Radical plans for a £280 million monorail service capable of whisking passengers from New Street Station to Birmingham International Airport in 16 minutes are being developed as an answer to the city’s reputation for traffic chaos.
As many as 35,000 people an hour could travel at peak times in electric-powered carriages suspended on concrete stanchions above main roads, according to a development company set up by business leaders.
A study conducted by international engineering consultants Arup and train construction company Metrail AG says a monorail would be far more environmentally friendly than trams or trains and could become an “iconic tourist attraction” for Birmingham.
The proposal is being put forward by Birmingham Business Focus (BBF), a lobbying group representing leading firms across the city.
Details are being published today in the run up to tomorrow’s Big City Plan conference, where council and business leaders will discuss the expansion of the city centre over the next 20 years.
BBF director Neil Maybury has held talks about the idea with city council leader Mike Whitby and has approached regional development agency Advantage West Midlands for help with funding the project.
A new company – Greater Birmingham Monorail – has been set up to promote the project.
Mr Maybury said he expected most of the cost to be met by private sector investors and he is looking to raise funding for an in-depth feasibility study.
The monorail could be delivered at a fraction of the cost of Metro extensions or an underground railway, he claimed.
Mr Maybury added: “Birmingham rests on a knife edge in terms of traffic. But we don’t have any room for more roads or rail.
“We have tried hard with the Metro, but that’s been running for 20 years and hasn’t really made any money. The proposed Metro extension from Snow Hill to Five Ways is going nowhere. So we have to do some thinking out of the box and come up with something else.”
The monorail proposed for Birmingham would be similar to a Metrail-designed system currently being built in Dubai.
Carriages generate their own power from on-board engines, with energy costs less than 10 per cent of conventional rail and tram systems. The route chosen, along the A45 corridor, is the same as that identified by transport authority Centro for a Metro extension to the airport and the National Exhibition Centre.
Mr Mowbray envisages monorails eventually running along most of Birmingham’s main arterial roads.
He added: “You don’t need a rail or track and the footprint is incredibly small. Each carriage weighs about eight tonnes, compared to 30 or 40 tonnes for a tram.
The A45 route would have five stops before visiting both airport terminals and Birmingham International train station.
However, an initial study by Arup/Metrail AG warns: “The potential loss of traffic turning lanes, particularly in the city centre, could require significant traffic management measures to mitigate the effects.”