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Shopping on a building site

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BBC Midlands Today report on Birmingham bus stop resitings, 23 July 2012

In February 2005, the Birmingham Mail reported on doubts about extending the Midland Metro tramway on-street 2.8 km to Five Ways across Birmingham city centre.

Liberal Democrat transport expert Councillor Paul Tilsley insisted a proper city centre underground system was needed.

“It is the only way,” he declared last night.

“The people of this city would never stand for years of mayhem.”

The Conservative – Liberal Democrat partnership that ran Birmingham council at the time subsequently did a U-turn, agreeing that the tramway should be built, but only the 1.4 km section between Snow Hill and Stephenson Street. By Autumn 2012, the consequences of that U-turn could be seen across the city centre, with tramway works having disrupted visitors, shoppers, and workers for months.

To enable trams to run along Corporation Street and Upper Bull Street, all buses using them have had to be permanently re-routed. On 22 July 2012, BBC Midlands Today reported on the closure of bus stops, and shop owners’ fears about loss of trade.

BBC Midlands Today report on Birmingham bus stop resitings, 23 July 2012

The report featured a time-lapsed trek by reporter Bob Hockenhull across the city centre, illustrating the distance between old and new pickup points for some buses. In an attempt to reduce the confusion caused by bus stop relocation, Centro and Birmingham city council staff had been sent out into the city centre to advise the public, apparently with little success. One of the traders interviewed said that the Midland Metro construction would make retailing in the Corporation Street area like “shopping on a building site”.

On July 26, the Birmingham Mail reported that work has begun to uproot nearly 30 trees in central Birmingham to make way for the £125 million [sic] Midland Metro extension.

Transport authority Centro has agreed to pay £6,698 to compensate for the trees which are being cut along Upper Bull Street, Corporation Street, Stephenson Place, Ethel Street and Pinfold Street.

The trees are less than 20 years old and will be replaced on a two-for one basis within the city centre by Centro.

A Centro spokesman said: “These are American plane trees and of no historic merit, being less than 20 years old.

“They are unpopular with Corporation Street traders because they are too tall, block out light and detract from the shopping environment. Some were also diseased.

On 10 August, the Mail reported that Corporation Street shops had claimed trade had plunged by up to 50 per cent since bus stops were removed for Midland Metro.

Businesses have reported a dramatic drop in customers since the stops were relocated three weeks ago by Centro, to make way for the Midland Metro extension.

Kamlesh Patel, 45, manager of News Express, said: “Business has been reduced dramatically – by 50 per cent. If the council do not reduce the rates, there won’t be a single shop left on Corporation Street. ‘The work hasn’t even started yet.”

On October 18, the Birmingham Mail reported that independent traders around St Philip’s cathedral had threatened to hold a Saturday strike to show what will happen if they are forced to shut up shop. The council was now offering a “package of financial support and business advice” and pledging to cut business rates for “those badly affected”.

What a mess Birmingham’s ‘Vision for Movement’ has turned out to be. But there is a lot worse to come, if Centro’s current leaders get their way. If bigger fiascos are to be avoided, Birmingham’s urban and transport planning processes need to be overhauled urgently.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm