Thursday, July 05, 2007

All (not) aboard

Normally, the Tories fall over themselves to worship at the altar of private enterprise. There has been one business that has felt deservedly hard done to by the current Regressive Partnership - bus operators.

One of the first acts of the Whitless crew was to suspend the bus lanes on the Tyburn Road (a suspension that has lasted three years and counting), which resulted in a drop in bus punctuality of 15% and a reduction in use of 11%.

Richard Bowker is the chief exec of National Express (and Travel West Midlands) and he's promised a coach station of which Birmingham can be proud, rather than the current monstrosity disfiguring Digbeth, illustrating the brutalist architecture of the 1960s, not the modernity of the new millennium. He's promised an investment in new buses and coaches to attract more passengers. More than that, he's promised a significant reduction in carbon emissions if roads can be redesigned to help buses travel a little faster:
'You can't get rid of half the cars and replace all the roads with bus lanes, but we do need more bus lanes as part of the solution. If we can have a practical decision about more bus lanes we will invest in more and better vehicles.... If we could increase the average speed of our buses by six kilometres per hour we can reduce the amount of carbon they emit by 20 per cent.'
So come on Len, sort it out! Let's see if 'vote blue, go green' really means anything or if it is just another example of Tory policy-free spin. Not only would our bus users be grateful, but so would the planet.

Sadly, I think I know the answer already.


George Calthorpe said...

So Mr Bowker is promising more investment if he is given more bus lanes, is he? Well, as an ex-bus user myself, he can have as many new buses and as many bus lanes he wants, but it still won't persuade me to resume the daily commute on public transport.

You leave out the vital disincentive PH...ASB. Our buses are graffiti-ridden, drug infested, at times violent, hell holes!

Who on earth wants to go to work sitting next to some yob imposing his/her music on you? Who wants travel on a mode of transport where the new smoking legislation is not enforced?

Who wants to take their life in their hands being conveyed by a new breed of boy racer bus driver, throwing you for pillar to post?

Of course it was easy for you to blame Len Gregory, comes with the territory I suppose. Nevertheless, you have acknowledge PH that at present buses are not pleasant things. Not even a 1980's Red Ken/Sheffield/Birmingham style "fairs fare" policy is going to get civilised people back on the bus.

I feel enormously sorry for some of our fellow citizens who for reasons of limited income are forced to travel on these disgusting things.

PH, I am sure we agree that greater bus use is essential to combat worsening congestion in Birmingham, but we've got come down hard on ASB on buses first.

Andy Howell said...

Over the years National Express (Travel Express) have promised us an awful lot of things that haven't transpired.

While I'm sympathetic to the aims of the post, as a bus user, I must point out that buses are less well maintained these days, and much of the stock is now very old. Drivers are becoming increasingly un-courteous - probably because of their route timetables, etc.

As for the bus station, dream on ......

JRD168 said...

We need some more trams but guess who ballsed that up with a pointless investigation into an impossible underground network?

Andy Howell said...

I've never understood the Underground thing. Albert was always very keen on it.

It is certainly true that Birmingham is the only city - in Europe - that doesn't have a modern, rapid, transport system. And many have undergrounds. But it simply is not going to happen here.

We now have major problems getting into the city, not least, from the Worcestershire direction. Something needs to happen along the Hagley Road Corridor and in the north as well. But even if we have a commitment tomorrow, how many years away are we?

Still, I'm happy living nearer the city centre and am hoping to move even closer yet. I'm always mystified why reasonably well paid people - including public sector people such as Head Teachers, Doctors, etc. chose such a crap work/life balance arrangement by living so far out.

I suppose one good thing about the transport chaos is that people will begin to appreciate the real, personal, benefits of living a more sustainable lifestyle

Anonymous said...

bus lanes only help reduce the amount of pollution when people use them rather than cars. This is because if there is a two lane road an you take one lane for a bus (which travels regardless of people being on the bus) then you have two lanes of traffic using one lane. This means that the traffic is going slower and has to stop start more frequently. This causes greater levels of pollution to be released. This is because braking and accelerating are far more polluting than crusing at one speed.
So unless you actually get that one lane of traffic to get on the bus when you introduce a bus lane then you actually are making more pollution.
Indeed if those people did use a bus then you wouldnt need a bus lane as there is already less traffic and so buses wouldnt be delayed.
In fact you will find that the tyburn lane is now rarely stuck with traffic and so rarely do cars have to brake and accelerate.
Finally introducing bus lanes will not get people back onto buses untill they become cleaner, safer and cheaper.