A £15 million plan to drive buses off city centre roads and replace them with super-fast shuttles has been drawn up by transport chiefs.
Buses will be removed from Corporation Street and Colmore Row and instead terminate at four newly created interchanges on the fringes of the shopping and office districts.
Each of the new terminals will be linked by a circular service which will be given priority over other traffic.
Transport chiefs have unveiled the plans as the solution to grid-locked roads and to pave the way for a new network of tram-style “super buses” which are set to revolutionise the way shoppers and workers travel around the city.
Regional transport body Centro said changes to the way buses use the city centre will mean faster journey times and will help to cut traffic levels and create a European-style “walkable city centre”.
“This is direct investment in making life better for passengers,” said Centro’s head of commissioning Rafael Cuesta.
“People will be able to enjoy their journey and enjoy the city centre more when they get there. By focusing on changes to the bus network we are creating a walkable city.
“Operators will be able to run a much more efficient service because the buses won’t be getting caught up in city centre traffic.”
Four modern interchanges are set to be created within the next two years at Moor Street, Snow Hill, Paradise Circus and New Street at a cost of £15 million.
Each of the hubs will act as the end point for city centre-bound journeys and a circular route will whisk commuters to other interchanges or key destinations including the markets.
Initially the circular route will be served with conventional buses, but by 2015 new tram-style “rapid transit vehicles” will hit the streets of Birmingham, as revealed in last week’s Birmingham Post.
As well as serving the circular route, the “super buses” – as they have been dubbed – will operate on a line linking Five Ways to the city centre via Broad Street and eventually Walsall.
There are also plans to introduce a further five lines to create a network which will become known as Birmingham Sprint.
The first Sprint line has been scheduled to open in 2015 but the overhaul of the bus network will be completed by 2013.
More details will be made public in the new year and a consultation will be carried out with passengers and operators.
Coun Jon Hunt (Lib Dem Perry Barr), lead member for bus and highways at Centro, said: “We are not doing this just because of Birmingham Sprint. We have had to look at ways of relieving some of the pressure on the road network in the city centre.
“The city is continuing to get bigger and we have reached the point where we can no longer stand still and do nothing.
“What we are now doing is making sure that this can evolve into Birmingham Sprint.”
Coun Hunt said he expected some passengers to express concern that buses which once departed from Corporation Street would now be using the interchanges at New Street or Moor Street.
But he promised it would make life easier for them.
Centro said the circular route would take no more than five minutes to travel between each of the interchanges because of highway improvements and priority traffic signals.
The new cashless ticket system, which is being rolled out across the region, will mean passengers pay no extra charge for connections.
An extension of the Midlands Metro from Snow Hill to New Street will link bus terminals at the northern and southern edges of the city centre.
The £127 million expansion will be completed by 2014 and will see the line run along Corporation Street.
Corporation Street will be closed to bus and car traffic from 2012 to allow the work to begin but could eventually be opened up to the new tram-style vehicles and form part of the new circular shuttle.