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Commuters reject congestion charge idea for Birmingham

A survey found just 12 per cent of those asked supported making people pay extra to use the city centre roads

Traffic jam in Birmingham city centre
Congestion charge was one of the subjects of a public consultation into Birmingham city centre transport

Birmingham commuters have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a congestion charge as the city sets out a vision to get cars off the roads.

A survey found just 12 per cent of those asked supported making people pay to use the roads as a way of tackling traffic jams.

The congestion charge question was part of a public consultation into the new Birmingham Mobility Action plan (BMAP) which sets out a 20-year transport vision.

Instead travellers called for cheaper and better connected trains, trams and bus services.

The views were gleaned from focus groups, drop-in sessions, questionnaires and meetings with transport organisations and businesses.

But the consultation revealed that most people agreed with the region’s overall vision for transport even if they dispute some of the detail.

Proposals include a network of electric sprint buses criss-crossing the city and an oyster-style travel card system.

Other punitive proposals such as increasing city centre car park charges or congestion charging were much less popular – especially as many felt public transport did not offer a realistic alternative to the car.

Instead people supported more measures to reduce road space for cars or reduce availability of parking spaces, simply to make it more difficult for motorists without charging them more.

A report by transport consultant Sarah Speirs said: “Though there is an acceptance that in order to achieve the BMAP vision, Birmingham’s citizens, businesses and visitors to the city are going to have to change their travel behaviour, there is a reluctance to introduce punitive measures to realise this transformation.

“Many of the stakeholders and the public who responded urge the importance of using incentives, particularly financial, to encourage more sustainable travel to overcome the existing negative perceptions of alternative modes of transport.

“Whilst some accept there may be a need for measures to dissuade car use at a later date, there is definite agreement that they should not be introduced until the infrastructure, quality and service improvements are in place.

“If penalties of any sort are to be introduced further down the line, there is a strong feeling that they should be based on the reallocation of road space, making it harder to access certain destinations by private car, rather than fiscal.”

Experts project that unless action was taken there would be an extra 80,000 cars on the city’s roads by 2031.

Without funding to install new metro lines or underground systems the council has drawn up proposals for a more modest set of 11 sprint transit lines, with interchanges linked to main rail stations and the opportunity to upgrade them to a full tram line if funding became available and passenger use justified it.

There are also plans to bring the Camp Hill Chords and Sutton Park Line railways back into use by passenger services. The key thrust of the plan is to reduce the reliance on the car, reducing pollution and congestion and encouraging more walking and cycling.

Coun Tahir Ali, cabinet member in charge of transport said: “There is real support for the vision we have set out, from both the public and from our partners.

“They want to see a transport policy that moves people and goods around the city quickly and reliably, including a mass-transit network, making the city accessible to everyone, particularly those with mobility problems.

“A really important part of the plan is to encourage people to walk and cycle, because our roads will be safer and more welcoming. Pedestrians will be a priority and we will also seek to reduce congestion and improve journey times and reduce environmental impacts.”

The consultation will be used to inform revisions to the draft BMAP document issued last year.

 
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