RADICAL options for solving Birmingham’s transportation problems include the possibility of looking yet again at building an underground railway.
The idea was rejected first in the 1990s and again three years ago as being too expensive even to contemplate.
One way of redressing the imbalance between cars and pedestrians and make it easier to move around the city centre, according to the draft Big City Plan, would be to consider a London-style Tube system to be run in conjunction with the Midland Metro tram system.
Research into the feasibility of tunnelling deep under the city’s streets was ordered by council leader Mike Whitby when he took office in 2004.
Coun Whitby believes a Brum Tube would enhance the reputation of Birmingham, putting it on a par with major European and American cities.
But it quickly became apparent that the cost, in excess of £1 billion, would be prohibitive.
The problem, according to the draft plan, is a “historic emphasis” in Birmingham on encouraging movement by cars and lorries. This, the document says, has “led to an urban form that is not conducive to movement by other means”.
Although much work has been completed in recent years to remove the “concrete collar” of the Queensway ring road, opening up easy access to Eastside, enough of it remains as part of the A38 corridor to act as a significant barrier to pedestrian movement within the city centre.
It is suggested that part of the A38 Great Charles Street could be transformed into a Birmingham Boulevard – an attractive route not only for vehicles but for people to walk along, fronted by shops and lined with trees.
Uncertainty over the future of Midland Metro dominates the concerns of planners.
With the Government stalling over a decision to sanction the £180 million city centre Metro extension, the authors of the Big City Plan suggest an alternative form of transportation might be bus rapid transit systems.