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Posts Tagged ‘failure

This way to HS2, part two

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During the Bull Ring redevelopment around a decade ago, there was the possibility of transforming the quality of Birmingham city centre. Options included a surface pedestrian boulevard between Moor Street and Smallbrook Queensway, and a capacity enhancement of New Street rail station, by building of a third pair of tracks from the east.

Unfortunately, corporate greed won the day, and as far as transport was concerned, all the good burghers got from the years of disruption was St Martin’s Queensway tunnel (pictured below), and Moor Street bus mall (which was shut down a few weeks after it opened).

St Martin's Queensway tunnel, Birmingham

For many people, the unwelcoming St Martin’s tunnel is the only practical route between Moor Street and New Street stations. After HS2 Ltd revealed to Birmingham council that the proposed high speed rail station would be located in Curzon Street (adjacent to Moor Street), Centro appears to have finally woken up to the image problem created by the St Martin’s tunnel.

Fri 02/03/2012

Design work starts on link between Birmingham rail stations and planned high speed hub

Plans are being drawn up to make it easier, quicker and more pleasant to travel between two of Birmingham’s key train stations and the emerging Eastside district, site of the city’s future high speed rail hub.

Centro, the region’s transport authority, has appointed city architects Glenn Howells Architects (GHA) to develop detailed proposals for a high quality link between Eastside, Moor Street Station, New Street Station and the wider city centre.

More than one million passengers travel the route each year but Centro and the city council hope to create an interchange between the two stations and the high speed (HS2) hub that gives the feel of being in one connected station.

Given the amount of public highway (and ugly concrete) involved, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge to get the “feel of being in one connected station“. And as anyone familiar with Snow Hill rail or Pool Meadow bus stations will know, Centro’s aesthetic sensibilities leave a lot to be desired. Glenn Howells Architects seem to be involved with the plan to create 21st century slums at Icknield Port, and the scheme to cover the site of Birmingham Central Library with nondescript high-rise office blocks.

Written by beleben

March 6, 2012 at 11:26 am

To boldly go by bus

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Some years ago, London’s Underground was one of the first public transport systems to get real time passenger information (RTI). By monitoring the current location of trains into the RTI system, visual display panels on platforms could show accurate destinations and arrival times of the next trains. In practice, though, things were, and are, not so straightforward. It’s not unknown for the ‘time-to-next’ minutes display to go down-and-then-up, or completely disappear, or show gibberish.

RTI has also been applied to bus services, with live display at bus stops and interchanges, and the provision has extended to provincial networks. Despite the increased maturity and experience of the technology, accuracy and reliability problems have not gone away. In January 2009, This Is Leicestershire reported on the East Midlands’ StarTrak system:

Monday, January 05, 2009

It was meant to transform the bus network, but after eight years and more than £2.5 million of investment, the Star Trak information system still does not work.

Leicester City Council said operators were letting it down, with one in three buses still not having a functioning system.

It said unless the situation improved it would lobby the Government’s Traffic Commissioner – who regulates the industry – to put pressure on companies and force them to improve.

Passengers have complained displays at stops do not show how many minutes until the next bus or that the figure is wrong.

A task group set up to investigate problems said until bus companies showed more willing, it would continue to fail.

Star Trak boldly gone

In the West Midlands county, real time information was a feature of Centro‘s so-called ‘Bus Showcase’, and under the ‘Network West Midlands’ rebrand, coverage was expanded to other bus services, and local rail platforms. Only a small proportion (less than a tenth) of the 13,000 bus stops have an RTI display, but all of them should have a code number vinyl — allowing waiting passengers (who happen to have a cellphone) to get the arrival time of the next service, by text-message.

'Real time' information display at a Centro bus stop

Unfortunately, all the money put into West Midlands hasn’t translated into an overall improvement in information quality, as can be seen from an RTI-equipped bus stop on the National Express West Midlands #1 and #31 routes (see picture). The display shows the next three buses to be 2, 17, and 47 minutes away, all on route #1. The daytime service on that route is four per hour, so what’s with the bus that should be running, 32 minutes away? And why are there no route #31 buses showing?

'Meeting the needs of the customer'

The Centro RTI does not include all buses using a particular stop, and if vehicles aren’t suitably equipped, or there is a malfunction, there will be no ‘information’ — leading to the system misleading passengers about the state and availability of services. These types of problem could (and should) have been resolved years ago, but it appears that Centro is not much bothered.

Centro 'Vision for Information', 2011

Written by beleben

February 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Back in the real world

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Struggling at Stechford railway station

Autumn is the season for party political conferences in Britain, and Centro (the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority), has had staff in attendance to talk up high speed rail at the Liberal Democrat and Labour events. No doubt, next week’s Conservative conference will also be exposed to Centro’s dogma.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, people across the West Midlands are struggling with third-rate local transport facilities. In the forty years since it was established to ‘improve local public transport’, Centro has never managed to find the money to make railway stations such as Stechford accessible to persons of reduced mobility. But in the depths of recession, Centro had no problem finding a sum, running into six figures, to propagandise high speed rail. Which most people in the area would rarely, if ever, use.