodate high-speed inter-city rail links, local passenger services and freight. Is that sustainable for development?
I stood on the platform at a similar station in Brussels with trains entering from tunnels at either end. The difference was that the tunnels were straight and trains were coming and going non-stop. It is not something allowed in UKsince the speed of trains entering stations is restricted for safety reasons.
To get a half decent transport system in the Midland Region we need to set our sights much higher at an integrated system. Locally it helps people access a greater range of jobs, but it’s just as important for travelers across the UK. A hold up around New Street can have a knock-on effect as far away as Scotland and the South Coast (it actually happens!)
Let’s start looking at ourselves as an integral part of a nation rather than an outpost of the capital. This has had huge amounts spent on links such as the Eurostar link with European capitals. That stopped short in London instead of coming to Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. (Why should we allow this to go without comment?) Then there was the Jubilee Line to service the famous Dome (less said the better), and untold sums to fund transport for the Olympics. And there’s more….
Meanwhile even our modest tram seems to have hit the buffers.
Published in “The Stirrer” 14/2/2008
Ken Livingstone argued some time ago that “Birmingham hasn’t got a public transport system.” The Birmingham Tories responded with proposals for an underground. What they didn’t understand is that we were already putting something in place which could, where and when necessary, go underground too. I argued that to have a tram which you could hop on and off across town was much better. How many stops could you put in with an underground? If you know the London system you can walk as far as you travel knowing what it feels like to be a mole.
Actually it was Cllr John Alden who, when Birmingham’s Mayor, first mooted the underground. In my room at the Council House Paul Dale of Birmingham Post asked me what a shovel, a map and a model of a Central Line train was doing there. I tried to explain that it was intended to be presented to Cllr Alden. The shovel was for digging, the map showing the route from his house in Harborne to the Council House. Unfortunately the presentation never happened when Cllr Bore disapproved of the idea!