Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Blunderground rumbles on

Once again, I return to the insanity that is the Birmingham underground plan, having started my attacks last year. It seems that I'm not alone.

Professor David Begg, in charge of the Commission for Integrated Transport confirms that the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition currently trying to run the city are backing 'dud projects' that appear to be 'anti-bus' and redolent of '1960s thinking.' The attitude of the ruling group seems likely to lead to a cut in the annual transport grant and could even threaten the redevelopment of New Street Station.

Like this column, he'd be amazed if the underground plans passed the cost/benefit tests.

These criticisms contrast with the praise for two decades of Labour administration in Birmingham from Professor Begg last March, when he said:

"Birmingham has already done so much to boost the quality of life in the city centre through adopting sustainable policies such as widespread pedestrianisation, safety cameras, and regeneration around the canal network. Investment and spending plans for the Metro, bus schemes - including priority lanes - and park-and-ride initiatives are impressive, although a lot of rail infrastructure issues remain to be resolved. These and other transport issues need urgent solutions to do justice to the needs of Britain's second City."

Tory Cabinet member Len Gregory whimpers that they're not 'anti-bus,' they just want to make it easier for people to get about using a range of transport - which explains why his congestion action group excluded train and bus users.

I'm not surprised by the Tory attitude, as they have long been pro-car and seem to bend to the road lobby very easily. However, I would expect greater support from the Liberal Democrat group. Professor Begg also said last year that congestion charging would suit Birmingham and we know that increasing congestion charging is a Liberal Democrat priority (sometimes).

"Those who have access to good public transport can and should be expected to pay more for choosing to use their cars. Charging will go a long way to stopping our cities being choked by congestion."
(John Thurso MP, LibDem transport spokesman, Oct 2003)

Their environmental policies also stress transport issues:

"Priorities for investment include... developing bus routes, cycle paths, trams, light rail systems"

So come on, Birmingham LibDems - flex your muscles and bring the Tories into line.


john said...

We are developing bus routes and cycle paths in Birmingham. Where's the problem?

PoliticalHack said...

The more general point is why the administration have decided to waste money on this pointless study about running a light rail underground system. As I've said before, it will be horrendously expensive, take years to implement, will endanger the supply of additional government money and won't make any real difference. I struggle to see any Liberal Democrat policies being enacted in Birmingham - they seem to be mindlessly backing the Tories (in the same way that you accused the Tories of shoring up Labour before June 10).

£150,000 for a report on the underground? I'll do one for £10,000 for the weekend.