Category Archives: Transport

Midland Metro extension from Snow Hill to New Street

I took a walk along the short Midland Metro extension which at last connects the two main stations in Birmingham, Snow Hill and New Street. As a City Councillor and Cabinet Member for Transportation from 2003-4 I signed a document advancing this, but the new Tory Lib-Dem administration put it on ice. Some of them were after an underground system. Financially the case for the Metro just about stacked up, but an underground system? I knew the London Underground very well as I had lived and worked there for many years, but you sometimes have to walk considerable distances when changing trains! I had planned to present the then Lord Mayor, Cllr John Alden with a shovel with a map joining the Council House to his home in Harborne, together with a model of a London tube train, but the idea wasn’t approved by Sir Albert so I regret I let it drop. I did tell John about this later but he just gave me a puzzled look. (Journalist Paul Dale from the Birmingham Post and Mail, saw the shovel and model train in my office and questioned me about. He didn’t see the point either!)

I travelled by train from the Hawthorns into Snowhill, which is just as well because I found the Metro now stopped short at St Paul’s. Beyond that was a deep hole.


I was expecting it to be joined up to the new extension since it was announced that trams would be testing it during October. Nevertheless you can see that people are very busy getting it ready.



It’s not clear where the tram stop will be. Is that under construction? Presumably the buildings at the end of the platform will be part of a connection between rails and tram. There’s no sign of a platform outside Snow Hill (see below).


The first stop is taking shape in Bull Street.


Then right into Corporation Street. No sign of another stop here.


But something seems to be emerging here outside the side entrance to New Street, now “Grand Central” Station.


So welcome to New Street Grand Central Station.


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Will Birmingham now get public transport that’s worth the name?

Blimey someone has spoken. It’s 6 years since I had any say in Birmingham’s transport system, or lack of it. I spent my year trying to bring on the tram. Is the announcement of ‘a bus that thinks it’s a tram” mean the end of the a belief in the tram. For some maybe but not for Geoff Inskip of Centro. He see’s it a way of getting there.

Nationalising debt and privatising profit on the railway

The taking of the East Coast main line away from National Express is only the beginning of dealing with problems with the railways in Britain. According to a report in the Independent (27/7/2009) some MPs fear that more services will have to be “rescued”.
What does this mean? A Government that has been intent on privatising virtually every thing in sight has a change of heart? Lord Adonis, late of an education reform that is having to be dismantled, announced that the East Coast franchise would be up for grabs after only a year. As withe Post Office fiasco it’s tax payers picking up the debts with profitable bits going to the private sector.
It’s not as if we have a coherent plan for transport when there is urgency required in the face of carbon emissions and the need for viable, affordable public transport. One idea is announced: a high speed link to include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow was raised. Now its electrification of lines between London and Swansea. The arguments are right that electric powered trains don’t have to carry their own fuel or emit pollution, although the power still has to be generated somehow. Some nice ideas outside London and the South East region but no back up with cash. Is there any with commitments to Iraq, Afghanistan and bankers? Is UK PLC going bankrupt?
The following article is by Neil Clark who the Socialist Labour Party will invite to speak in Birmingham in the autumn.

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Out with old, in with the new – will Obama build bridges?

The USA faces problems that look very familiar to us in the UK. While China is busy building new infrastructure with high speed rail links the older economies have structures which are crumbling and are in dire need of replacement. So what to do?
Obama is putting money up front to deal with regional “to do” lists creating work at a time of looming recession and joblessness. This creates a tension between spending for spending states on highways to nowhere against a visionary updating of transport which will enhance the economy.
Gordon Brown made similar noises about bringing projects forward in the spend and spend programme that is supposed to get the economy on the move again at the same time increasing the national debt. Fine if it works, but as some like the Germans doubt, what if it doesn’t. The hole will be a lot deeper while we’re still digging. Meanwhile Gordon sent our man to tell a critical German commentator to shut up. “We don’t do failing” as Alastair Campbell might have put it.
It seems to me that it might help if while we replace the old we also had a vision of building in the future at the same time. There are those in the US hankering after high speed rail links between cities and rapid transport systems in them. (Good grief a public transport system, but you see somebody had visited China and had seen what had been created there!).
So what about the UK? Manchester’s future has been put back because the public didn’t like the idea of road charging to pay for it. The West Midlands looks as if its had its share with an unpopular and costly toll road. Once again a privatisation too far which benefits a business rather than passing back cash to the economy in order to improve the transport system.
In U.S. there’s a debate between allowing regions to have the cash for them to decide priorities and the continuing central decision making process. Whichever it will depend on vision so if it’s not apparent centrally a lot will be spent with little to show for it. If regions get the dough then those that have vision will progress. Those that don’t will stay congested for ever and ever. Sound familiar?

M6 takes its toll in Birmingham

The M6 toll road is 5 years old, yet it’s hardly a happy birthday. Since it’s been there I’ve never driven along it and don’t intend to. It’s already costly and it looks as if prices will increase in the new year.
Has it cut congestion in Birmingham, on the existing M6 and surrounding region. The answer is clearly no. Critics from green groups point to more pollution and profits for the company running the route as a business.
What I object to is that the M6 toll is so hard to miss. It masquarades as the main motorway and you have to divert to stay on the M6 itself. Both ways. I have had to swerve when I’ve thought I was keeping to the M6 only to find myself being coraled towards the pay station. I’m wondering if there are any accident statistics here, as there are for cross overs at times of motorway maintenance.

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Can London afford Boris?

Well London has been there and done it where others are still scratching their heads and probably other parts of their anatomy. Seems he’s scrapping extensions to congestion charging after consulting with views of the scheme.
This was one response:
“Abolition of the Western Extension means that London’s fare payers will take yet another hit after the unnecessary above inflation fares increase coming this January.
Boris Johnson has now loaded on the London fare payer £50 million a year through abolition of the CO2 congestion charge on gas guzzlers, £20 million a year through abolition of the cheap oil deal with Venezuela, and now a minimum £14 million a year (too low Evening Standard estimate) to £70 million a year (TfL estimate) through abolition of the Western Extension.
The cost to London’s fare payers of Boris Johnson has therefore so far been between £84 million a year and £140 million a year – bloggers and journalists should be able to hone that down further.
And Boris Johnson used to go on about saving £3 million a year on the cost of the Londoner under Ken Livingstone!
Really Londoners cannot afford the cost of Boris Johnson.”

WillDuff’s profile picture WillDuff
Nov 27 08, 10:24am

At last something’s moving

It’s taken the Tories, who are holding their conference here in Birmingham, to announce plans for a high speed rail link from Scotland, through Manchester and Leeds as well as Brum, to London, then on to Paris and Brussels. This would make a third runway at Heathrow unnecessary and cut a substantial number of flights.
There have been mutterings for some time now but nothing substantial has emerged. Dozy New Labour, who after a long delay, have finally come up with a revamp of New Street Station. This does something for passengers using New Street, but nothing for rail capacity so on its own won’t add up to much apart from cosmetics.
The Tories need to redeem their credibility on transport in Birmingham. Since they came to power propped up by the Liberal Democrats in 2004 they have moved backwards. The planned Metro has been delayed, possibly terminally, first by a very costly and unnecessary investigation into an underground system with no plan B in place. Earlier work on tackling congestion has been severely compromised.

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The British Camp at Malvern

Decided to take the train today parking at the my favourite station with free park and ride. The train to Malvern Link went direct. I wasn’t sure of the local bus services since the information seems quite sketchy on the web. Eventually a bus came along which took me through Great Malvern right up to the British Camp. Here I followed in the footsteps of the British chief Caractacus and composer Edward Elgar.
I took the high road which is quite a steep climb. It was still quite cloudy but the sun appeared through to make it quite warm, except up on top by the Hereford Beacon where it can only be described as “bracing”. As you can see from the panorama there are wonderful views of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and the Malverns themselves. The Iron Age fort is still clearly visible forming deep trenches around the hillside.
Years ago when my son was little the silence was broken by jet aircraft which could be seen approaching the hills below summit level before shooting upwards. They were said to be testing radar defences for low flying planes. Today there was just one helicopter droning above constantly and annoyingly just as police helicopters do back in Handsworth. Apart from this the scenery, the heather, small orange butterflies make it a joy to be out. It is evidently the same for others as they raise a greeting as we pass.
I then realise my train pass expired a few days back, although neither I nor my friend in the ticket office at the Hawthorns had noticed. This was quickly rectified at Great Malvern Station. The London Midland Service was to New Street with clearly impressive brand new stock. However we were told that everyone would have to change trains in an unscheduled stop at Worcester Shrub Hill. I changed at the previous Worcester Foregate Street. The Snow Hill trains are relative old and decrepid. Anyway we started promptly only to stop again just outside the station. It was announced that due to a broken down train in Shrub Hill there would be a delay – this was the train I had just left presumably. Finally we trundled into Shrub Hill where the train reverses direction. Out of Shrub Hill we stop again. Finally we progress through Kidderminster to Stourbridge Junction. “Due to the late running of this train” it wasannounced “the next stop will be Snow Hill, passengers for …The Hawthorns must change here”.

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Brum has the slowest moving traffic

The Birmingham Post report today (31/7/2008) tells us what our leaders don’t want to know, can’t grasp, that Birmingham’s traffic is slowing down. Out of 5 comparable metropolitan areas an AA report says that 15% drivers are caught in traffic compared to 11% in Sheffield and 10.7% in Manchester. Both these cities have tram links while Glasgow, another comparator, has, with its underground, a figure of 12.7%.
Currently it seems that Birmingham City Councillors dislike the tram intensely, but they don’t appear to have any other plans. The “big idea” is a revamp of New Street Station, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that on its own it’s a long way from supplying Birmingham and the West Midland with the public infrastructure which will be reliable, clean and modern.
Why the antipathy to the Midland Metro is beyond me. It is clean and reliable. You don’t get thrown about like you do on buses (I’ve only encountered one driver who succeeded in stopping suddenly throwing passengers about). It is know to be much more effective in getting people out of cars. It has free park and ride facilities with security cameras. Not only don’t they like it, they have no plans for a modern public transport system. How do they answer the correspondent who writes into todays Post I’ve quoted below?
In many ways New Street is the envy of many cities because of its location at the centre. Edinburgh has a similar advantage in that sense. So some of the ideas coming on board to relieve New Street appear to have some merit. If you travel to London from Snow Hill and Moor Street it is apparent that there is already room for four tracks, which would be a huge problem to provide between the Coventry – New Street route, not taking into account the tunnels feeding into the station. A high speed link I understand is being looked at here. I had high hopes at one time that the tram would go out to Eastside and then connect at Duddeston and Vauxhall. An interchange there would also relieve pressure on New Street.
Already officers with foresight have managed to get the exit route for the Midland Metro constructed at Snow Hill and this will make it possible for the tram to link with New Street. It also frees up platform 4 for heavy rail. At present light rail and heavy rail are forbidden to use common track, but I understand that the government are revisiting this question so there could be interesting developments there.
The same edition of the Post contains a letter headed “International aspirations let down by dire transport”
“Dear Editor, I read the excellent Birmingham Post property supplement with a sense of growing excitement when examining some of the detail surrounding, the proposed 10 year, £17 billion development of Birmingham city centre. The iconic V Building, the development of Park Central, the Calthorpe Estates’ proposed £40 million office development and the redevelopment of Five Ways and the A38 corridor. These proposed and planned developments will certainly place Birmingham at the forefront of international focus and generate interest from the business and commercial sectors.”
The letter continues:
“Unfortunately my enthusiasm slowly waned as I realised that yet again the one key area of focus that is always missing from these grandiose plans is the development of appropriate and suitable transport infrastructure to support the increasing urbanisation of our city.”

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A Transport Cocktail. Shaken or Stirred?

Full marks to the Stirrer in continuing to mark up the non-advancement of a half-decent public transport system. While I held office as Transport Cabinet Member between 2003-4 I can’t see what progress has been made to what was on the table then. There was a regional transport plan, fairly modest but considerably beefed up when additional resources were put on the table. It seemed to me it was crucial to support this since it would be likely to succeed than if I stopped off to think up something different. That’s precisely what the following regime did. However good an idea an underground system might be, credible it wasn’t. In addition the City Council Officers were advising me of, and taking me to see all kinds of initiatives. Park-and-ride, car sharing were on the agenda. Four years on I’m asking myself where is the progress? The new administration had the same advisers to hand.

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