Birmingham’s image as a business and conference centre is being severely tarnished by the lack of coach pick-up points and too many over-zealous traffic wardens according to a local travel company.
Solihull coach and chauffeured car company Silverline Travel Services, which recently transported thousands of delegates to and from the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham, is spearheading a campaign to have Birmingham City Council provide more coach passenger pick-up areas.
Silverline Travel Services chairman and managing director Malcolm Breakwell said: “People attending conferences, seminars and corporate events in the business district are being forced to traipse long distances in all weathers to their waiting coaches.
“It’s madness,” he said. “There is just one pick-up point in the Square Mile. How can the city hope to attract business events when delegates may have to walk up to a mile in all weathers just to board their coach?
“To make matters worse, when coaches do try and pick up their passengers away from the one and only official pick-up point they are ticketed by wardens,” he said.
Silverline operations director Richard Knott, whose company has contracts with most of the airlines flying into Birmingham, quoted a recent example when a driver was picking up an airline crew from a city hotel.
“As usual, there was no place for coaches so, rather than park on double yellow lines, the driver chose to wait on an empty taxi rank.
“As the airline people were boarding a parking warden pushed past them onto the coach and gave the driver a ticket,” he said.
“On another occasion, we were picking up business people from a corporate event outside the client’s office – again having to use an empty taxi rank in the absence of an alternative – and the traffic warden pushed past to ticket the driver. You can imagine what impression was left with the business people visiting the city.”
As a result of such behaviour, in July Mr Knott invited representatives from the City Council’s traffic management department, the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) and the International Convention Centre (ICC) – which also suffers from a lack of coach pick-up points – to a coach ride round the city.
“We wanted to show them the difficulties facing coach companies,” said Mr Knott.
“There are only 16 short stay, set down and pick-up points in the city – almost all of which are for shops and theatres.
“There is only one pick-up point in the business district for people attending seminars, conferences or corporate entertainment,” said Mr Knott.
“We are now waiting to hear back from them,” he added.
Silverline has almost 35 years experience in the city, with clients ranging from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Birmingham Royal Ballet to blue chip companies and even presidential cavalcades – the company handled the travel arrangements for the 1,100-strong US delegation attending at the G8 Summit in Birmingham.