Dear Editor, Henry Harvey has once again drawn attention to the serious absence of a firm plan for a transport hub in Birmingham ( Letters October 15 2008 ).
He rightly challenges Sir Bernard Zissman’s assumption the selection of an (albeit excellent) plan for Birmingham New Street Station (BNS) will be the answer to Birmingham’s transport problems. However, it is becoming increasingly accepted the restricted track layout at BNS will make a relief station essential somewhere “in the near future” Where, for goodness’ sake?
There is no site near the city centre likely to be available or as suitable as that proposed by Ove Arup in Eastside. Tunnelling under BNS has been suggested as a means of giving relief, but by its nature and cost it could only cater for local or regional services.
An alternative might be to further develop Birmingham International station, but what an introduction to greater Birmingham that would be for business or tourist passengers! Maybe an answer might be to extend Edwardian Moor Street? Equally ridiculous A detailed plan for Grand Central (Post, October 14 2003) clearly showed proposals for it together with intermodal facilities of an adjoining bus and coach station, a drop-off point for taxis and an associated multi-storey car park. (The planned site for the latter has already been lost due to property development) The station would have been accessible from BNS by pedestrian and rail links. Hotels, restaurants would no doubt have been developed commercially near the new station, giving Eastside a useful role. The road system would have given direct access to the city ring road at Lawley Middleway (so much better than access to a hopelessly concentrated single site at BNS via Smallbrook Queensway).
The following brain-storming thoughts come to mind:
1. Planned improvements for parts of BNS should go ahead as soon as practicable to improve access between New Street and Smallbrook and improve visual impact. Much of the station could be left with minor improvements to serve main line, regional and local services until such time as main line services could be accommodated in a new station. After that BNS would continue as a commuter station.
2. Main line trains, including high speed services, would be concentrated on the new station and could pass through BNS as convenient. Local and regional services could stop both at BNS and the new station.
3. How can Centro plan for an efficient local transport system, when the ultimate location of its main terminal point is unknown? That is particularly so if extensions to the Metro or possible trolleybus routes are concerned. To what extent might heavy rail lines or tracks be available for local services?
4. Should not an immediate hold be put upon planned developments in the area originally suggested for Grand Central?
Might I suggest that an emergency committee should be set up by the Minister for the West Midlands to review the situation with senior representatives from Birmingham City Council, Centro, DfT, Chamber of Commerce and a rail system consultant such as Arup.
Henley in Arden
* Dear Editor, Your comments in the Post’s editorial were spot on (Frustrated Birmingham businessmen call for the dead hand of bureaucracy to be swept away in order to unleash the entrepreneurial talent bubbling beneath the surface), coupled with Bennie Gray’s remarks.
It will be interesting to see how quickly these comments will be forgotten by the very dead hands that are actually stopping this talent from emerging.
The Government and it’s agency Advantage West Midlands, are, of course, hanging their hats on Business Link fulfilling this vital role. It will be interesting to see if the new people there will respond, following the report “that more than 20 advisors at Business Link West Midlands face the axe, after a review that they were under achieving, and not serving the best interests of the organisation or the business community” (Post 16/08/08).
After 12 years of New Labour, it is surely too late now for them to ever understand that quangos, and the dead hand of any Government run organisation cannot generally deliver anything like real value.
If only they had realised early on, that if a small amount of the money, currently being wasted on ventures such Business Link, went into the private sector, to organisations like Sir Bernard Zissman’s Business Angels based in the city, then the taxpayer would get a far better return. But what does a hard-nosed businessman know compared to a bureaucrat.
Chairman & MD,
* Dear Editor, The letter from Dave Jones (Post, 28th October, Motorists show scant regard for rule of law) requires a robust response.
Association of British Drivers (ABD) chairman Brian Gregory would not have said most accidents are caused by drivers looking out for speed cameras.
The quote represents the reporter’s interpretation and paraphrasing of a telephone interview. Indeed, the ABD press release on the subject of the Swindon decision supported the use of fixed speed cameras, “where the speed limit has been set by scientific principles and there is a genuine accident blackspot that cannot be engineered out where the accidents can be shown to be caused by sober, licensed drivers exceeding the speed limit.”
This statement is very close to the actual government guidelines, which are designed to make speed cameras a last resort. Unfortunately, very few cameras fit these criteria and are therefore useless at reducing injury accidents as a result. ‘Failed to look properly’ is the top contributory factor and was reported in 35 per cent of all accidents, according to government statistics for 2007.
Mr Jones quotes TRL studies, but he doesn’t mention TRL report 548 from 2003 showing that Vehicle Activated Signs are much more effective than speed cameras at reducing injury accidents and vehicle speeds. Nor does he mention TRL report 595 from 2005 showing that speed cameras dramatically increase injury accidents on motorways both with and without road works. Only police patrols were shown to reduce accidents in that study. All road users, not just drivers, have an obligation to behave in a manner that does not put themselves or others at risk. The term ‘speed related’ is vague and meaningless. Exceeding the posted speed limit is all that cameras can detect. Of course, exceeding the speed limit can give less time to react and can make the impact speed higher, thus contributing to the accident, but rarely is it the primary cause. Making roads safer is about designing remedies to fit genuine problems. Emotion, therefore, has no useful role in road safety. A little research reveals that the circumstances surrounding the tragic and needless death of Mr Jones’ daughter were a little more complex than being simply the result of a driver exceeding the speed limit.
Mr Jones and his family have my deepest sympathy, but the fact remains that speed camera partnerships have abused the government guidelines, which in April 2007 finally resulted in new rules that put an end to partnerships being allowed to keep the revenue raised from cameras. This is why local authorities, now lumbered with the high cost of maintaining speed cameras, are looking for more appropriate, cost effective road safety measures. This is good for road safety.
Association of British Drivers (ABD)