Road chiefs warn of ‘sprint’ bus chal­lenges

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - David Ir­win Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

SOLIHULL’S road chiefs have said that the chal­lenge of in­tro­duc­ing a new “sprint” bus ser­vice be­tween Birm­ing­ham and the bor­ough “should not be un­der­es­ti­mated”.

Next week coun­cil­lors will dis­cuss the plans for a “rapid tran­sit route”, link­ing Birm­ing­ham city cen­tre with the air­port and Solihull town cen­tre.

A Solihull Coun­cil re­port says that the tram-style ser­vices – sched­uled to start run­ning by 2022 – of­fer a real op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce a faster, more re­li­able pub­lic trans­port link.

But with lim­ited road space avail­able, it is recog­nised that this type of scheme can have a knockon ef­fect on other road users – with plans to in­stall bus lanes where pos­si­ble and give pri­or­ity at cer­tain key junc­tions.

Wal­ter Bai­ley, Solihull’s group man­ager for trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture com­mis­sion­ing, said: “In prac­tice, an ap­pro­pri­ate com­pro­mise is re­quired be­tween pub­lic trans­port pri­or­ity and move­ment by other (types of ve­hi­cle).”

Next week, Cllr Ted Richards, Solihull Coun­cil’s cabi­net mem­ber for trans­port and high­ways, will be asked to sup­port Trans­port for West Mid­lands’ pro­pos­als, sub­ject to fur­ther dis­cus­sions on some of the finer de­tails.

Solihull Coun­cil’s re­sponse to a re­cent con­sul­ta­tion seeks as­sur­ances on a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing traf­fic move­ments, the po­si­tion of new sig­nage and bus stops and com­pen­sa­tion for trees which will have to be cut down. The coun­cil also wants to clar­ify the money that will be made avail­able to help meet the main­te­nance costs at­tached to the ex­tra in­fra­struc­ture.

Maps of the route for the A45 sprint, sched­uled to be run­ning in time for the 2022 Com­mon­wealth Games, show a fork at Shel­don.

Ser­vices to the air­port will con­tinue down the Coven­try Road, while the buses to Solihull Sta­tion will go via Lode Lane and the town cen­tre. Un­veil­ing the plans ear­lier this sum­mer, a Trans­port for West Mid­lands spokesman said: “The ve­hi­cles will of­fer pas­sen­gers a level of ser­vice and com­fort sim­i­lar to a tram, with off-board tick­et­ing, mul­ti­ple-door board­ing, wheel­chair and pushchair ac­cess, free Wi-Fi, and air con­di­tion­ing.”

Cllr James Burn, leader of Solihull’s Green group, has ar­gued that only a “bold” ap­proach would be suc­cess­ful.

“We need to give them ded­i­cated lanes,” he said. “We have to make the sprint buses cheaper and quicker and nicer than driv­ing.”

While he said that routes had been very suc­cess­ful in other parts of the world, he was con­cerned a half-hearted ap­proach would not per­suade peo­ple to leave their cars.

>Con­cept art for the sprint ser­vice

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