The battle to secure the future of Birmingham's only open-top bus sightseeing tour - which is threatened by a funding shortage - has won high-profile backing.
The Big Brum Open Top Buz has just kicked off its fifth year of operation but owner Sue Behan, of Birmingham Tours, has admitted she can no longer run the bus by herself without additional backing.
With its future in doubt, Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore has said that the tour, which has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors to the city was a valuable asset.
Sir Albert said: “I see tour buses in other cities across Europe and I’ve sometimes been on them but not in Birmingham. This is a big city with lots to offer. I think to have a bus like this, seeing the sights of the city, is exactly what we should be looking for.
“I think we have to think very seriously about the way forward. It would be sad to lose the bus, it really would.
“We have to talk to businesses and business organisations and public agencies around the city and see whether there is something that can be done. We’ve got to keep it.”
Sir Albert boarded the Big Brum Buz for the first time at a special event to mark the launch of a new tourist guidebook written by Ms Behan to raise vital funding to help keep the bus on the road.
Ms Behan said: “I need help – a champion. After five years I really can no longer run the bus by myself. I hope that having the backing of a powerful figure like Sir Albert Bore will help us find a way forward.
“I think it is known that any city of note should have a sightseeing tour. Obviously, times are difficult but if you believe in the bus and what Birmingham has to offer then I am sure that ways can be found to support it.”
In addition to its fixed-date summer timetable, the bus is available for private hire all the year round and has been used in a wide range of educational, corporate, charity events and weddings and featured again in this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade through Digbeth.
Ms Behan established Birmingham Tours, a not-for-profit organisation in 2001. In 2009, she used her savings to acquire the bus and any funds from the sale of her new book, The Big Brum Open Top Buz Book, will be ploughed back into keeping the bus running.