Birmingham has presented many ways in which they want to change the way people travel throughout the city. With the approval of HS2, many cities will look to capitalise on the large investment into new transportation. With Birmingham being the central hub between phase 1 and phase 2 of the HS2 rail network, it is important that Birmingham improves its existing transportation both in and out of the city. With that in mind, the city has proposed some extremely radical changes in order to coincide with the HS2 development and transform peoples perception and understanding of travel.
The first major change that the city of Birmingham wants to implement is a ‘car-free’ zone similar to that of Ghent, Belgium. Essentially, the planning technique uses a ring road system with sections that lead to the city centre. To travel between each section, you must go back onto the ring road in order to access it rather than driving directly through (I have been trying to find a good example image, but can’t seem to find a clear one, excuse my terrible paint work).
This stops cars travelling short journeys throughout residential and private areas, forcing people to use public transportation as an alternative. Furthermore, the city centre is a complete car-free zone, meaning no private vehicles allowed. The city of Ghent made the change overnight, immediately closing roads. Amazingly, the change was made with no backlash and as a result, car usage declined by around 50%. For this to be successful, however, there needs to be a significant overhaul in terms of public and personal transportation alternatives.
Birmingham ‘Big Moves’
As part of the Birmingham 2031 transport plan (link here: https://bit.ly/37KlmZe) , the city has outlined 4 major moves in order to improve sustainability, accessibility and clean transportation. They are as follows:
- Reallocating road space
‘This means transforming the use of roads towards a new sprint bus system, new and improved rail networks as well as introducing traffic cells initiative. This works similarly to the Ghent section system where car travel is restricted through residential areas to promote alternative forms of travel.’
- Prioritising active travel in local neighbourhoods
‘This builds off the traffic cells initiative. The new sprint busy system is a modern, environmentally friendly fleet that will provide efficient and dedicated transport around the city. This will go alongside cycle and pedestrian improvements.’
- Transforming the city centre
‘Creating a more people-friendly zone, through reduced emission, improved accessibility and promoting investment back into the city centre.’
- Managing demand through parking measures
‘People will still keep their cars despite the change to travel within the city. Therefore, residents will need accessible parking in order to move between zones and through the city. This includes more parking and priority parking areas for businesses.’
Investing In The Future
Recently a new £15 billion transport vision was announced, including eight new metro lines (with up to 380 new stops) and 21 train stops by 2040. Andy Street announced these plans, suggesting that Birmingham was always too far behind the likes of London when it came to transport. This is a 20-year plan that could start as soon as this year, with plans to reopen existing rail networks in the area.
The only issue with the transport overhaul that I can think of, is the timeline. Andy Street’s plan won’t be finished until 2040, and this is roughly the expected completion of HS2 phase 2 (assuming there are no delays). There needs to be heavy investment in existing public transportation to ensure that the gap of transportation (If the idea of creating car-free zones goes ahead) is filled. I would quite like to see Birmingham be a focal point for new PEVs (Personal Electric Vehicles) as they transition towards new transportation. I recently discussed how Electric Scooters have been a revolutionary trend here-Electric Scooters - A New Transport Alternative?.
What are some of the biggest concerns with a long term investment plan such as this?
How will people react if their traffic cells initiative goes into place?
Could this plan spark major investments in other cities?