Anne Shaw, acting assistant director for transportation and connectivity at Birmingham City Council, talks about the work going on around the city to improve how we all get around.
It was with interest, and some frustration, that I read that Birmingham City Council is apparently not delivering transportation projects; that they remain ‘on the coffee table’ – despite many press reports about the amount of road works going on.
Anyone who works in transport will tell you that, when things go wrong, the results are there for everyone to see – in sharp detail and immediately.
Given the substantial impact that transport problems can have on the everyday life of our city, it is inevitable that they are the subject of close and continuous scrutiny – by the media, by politicians and by people at the bus stop.
That’s exactly how it should be. We need to show that we are making it as easy as possible for goods and people to move about Birmingham without unreasonable delay and at reasonable cost.
Through Birmingham Connected, a 20-year strategic programme to transform transport, the city council has started to put into place the infrastructure that will be needed to meet future needs. In the last year, this has included reducing congestion at key junctions on the ring road, preparing for the further extension to the Metro tram network and developing the city’s first Green Transport District at Selly Oak. We now have more than 50kms of canal towpath renovated for use by cyclists as part of Birmingham Cycle Revolution.
To name but a few, we have transformed Acocks Green village centre with vastly improved parking, pavements, public transport access and cycling facilities; the scheme to signalise Five Ways was completed last summer, which will be a complementary scheme to the metro extension to Centenary Square; a Green Travel District has been set up in Selly Oak with partners including the hospitals and university, looking at how numbers of trips can be reduced or switched to more sustainable modes of transport. And works on Chester Road are nearing completion, with just some final minor works being completed this month.
The £14m pinch points programme is delivering improvements on the ring road, reducing congestion and accommodating key developments. Improvements are being taken forward at Holloway, Ashted, Curzon, Bordesley and Haden Circuses, enabling growth in the Westside area, Digbeth and Eastside, and supporting the developments in Southside and Grand Central. And this is all without mentioning the ongoing transformation of the Paradise area.
Looking to the future successfully negotiated a transport connectivity package and committed funding to support HS2, reinforcing Birmingham’s position at the heart of the UK’s transport network.
But physical changes to infrastructure will not be enough. If we really want to find solutions to Birmingham’s transport challenge, our scrutiny needs to get beyond the blame game to engage with the people who can make the most difference in future – the travelling public.
We recognise that car journeys are an important part of our transport system but on every working day, people in Birmingham make 250,000 car journeys that are less than one mile in length. These journeys are prime for a switch to walking and cycling, enable people to get fit, feel healthier and enjoy their local surroundings whilst improving safety and the environment with less traffic locally. We will be working hard to understand needs, work with communities and encourage this shift.
We know it’s possible. It worked during Super September – the roads kept moving, but not because people stayed away, it was because they used other methods of getting into, and about, town. And what comes next is the longer term plan to get people to change their travel behaviour for good, not just for a one off.