It's back to the drawing board for plans for new ‘rapid’ transit routes to Sutton Coldfield as the region’s transport authority confirms the town will not get speedy buses for at least three years.

Having consulted on proposed Sprint bus routes from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, via the new Langley green belt development, Transport for West Midlands has now said the town will not get them until after 2022.

Updated plans were released by TfWM this week, with changes detailed to the Sprint routes which promise ‘more reliable journey times’ due to dedicated lanes, priority at busy junctions and multi-door loading.

New rapid transit Sprint buses will not be seen in Sutton Coldfield until 'after 2022'
New rapid transit Sprint buses will not be seen in Sutton Coldfield until 'after 2022'

But notably plans for a route to Sutton’s new green belt housing and onwards in to the town centre will not be implemented, following a backlash from consultees, including the town council. They were championed as the best way to get the large influx of people on the green belt developments in to the town and Birmingham, but plans have now been shelved - for the time being.

The Sutton to Birmingham via Langley route will now be split in to two phases – the first phase from Lancaster Circus in Birmingham to Eachelhurst Road, by Pype Hayes Park, will be completed by 2022 to ‘benefit existing bus services’.

The second phase around the new Langley and Peddimore developments on the edge of Walmley and Minworth and in to Sutton town centre will be ‘developed later’. And will follow a ‘wider review’ of bus services in east Birmingham and Sutton.

A number of respondents feared snarl ups in Walmley – notably at the railway bridge in Eachelhurst Road near Walmley Ash Road and in Riland Road, where roadside parking is seen to limit the ability to get larger buses along the road.

 

TfWM said: “A number of concerns and issues were raised during consultation last year and have been addressed in these proposals.”

Commenting on the two most controversial elements TfWM said: “Parking restrictions will be implemented on Riland Road, Rectory Road, Carhampton Road and Churchill Road, with some amendments to the design taking place in order to mitigate the loss of spaces. Proposal for access restrictions on Riland Road are under review.” But these are believed to be three years away – at least.

TfWM also said a ‘possible widening’ of the railway bridge was being looked at – but Walmley and Minworth councillor, David Barrie (Cons.) rubbished the proposal and said it will not happen due to cost and the likely disruption which would be caused.

Cllr Barrie gave a cautious welcome to the three-year delay to Sprint bus routes to Sutton and said: “Sprint to Sutton is now on hold until 2026. What they are going to do until 2022 is make improvements to the general bus routes up to the Pype Hayes Park area.

“The good news is TfWm decided the routes they planned for Sprint to Sutton need a lot more work and will cost a lot more money. So they are delaying them with the idea of introducing them by 2026.

“Langley to Sutton Coldfield may be small buses will be acceptable and they will be ‘on demand’ [not stopping at every stop].

“They have listened to what people have said. I don’t think they will widen the bridge. It would be incredibly expensive to do it over a live railway line.

 

“They will also look at re-opening the Sutton Park line which goes through Minworth and at park-and-ride facilities – which were not looked at for Sutton before.”  

TfWM said: “Thousands engaged with the public consultation and a majority were supportive of the Sprint programme. However a number of concerns were raised and suggestions made which have now been looked at in detail and the plans revised.

“There will be a delay on the introduction of a Sprint route to Sutton Coldfield town centre, which will now commence after 2022 as the Langley and Peddimore developments progress and the final routing confirmed. Bus priority will still be introduced for existing bus services for 2022.”

The authority pledged to ‘minimise loss of green space or replace any trees or greenery lost on all routes’.

 

Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said:  “We listened to people who responded to our consultation and promised to look at the issues raised. As a result we have come up with these revised plans for our Sprint programme.

“Sprint is a modern bus service that will be extremely reliable so passengers can be sure when their bus will depart and arrive at its destination. Currently there are wide variations in bus journey times which puts people off.”

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, added: “I have always been clear that the future of transport in Birmingham is about the movement of people rather than cars and Sprint will have a hugely important role to play in this, increasing the public transport options on offer and helping to reduce congestion which, in turn, will help reduce polluting vehicle emissions.”

The plans will now be refined and there will be ongoing engagement with residents and businesses as they evolve.