Birmingham International Airport launched a scathing attack on the Government last night over its plans for the future of the Midland transport network.
The airport accused the Department for Transport of ignoring its concerns over the lack of 'joined-up thinking' and snubbing invitations to talk about integrated transport systems.
The criticism came as the DfT launched Invitations to Tender (ITT) for bidders for three new rail franchises – New Cross Country, East Midlands and West Midlands – which includes replacing Central Trains and Virgin Cross Country.
Among a raft of conditions for the new franchisees, who will take over from November next year, is a 30 per cent increase in capacity on key routes in the New Cross Country franchise and bidders being asked to price an option for the retention of the Walsall–Wolverhamp ton service from December 2007.
The airport said that during the consultation period leading to the ITT, it had highlighted a lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ with other Government plans, such as the White Paper on Aviation, but many of these concerns appeared to have been ignored.
BIA’s head of corporate affairs, John Morris, said it had met DfT officials in April. "The Airport Company is disappointed that, during the two-month period between the meeting and the publication of the Consultation Document, nothing appears to have been done to integrate strategy, or take on board some of the very real concerns that were raised on the 6th April," he said.
"I hope that we can have a more productive and meaningful dialogue with those bidding for the franchises; the opportunity for real and meaningful change must not be lost".
There was a mixed response from the West Midlands transport authority Centro-PTA which said while the new rail franchises created real opportunities for improvement, there were concerns over some of the details.
Centro-PTA chairman Coun Gary Clarke said they welcomed the fact overall service levels would be maintained and that the Government was asking the train companies to plan for growth. But he added: "There are several areas of the franchise specification where funding is distinctly unclear.
"For example, there is a strong suggestion that extra passengers will mainly be accommodated by squeezing more commuters onto the same size trains – unless local councils provide extra funding. In other words, overcrowding will stay the same if we pay, or get worse if we don't."
He also said the move to make travelcards and passes used by regional commuters no longer valid on Cross Country services was contrary to the Government's own policy on multi-modal public transport.