A network of ‘‘Rapid Transport Vehicles’’ connecting Birmingham with the rest of the region will form the centrepiece of a new transport strategy set to be unveiled by Centro.
The RTV system – which will be called Birmingham Sprint – will see modern tram-like buses introduced along main arterial routes into the city in an attempt to persuade commuters to leave their cars at home.
The new system, which is likely to enjoy dedicated lanes and priority traffic signalling to speed up journeys, will first be developed along the A34 Walsall corridor to Five Ways in Edgbaston via Eastide, the Bullring, Paradise Circus and Broad Street with a view to it being operational to coincide with the completion of New Street Station in 2015.
Geoff Inskip, chief executive of passenger transport authority Centro, said an efficient and successful transport system was a prerequisite for a modern city with the aspirations of Birmingham.
He said: “We want to make sure the transport system’s right to attract business, to create a vibrant centre for people to shop and a thriving entertainment area. As a top European city in a global marketplace we have to ensure the transport system is improved.
“We want the whole West Midlands to be well connected so people can move around easily and then when they come into the city centre they can also move around easily. It really does mean a step-change in how public transport operates in the city.”
The Vision for Movement document – which for the first time has been developed in conjunction with the private sector – sets out Centro’s vision for the region’s transport over the next 20 years along three main principles of creating a well connected city, an efficient city and a walkable city. Over the next five years it plans to develop new city centre interchanges, the Metro city centre extension from Snow Hill Station to Stephenson Street, the first Birmingham Sprint route, a new smartcard system similar to London’s Oyster card, way-finding signage and a New Street Station to Moor Street Station link.
According to the report, the existing bus facilities will be significantly upgraded with new interchanges, passenger information and signage with bus services grouped to give easier to understand ‘families’ of routes. These new interchanges will be situated at strategic locations around the city centre with connecting services to deliver people to key city centre destinations such as the markets. Between now and 2015 when the new Birmingham Sprint system will be launched, information signs clearly showing the way to various city centre destinations will be designed and installed along with changes to the streetscape to link different parts of the city aiming to create clearly defined routes around the city centre for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Mr Inskip added: “What we’ve been looking for is something unique for Birmingham and the West Midlands and we really think that when we have Birmingham Sprint open it will capture the imagination.
“If you take the Walsall corridor we want to develop public transport as a good, clean alternative to the car. We want to ultimately encourage as many people as possible out of their cars but to do that they will expect Birmingham Sprint to get into the city as quickly as they can by car.
‘‘Of course there are those who will continue to travel by car so it is important we get the balance right.”
However, he said that issues like dedicated lanes for Birmingham Sprint were still up for debate. He said: “There will have to be a significant public consultation and at this stage we do not want to rule anything out or in. Longer term we certainly see a need to extend the Metro routes as part of the overall strategy and we see some routes being Birmingham Sprint and other routes, such as the airport into the city centre, being covered by the Metro.”