Road chiefs warn of ‘sprint’ bus challenges
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