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Birmingham unveils 20 year, £4bn public transport vision

Birmingham council has unveiled a 20-year, £4bn vision for improving transport in the city, including a wide-ranging network of rapid transit buses and trams.

Birmingham Connected, formerly the Birmingham Mobility Action Plan, also includes details for reopening rail lines and building two new stations, as well as more ambitious plans for a new rail line to the East Midlands and a possible new tunnel under the city to ease congestion on the A38.

The initiative was drawn up after it was predicted 80,000 more cars would be in use on the city’s already-congested streets by 2031 if nothing was done.

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The plans were unveiled today by Labour council leader Sir Albert Bore.

“Birmingham Connected sets a new direction for transport, not just for tomorrow but for the next 20 years,” he said. “It ushers in a new era in the way we think about moving people and goods from, into, around and through the city and region, delivering projects and infrastructure, and the ways in which we fund them.

“Following public consultation on the Birmingham Mobility Action Plan green paper last year, the Birmingham Connected white paper now sets out our vision for a world class transport system fitting of a world class city.”

The schemes identified as the most deliverable in the plan include £1.2bn for three new Midland Metro tram routes and up to nine rapid sprint bus routes. The city centre to Broad Street extension and route to Birmingham Airport have already been funded and another line linking the city centre, Snow Hill station, the new HS2 station at Curzon Street and Digbeth is proposed. The rapid transit bus routes could later be upgraded to full tram systems.

The council will also develop a strategy for the long-term future and role of the A38 through the city, including consulting on options such as substantial redesign and redirecting through traffic on to either a substantially upgraded ring road or new, longer tunnels under the city. Consultation will begin in 2015.

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The introduction of Green Travel Districts (GTDs) were also amongst the proposals, where people are put before cars, enabling residents, workers and visitors to walk, cycle or take public transport safely.

Improving rail links across the city and beyond also featured prominently in the plans. These include re-opening and upgrading rail routes to Moseley and Kings Heath, Sutton Coldfield via Walmley and Tamworth via The Fort and Castle Vale. The rail plans also include a £400 million upgrade for Snow Hill Station to transform it into a major gateway to the city centre, once New Street Station re-opens fully in 2015.

Simon Statham, associate director at professional services consultancy WSP in Birmingham, which spent 18 months working with Birmingham City Council on Birmingham Connected, said: “There is huge potential to improve a large area of the city centre which currently has an urban motorway running through it; by providing better connectivity and also freeing up valuable land to be put to better use.  A long term vision is needed to ensure Birmingham can move towards a future where the impacts from through traffic are reduced and the potential benefits are maximised.”

The council said it did not currently have "all the funding in place". It expects to make bids for government and European money, but local businesses could also make an "increased contribution".

This could take the form of additional "ring-fenced" taxation on businesses or additional business rates, Birmingham City Council said.

There is also expected to be an investment package to deliver Birmingham’s local connectivity strategy for HS2 up for grabs.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am delighted to be launching this new white paper which is vital for Birmingham to continue to grow and prosper. The government has put transport at the heart of its long term economic plan, because the future of successful cities depends on efficient transport that can connect people with jobs, link communities with services and attract new investment.

“The record levels of investment we are putting into our transport network – including HS2 and the £15bn roads programme announced by the Prime Minister on Monday – will improve roads, stations and railways right across the country.”

(Top Image: Birmingham skyline c. Steve N)

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