Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The underground resurfaces

Back in the mists of time, when I started this blog, I wrote about the Mike Whitby Vanity Project, where the Dear Leader flushed £150,000 of public money down a huge hole of a study into whether a Birmingham underground was a practical option. Pretty much what I wrote in December 2004 and thereafter duly came to pass when the report was finally released. Essentially, it would be ruinously expensive to build and maintain, take decades to deliver and may actually be all but impossible to build in any case.

All of which puzzles me, when I read that Sir Albert Bore is reported to have revived the idea as part of a more general review into transport in the city. It was a bad idea in 2004 and it is a bad idea now.

On the other hand, a transport policy would be something worth having. We're getting a revived New Street, it looks like HS2 will happen and there are even plans to bring the Kings Heath and Moseley freight line back into passenger use, running heavy rail services out to those suburbs. We need to continue progress with either the Metro or consider alternate light rail systems to extend it out from the centre into the rest of Birmingham. The government should urgently extend bus regulation powers to all elected mayors - London has it, so why not Birmingham? We also need to improve facilities for cycling in the city, with more cycle lanes isolated from other traffic, secure lockers in the City Centre. That's a back of the envelope transport policy.

If Sir Albert meant that his independent transport commission is to have a completely free hand to consider any options - including a Birmingham underground or even hoverboards - that's one thing, but the underground has been given an unduly high profile as it rises from the dead.

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